When it comes to roof types, the choices can be overwhelming. The right roof not only protects your property from the elements but also adds a distinctive touch to its character. With a huge range of roof types to pick from, navigating the sea of possibilities can be a daunting task. 

In this article, we’re covering the diverse world of roof types. From the classic elegance of pitched roofs to the modern flair of flat roofs, each style has its unique merits. 

Whether you’re embarking on a new construction project or considering a roof replacement, this article will guide you through the options available. 

Roof Type Basics – What You Need To Know  

Roofs play a fundamental role in the construction and functionality of buildings. The type of roof refers to the design and configuration of the upper covering of a building or structure.

Different roof types serve different purposes, have distinct characteristics, and may be suitable for specific architectural styles or climate conditions. Roof types include flat, pitched, mansard, butterfly and shed.

Pitched Roof Types 

Pitched roofs are commonly found around the world, have a long history of use and come in many different types. They have a timeless and classic aesthetic that has been embraced for centuries. This traditional appeal makes them a popular choice for those seeking a design that withstands changing architectural trends.


A pitched roof has a sloping surface, with two sides meeting at the highest point, forming a ridge. The angle of the slope, known as the pitch is between 10-70 degrees. It can vary widely and contributes to the overall aesthetic and functional characteristics of the roof.

Pitched Roof

Many historical buildings feature pitched roofs, contributing to a sense of historical continuity and architectural heritage. The use of pitched roofs in traditional construction methods connects modern structures to the past.

The silhouette of a pitched roof, especially with prominent gables, is iconic and easily recognisable. This distinct profile contributes to the curb appeal of a building and can become a defining feature of its visual identity.

The sloping nature of a pitched roof, makes them well-suited to a variety of climates. In areas with heavy rainfall or snow, the pitch helps in efficient water runoff and minimises the risk of structural issues.

Pitched roofs offer opportunities for customisation and ornamentation. Architectural details such as dormers, finials and decorative shingles can be incorporated to enhance the visual appeal of the roof.

Gable or Duo Pitch Roof 

A gable or duo pitch roof is characterised by two sloping sides that meet at a central ridge, forming a triangular portion known as a gable at each end. 

Gable Roof / Pitched Roof

The gable is the triangular wall section between the edges of the dual-pitched roof. Gable roofs are one of the most common and classic roof designs, known for their simplicity and effectiveness in shedding water and snow.

The angle of the slope is known as the pitch. This can vary based on architectural design and climate considerations. The highest point where the two sloping sides meet is called the ridge. This is a horizontal line running along the top of the roof.

The eaves are the lower edges of the roof that overhang the walls. They provide protection from rain and weather and can be left open or enclosed with soffits.

Gable roofs often provide natural ventilation opportunities. Ventilation can occur through the gable ends, contributing to improved airflow and temperature regulation within the attic space.

Advantages

  • Effective water shedding– The steep slopes of gable roofs allow for efficient shedding of rainwater and snow, reducing the risk of water accumulation and potential damage.
  • Simple construction– Gable roofs are relatively simple in design and construction, making them cost-effective and easier to build compared to more complex roof styles.
  • Attic space- The sloping design of gable roofs often creates a spacious attic or loft area beneath, which can be used for storage or converted into additional living space i.e. room in the roof.
  • Aesthetic versatility– Gable roofs can be adapted to various architectural styles, and their clean lines contribute to a classic and versatile aesthetic.
  • Natural light and ventilation– The gable ends can accommodate windows, allowing for natural light and improved ventilation in the interior spaces.
  • Adaptable to different climates– Gable roofs are suitable for various climates and can be adjusted in terms of pitch to optimize performance in areas with heavy snowfall or rainfall.
  • Easy to vent the roof to help minimise condensation issues.
Photo of a Gable Roof With Snow On It

Hip Roof 

A hip roof is where all sides of the roof slope downward to the walls. This is usually with a fairly gentle slope. Unlike a gable roof, which has two sides meeting at a central ridge, a hip roof has all its sides or hips, sloping towards the exterior walls.

Concept image of a hip roofing option

The hips meet at the top to form a ridge. The characteristic feature of a hip roof is its absence of gables. The slope of the sides can vary, and the design can include a pyramid shape or a more elongated form.

Similar to other roof types, a hip roof has a ridge where the sloping sides meet. However, in a hip roof, there are no gables formed at the ends of the roof. The eaves of a hip roof are the lower edges of the roof that overhang the walls. The eaves can be left open or enclosed with soffits for aesthetic or functional reasons.

The cornice is the decorative moulding or overhanging part of the roof that extends beyond the eaves. It adds an architectural detail to the hip roof.

Whilst hip roofs offer stability, their construction can be more complex compared to simpler roof designs like gable roofs. This complexity may result in higher construction costs.

Proper ventilation is crucial for hip roofs. Ridge vents and other ventilation systems may be necessary to ensure adequate airflow within the roof space.

Hip Roof

Advantages 

  • Stability and durability– Hip roofs are known for their stability and durability, making them more resistant to strong winds compared to some other roof types, such as gable roofs.
  • Water drainage– The sloping design of hip roofs facilitates effective water drainage, reducing the risk of water pooling and potential leaks.
  • Aesthetics- Hip roofs often have a stylish and aesthetically pleasing appearance. Their symmetrical design can complement various architectural styles, from traditional to contemporary.
  • Less prone to wind uplift– The sloping sides of hip roofs make them less prone to wind uplift, which is particularly advantageous in areas prone to hurricanes or strong winds.
  • Additional space– Hip roofs can provide additional space within the roof structure, although typically less than the attic space in gable roofs. This space can be used for storage or, in some cases, converted into living space.
  • Versatility– Hip roofs are versatile and can be adapted to various architectural styles, including both residential and commercial structures.

Mansard Roof 

This is a style of roof characterised by two slopes on each of its four sides, with the lower slope being steeper than the upper one. The profile of a Mansard roof is nearly flat at the top and sharply inclined on the sides.

The steep lower slope often allows for additional living space or attic space within the structure, making Mansard roofs popular in architecture for residential and commercial buildings.

Concept rendering of a Mansard Roof

Mansard roofs became especially fashionable in the 19th century and can be found in various architectural styles, including Victorian and French Renaissance Revival.

They are known for their aesthetic appeal and the functional use of the space beneath the roof. Mansard roofs add a distinctive and elegant touch to buildings, making them stand out in architectural design.

Advantages

  • Increased living space- The steep lower slope allows for more headroom and usable space in the upper floors or attic, making it suitable for creating extra rooms or living areas.
  • Versatility- can be adapted to various architectural styles. They can complement both traditional and modern designs, providing flexibility in the overall aesthetic of a building.
  • Aesthetics- Their unique shape and symmetry often contribute to an elegant and distinctive look, enhancing the visual appeal of a building. 
  • Energy efficiency- The steep angle of the lower slope in a Mansard roof can provide effective shading during the summer, reducing heat gain and improving energy efficiency. Additionally, the extra attic space allows for better insulation, contributing to energy conservation.
  • Ease of maintenance-The nearly flat upper slope simplifies the installation and maintenance of roofing materials.
  • Water drainage- The steep angles help facilitate the drainage of snow and water, reducing the risk of water pooling or snow accumulation.

Flat Roof Types 

A Flat roof has a pitch of between 0 and 10 Degrees. At Vertix Systems we would classify a low-pitched roof as anything between 5 and 15 degrees. 

This because a standard Velux rooflight can be fitted on roofs up to 15 degrees. Below this pitch the rooflight would need to be mounted on a kerb. 

No roof surface should have ponding water as when this freezes it can break down the surface of the roof covering.

Typical terms used to describe a flat roof are 1:100 or 1:80 falls.  (These are 1 degree and 1.5 degree pitches respectively).

1:12 fall would give a pitch of 4.8 Degrees.

Often flat or low-pitched roof are used for building extensions to allow the roof pitch to fit under windows.

Built-Up Roof (BUR) or Low-pitched roofs

Low pitched roofs tend to have a built-up roof. Most composite panel roofs are 5 degrees or less. Low pitched roof types are constructed as warm roofs, either using a composite panel, or a built up cladding system.

BUR is a roofing system for flat or low-pitched roofs. BURs combine several layers of material built on top of each other. 

Roof covering options 

Felt roofs

A felt roof is typically made up of:

  1. A base sheet- which may be fibreglass, polyester or another similar material. It provides strength and stability to the roof. Old roofs can be constructed with asbestos.
  2. Felt or fabric layers- which may be saturated with bitumen (asphalt or coal tar) to create a waterproof membrane.
  3. Protective surface material- this could be gravel on top of the felt and bitumen layer. This top layer provides protection against weathering and UV radiation.
Photo image of flat felt roof with gravel
Advantages
  • Durability- When properly installed and maintained, they can withstand harsh weather conditions, including extreme temperatures, UV radiation, and heavy precipitation. Due to the pitch, many materials are affected by frost and ponding water which can shorten the life of the roof covering.
  • Waterproof- The multiple layers of bitumen-saturated felts create a continuous and effective waterproofing membrane. This helps prevent water infiltration and protects the underlying structure.
  • Fire resistance- The bitumen used in built-up roofs, especially coal tar, provides a high level of fire resistance. 
  • Stability in extreme temperatures- perform well in both hot and cold climates. They have thermal stability and can expand and contract without compromising their integrity.
  • Versatile- can be adapted to various roof configurations, including flat roofs and low-slope roofs. They are suitable for both residential and commercial buildings.
  • Ease of repair- When damage does occur, repairs to built-up roofs are typically straightforward. Additional layers of bitumen and roofing felt can be added to address localized issues, making repairs relatively simple.
  • Sound insulation- The multiple layers of bitumen and roofing felt provide sound insulation, reducing the transmission of external noise into the building.

Metal standing seam roof

This is typically made up of:

  1. Structural Metal Deck or OSB wooden board.
  2. Breather membrane
  3. Metal standing seam – this has concealed fixings.
Supported standing seam roof

Advantages

  • Highly durable and can withstand elements like wind, rain, sunlight and snow.
  • it’s a fix and forget system that requires minimal ongoing maintenance. 
  • High end appearance and finish- sleek appearance that looks less industrial than traditional metal profile systems.
  • A metal roof can last in excess of 50 years. 
  • Metal roofs are recyclable at the end of their life.
  • Generally classed as standard form of construction so you get standard house insurance and a mortgage on the property.
  • Concealed fixings / Secret fixings help to improve aesthetics and remove a potential point of leakage at fixing points.
  • Metal standing seam roofs naturally reflect heat back into the environment instead of allowing it to build up inside the building, which means they can keep it cooler in summer and warmer in winter This can help to reduce heating/cooling energy costs depending on the time of year.
  • Perform well in both hot and cold climates making them a stable choice, no matter what the weather
  • Can be adapted to various roof configurations, including flat roofs and low-slope roofs. They are suitable for both residential and commercial buildings.
  • Damaged roof sheets can easily be replaced.
Vertix EasySeam Steel standing seam on residential building

Single-Ply Membrane Roof 

Single-ply membrane roofs consist of a single layer of synthetic or elastomeric material as the primary waterproofing element. This type of roofing is commonly used on flat or low-slope roofs in both residential and commercial buildings.

There are different types of single-ply membranes, with the most common being Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM), Thermoplastic Olefin (TPO), and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC).

Flat single ply membrane roof

Advantages

  • Single layer- contributes to efficient installation and maintenance.
  • Lightweight- reducing the load on the underlying roof structure. This can be advantageous, especially for buildings with load-bearing considerations.
  • Ease of installation- can be quicker and less labour-intensive compared to some other roofing systems. The large sheets of material allow for large areas to be covered efficiently.
  • Flexibility- makes them well-suited for roofs with complex or irregular shapes. This flexibility also allows the membrane to expand and contract with temperature variations.
  • Energy efficiency- Some single-ply membranes, particularly TPO, are known for their reflective properties. This can contribute to energy efficiency by reducing heat absorption and lowering cooling costs.
  • UV resistance- Many single-ply membrane materials are designed to resist UV radiation, preventing degradation and extending the lifespan of the roofing system.
  • Resistance to chemicals and environmental elements- Single-ply membranes are often resistant to chemicals, pollutants, and environmental elements, contributing to their longevity and performance.
  • Ease of repairs- In the event of damage, single-ply membrane roofs are generally straightforward to repair. Repairs often involve patching or heat-welding new material onto the damaged area.

Green Roofs 

Also known as living roofs or eco-roofs, green roofs incorporate vegetation, soil, and drainage layers to create a green space on the roof surface. These roofs provide a range of environmental, energy, and aesthetic benefits. Green roofs can be installed on various types of buildings, including residential, commercial, and industrial structures. 

There are two main types of green roofs: 

  1. extensive green roofs
  2. intensive green roofs.

Extensive Green Roofs

Extensive green roofs have a shallow growing medium and are characterised by low-maintenance vegetation, typically drought-tolerant plants such as sedum and grasses. The depth of the growing medium is usually less than 15 centimetres. 

Green roofs are a low maintenance and lightweight option, making them suitable for a wide range of buildings. They provide energy efficiency benefits and storm water management.

Extensive green roof

Intensive Green Roofs

Intensive green roofs have a deeper growing medium, allowing for a more diverse selection of vegetation, including larger plants, shrubs, and even small trees. They resemble traditional gardens and require more maintenance. 

Intensive green roofs deliver greater biodiversity, aesthetic appeal and have the potential for creating recreational or usable spaces. However, they are heavier and require more intensive maintenance than their extensive counter-part.

Intensive green roof

All green roofs require the following:

  1. Waterproof layer to prevent water from infiltrating the building structure. It is typically made of a material like rubber, asphalt, or synthetic membrane.
  2. Root barrier on top of the waterproof layer to prevent plant roots from penetrating into the roofing system and causing damage.
  3. Drainage layer ensures proper water management, preventing excess water from accumulating on the roof. It often consists of a layer of gravel, drainage mats, or other materials that facilitate water flow.
  4. Filter fabric- placed on top of the drainage layer to prevent fine particles from clogging the drainage system while allowing water to pass through.
  5. Growing medium/substrate- is a specially engineered soil-like layer that provides nutrients for plant growth. It is designed to be lightweight and conducive to plant health.
  6. Vegetation- consists of a variety of plants, such as sedum, grasses, herbs, or even small shrubs and trees. The plant selection depends on factors like climate, local conditions, and the desired aesthetic.

Green Roof Advantages

  • Energy efficiency- Green roofs provide insulation, reducing the heat transfer between the building and the external environment. This can lead to energy savings in both heating and cooling.
  • Storm water management- Green roofs absorb and slow down rainwater runoff, reducing the risk of flooding and lessening the burden on stormwater infrastructure.
  • Air quality improvement– Plants on green roofs capture pollutants and particulate matter from the air, contributing to improved air quality.
  • Urban heat island mitigation-The vegetation on green roofs helps mitigate the urban heat island effect by providing shade and cooling the surrounding air.
  • Biodiversity enhancement- Green roofs can support a variety of plant species, attracting insects, birds, and other wildlife. This contributes to urban biodiversity.
  • Aesthetic appeal- Green roofs enhance the visual appeal of buildings and provide a natural and calming environment, especially in urban settings.
  • Noise reduction- combination of vegetation and growing medium on green roofs can absorb and dampen sound, providing acoustic benefits, especially in urban areas.

Other Roof Types 

Gambrel Roof 

A Gambrel roof is very similar to a Mansard roof. It’s a type of roof design that has two slopes on each side. The upper slope is more shallow, and the lower slope is steeper. The steep slope typically starts at a point partway down the upper slope. 

Gambrel roofing

The design is often associated with barns, but it’s also used in residential architecture and other building types. The gambrel roof is sometimes referred to as a “barn roof” due to its frequent use in traditional barn construction. 

In the UK if the sides are greater than 70 degrees then they are treated as walls under current Building Regulations. If they are above 11metres in height in England then a limited combustible build-up is required.

A gambrel roof has a distinct two-slope design on each side. The upper slope has a shallower pitch, and the lower slope is steeper. The transition between the shallower upper slope and the steeper lower slope is marked by a break or change in the angle. This break often forms a noticeable curve. 

Gambrel roofs may feature dormer windows on the upper slope, providing additional light and sometimes creating additional usable space in the attic. The eaves of a gambrel roof are often extended, providing extra overhang and protection from the elements.

The design of a gambrel roof can be more complex to construct compared to simpler roof styles. This complexity may result in increased construction costs.

Maintenance of a gambrel roof, especially in regions with heavy snowfall or rainfall, is important to prevent issues such as water ponding and potential leaks.

Advantages

  • Increased usable space– The design of a gambrel roof allows for more usable space beneath the roof compared to some other roof types. This can be advantageous for creating additional living space or storage in the attic i.e. a room in the roof.
  • Aesthetics- Gambrel roofs are known for their classic and aesthetically pleasing appearance. They can add a touch of traditional charm to both residential and agricultural structures.
  • Versatility- Gambrel roofs can be adapted to various architectural styles, making them suitable for both residential homes and barns.
  • Easy to vent the roof to help minimise condensation issues.

Shed or Mono Pitch Roof

Also known as a single-slope or mono-pitched roof, the roof only slopes in one direction. It’s simple and efficient to construct, making it a popular choice for various structures, including sheds, small cabins, and modern architectural designs.

The roof typically has a single angled plane that slopes downward from a higher point to a lower point, resembling the roof of a simple garden or storage shed. The slope of the roof can vary, and the direction of the slope is determined based on the design preferences and functional requirements of the building.

One of the advantages of a shed roof is its simple construction and cost-effectiveness. It allows for efficient water runoff and provides the opportunity to maximise natural light and ventilation on one side of the building.

It may have limitations in terms of interior space and isn’t always suitable for larger structures where a more complex roof design is necessary.

Butterfly Roof

This type of roof has a distinctive and modern design that resembles the shape of butterfly wings.

It features two upward-sloping roof surfaces that meet at a central valley, creating a V-shaped or A-frame profile when viewed from the side.

It can create a dramatic and eye-catching architectural element.

Visualisation of butterfly roof type.

Butterfly roofs are often chosen for their modern and unique appearance which can contribute to a sense of openness.

The central valley between the two sloping roof sections can be used to collect rainwater, helping to make the roof more environmentally friendly.

Construction and maintenance of butterfly roofs can be more complex than traditional roof designs.

It is crucial that adequate waterproofing and drainage are considered to avoid potential issues with leaks.

What to Consider When Choosing The Right Roof Type For Your Property

The choice of roof type should take into account the following considerations:-

  1. Climate 
  • Different regions experience different weather conditions. Understanding various roof types allows builders and homeowners to choose roofs that are best suited for the climate of a particular area. For example, pitched roofs with a steep slope are more effective in shedding snow in colder climates, while flat roofs may be suitable for areas with milder weather.
  1. Aesthetics
  • Roofs contribute significantly to the overall aesthetic appeal of a structure. 
  1. Functionality and purpose
  • Roof types are designed with specific functionalities in mind. For instance, a gable roof provides ample space for attic ventilation, while a flat roof may be suitable for creating usable rooftop space. 
  • Understanding these functionalities helps in optimising the use of space and meeting specific needs.
  1. Material selection
  • The type of roof often dictates the materials used in its construction. Different materials have varying durability, insulation properties, and maintenance requirements. 
  • Understanding the roof type allows for informed decisions regarding material selection, considering factors like cost, longevity, and environmental impact.
  1. Cost
  • Some roof types are more cost-effective to install and maintain than others. Understanding the cost implications of different roof types helps in budgeting and making informed decisions based on the available resources.
  1. Maintenance 
  • Different roof types require different levels of maintenance. Some may need regular inspections and repairs, while others may be more durable with minimal upkeep. Understanding the maintenance requirements of a particular roof type contributes to the long-term sustainability of the building.
  1. Energy efficiency
  • Roof designs can impact energy efficiency. For example, a green or cool roof may provide better insulation and reduce energy consumption for heating or cooling. Understanding the energy efficiency characteristics of different roof types is essential for sustainable construction practices.

Picking The Right Roof Type

As you can see, there are many things to consider when picking the best roof type for your property; from aesthetics to practicality and longevity to durability.

We’ve covered a lot of information in this post to help you pick the right roofing option. If you have any questions or would like to talk through a specific building project, please get in touch with us here.