Roof Types: Pros, Cons & Maintenance Needs

Caroline Gilbert
Written by Caroline Gilbert
Updated September 30, 2021
A blue luxury suburban house with gray roof and white trim and green landscaping
karamysh - adobe.stock.com

When it comes to roofs, curb appeal isn't everything

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A roof does more than just protect you from the elements and provide your home with eye-catching curb appeal. Depending on your roof design, it can also provide shade, create attic space, and even affect the heating and cooling within your home. 

While it’s important that all roofs meet building codes, they’re not all built the same. For example, some roof types are better suited for climates with severe weather than others. Some roof types even have higher maintenance needs.

9 Most Common Roof Types

Understanding the components of your roof and the design type can help you diagnose issues and better maintain its structure. Whether you’re looking to build or simply maintain your current roof, understanding the pros and cons of these common roof types will help you take better care of your home.

1. Gable Roof

Gable roof with text overlay “types of roofs: gable roof—a roof with two evenly sloping sides”

There are many pros to gable roofing, making it one of the most common roof types. There are four main types of gable roofs: side gable, cross gable, and dutch gable. 

What is it: A roof with two sloping sides

Materials: Can be done with most roofing materials, but asphalt shingles are most common

Maintenance: Needs regular inspections and gutter cleanings to ensure proper drainage

Pros:

  • Holds up well in heavy rain and snow

  • Can be combined with other roof types for a unique design

  • Affordable and usually simple to build

Cons:

  • Prone to damage in high winds

  • Not recommended in areas that experience hurricanes

Gable Roof Design

Gray Cape Cod-style suburban home with gable roof and dormers
Robert Kirk / E+ via Getty Images

2. Hip Roof

Hip roof with text overlay “types of roofs: hip roof—a four-sided roof”

A hip roof is another popular type of roofing style. Many architects and home builders choose to combine a hip roof with other roof style types to create a unique design. 

What is it: A four-sided roof. All sides meet at a peak or ridge and slant downward. 

Materials: Can be done with most roofing materials, but asphalt, metal, clay, and concrete are the most common

Maintenance: Greatly benefits from regular maintenance to prevent minor issues from becoming major

Pros:

  • Holds up well in heavy wind, rain, and snow

  • Can be combined with other roof types for a unique design

  • Can provide shade

Cons:

  • More expensive and complicated to build compared to other options

Hip Roof Design

Brown home with a shingled hip roof against a bright blue sky
Jason – stock.adobe.com

3. Jerkinhead Roof (aka Clipped Gable)

Jerkinhead roof with text overlay “types of roofs: jerkinhead roof—a unique combination of hip and gable style roofing”

Jerkinhead roofs are an older roofing style that is not as common in newer builds. However, jerkinhead roofs do create a one-of-a-kind look that is sure to be the eye-catcher of your neighborhood. 

What is it: A unique combination of hip and gable style roofing

Materials: Can be done with most roofing materials, but asphalt shingles are most common

Maintenance: Requires regular maintenance, but it can be a challenge to find roofing contractors with knowledge of the style

Pros:

  • Holds up well in heavy wind, rain, and snow

  • Creates a bold look

  • Provides ample attic space

Cons:

  • Old architectural style so can be hard to replicate

  • Complex and costly to build and maintain

  • Difficult to ventilate

  • Can be expensive to build

Jerkinhead Roof Design

Blue craftsman style home exterior with clipped gable roof
Iriana Shiyan - stock.adobe.com

4. Gambrel Roof (aka Barn Roof)

Gambrel roof with text overlay “types of roofs: gambrel roof—a gable roof but with an additional, steeper slope on each side”

Gambrel roofs are most commonly seen on barns, but can also be found on large Cape Cod style homes and country farm houses. 

What is it: A gable roof but with four sides (compared to two)

Materials: Can be done with most roofing materials, but asphalt shingles are most common

Maintenance: Needs routine maintenance to ensure waterproofing at the ridges still works

Pros

  • Provides ample attic space

  • Easy and affordable to build

  • Eye-catching design

Cons:

  • Not ideal for heavy wind, rain, or snow

Gambrel/Barn Roof Design

Brown home with gambrel barn roof
lspi138 - stock.adobe.com

5. Bonnet Roof

Bonnet roof with text overlay “types of roofs: bonnet roof—a roof type that slants on all sides, extending well past the house walls”

If you’re looking to maximize your attic and outdoor hang out space, a bonnet roof may be a great option for you. 

What is it: A roof type that slants on all four sides, extending well past the walls of the building

Materials: Metal is preferred, but can also be done with shingles

Maintenance: Needs regular inspections to ensure waterproofing remains intact at the intersection of the two slopes

Pros:

  • Holds up well in heavy wind, rain, or snow

  • Provides shade

  • Great for over a porch or balcony

Cons:

  • Complicated to build

  • Not very common

  • Careful waterproofing is very important, but can be an added cost

Bonnet Roof Design

Modern bungalow style house with bonnet roof
Ursula Page - stock.adobe.com

6. Skillion Roof (aka Shed Roof or Lean-to Roof)

Skillion roof with text overlay “types of roofs: skillion roof—a roof design with only a singular slope”

Despite its alternative moniker, this roof style isn’t just for sheds. It’s also a great design choice for modern homes and barns. 

What is it: A roof design with only a singular flat slope

Materials: Can be done with most roofing materials, but asphalt shingles and metal are most common

Maintenance: Drainage is all on one side so requires frequent gutter cleanings on top of regular inspections

Pros:

  • Great for modern and contemporary styles

  • Space to install solar panels

  • Relatively affordable

  • Holds up well in heavy rain and snow

Cons:

  • Does not leave room for attic space

  • Not ideal for heavy wind

Skillion Roof Design

Contemporary home with skillion or shed roof design
Jodie Johnson - stock.adobe.com

7. Flat Roof

Flat roof with text overlay “types of roofs: flat roof—a roof that is flat across with a minor slope for drainage”

Flat roof homes and buildings are most common on tall buildings in larger cities, though they are not limited to those areas. A flat roof is a great option for anyone looking to utilize their roof top as a living space or to install solar panels. While rubber roofs are costly to install, the durability makes it a worthwhile investment for your flat roof home.

What is it: A roof that is flat across (with a minor slope for drainage)

Materials: Synthetic rubber roofing is most commonly used

Maintenance: Tends to collect debris and can have standing water, so typically requires more maintenance than sloped roofs

Pros:

  • Usable space for a garden or outdoor lounge

  • Easy and affordable to build

  • Energy efficient

  • Easy to install solar panels and AC units

Cons:

  • Not ideal for heavy rain and snow

  • May need more frequent maintenance

Flat Roof Design

Contemporary white house with a flat roof
flytime - stock.adobe.com

8. Saltbox Roof

Saltbox roof with text overlay “types of roofs: saltbox roof—a two-sided slanted roof design with one side longer than the other”

The asymmetrical design of a saltbox roof is best described as a gable roof with one side longer than the other. This design originated in New England and was named after old wooden salt containers commonly used in the colonial era. 

What is it: A completely slanted roof design with no flat space. One side is longer than the other. 

Materials: Can be done with most roofing materials, but asphalt shingles are most common

Best for: Multi-level homes in climates with heavy rain or snowfall

Maintenance: Pretty low-maintenance but can benefit from cleanings to remove stuck debris

Pros:

  • Holds up well in strong winds

  • Easy maintenance in winter

Cons:

  • Slanted shape can create awkward interior spaces

  • May result in less attic space

  • More expensive and complicated to build compared to other options

Saltbox Roof Design

Colonial era house with saltbox roof style
jimplumb/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

9. Butterfly Roof

Butterfly roof with text overlay “types of roofs: butterfly roof—two sloped roofs pointing inward towards the middle of the house”

Butterfly roofs originated in Palm Springs, California, and were originally designed specifically to catch and repurpose rainwater. Today, they are most often found on mid-century or ultra modern homes. 

What is it: Two sloped roofs pointing inward towards the middle of the house creating a “V” shape

Materials: Usually waterproof materials, including rubber roofing (EPDM, TPO, PVC)

Maintenance: Can easily collect debris and needs regular maintenance by an experienced roofing contractor familiar with the style

Pros:

  • Holds up well strong winds

  • Great for water drainage

  • Easy to install solar panels

  • Great for modern and contemporary styles

  • Option to collect rainwater for use

Cons:

  • Complex and costly to build and maintain

  • Not ideal for heavy rain and snow

Butterfly Roof Design

Mid century modern home with a pool and a butterfly roof
Jodie Johnson - stock.adobe.com
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