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Picture Dictionary of Roof Styles and Shapes

Updated: May 15

Browse our Picture Dictionary of Roof Styles to learn about roof shapes and styles. Also learn about interesting roof types and details, and find out what your roof says about the style of your home.

Side Gable

Side Gable

Traditional Gable Roof on a House in Lithuania. Photo by De Agostini/W. Buss/Getty Images (cropped)

The most popular roof style may be the side gable, because it's one of the easiest to build. The gables on this house face the sides, so the slope of the roof is in the front and back. The gable is the triangular siding area formed by the shape of the roof. Front gable roofs have the gable in the front of the house. Some houses, like the popular Minimal Traditional, have both side and front gables. Despite popular opinion, the gable roof is NOT an American invention. The house shown here is in Zemaiciu Kalvarija, Lithuania.

In the U.S., side gable roofs are often found on American Colonial, Georgian Colonial,  and Colonial Revival homes. 

Hip Roof, or Hipped Roof

Hipped Roof

Picture Dictionary of Roof Styles: Hip Roof Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, 18th century French Provincial style, in the French Quarter, New Orleans, LA. Photo by Klaas Lingbeek- van Kranen/E+ Collection/Getty Images

This 18th century French Provincial blacksmith shop (now a tavern) has a hipped roof with dormers. See for yourself in the French Quarter of New Orleans!

A hip (or hipped) roof slopes down to the eaves on all four sides, forming a horizontal "ridge." A roofer will usually put a vent along the top of this ridge. Although a hip roof is not gabled, it may have dormers or connecting wings with gables.

When the building is square, the hip roof is pointed at the top, like a pyramid. When the building is rectangular, the hipped roof forms a ridge at the top. A hip roof has no gable.

In the U.S., hipped roofs are often found on French- Inspired houses, like French Creole and French Provincial; American Foursquare; and Mediterranean-inspired Neocolonials.

Variations on the Hip Roof Style include the Pyramid Roof, the Pavilion Roof, the Half-hipped, or Jerkinhead Roof, and even the Mansard Roof.

Mansard Roof

Mansard Roof

Picture Dictionary of Roof Styles: Mansard or French Style Roof The Old Executive Office Building, now called the Dwight D. Eisenhower Building, in Washington DC. Photo © Tom Brakefield / Getty Images

The Second Empire style Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington DC has a high mansard roof.

A mansard roof has two slopes on each of the four sides. The lower slope is is so steep that it can look like a vertical wall with dormers. The upper slope has a low pitch and is not easily seen from the ground. A mansard roof has no gables.

The term "mansard" comes from the French architect François Mansart (1598-1666) of the Beaux Arts School of Architecture in Paris, France. Mansart revived interest in this roofing style, which had been characteristic of French Renaissance architecture, and was used for portions of the Louvre Museum in France.

Another revival of the mansard roof occurred in the 1850s, when Paris was rebuilt by Napoleon III. The style became associated with this era, and the term Second Empire is often used to describe any building with a mansard roof.

Mansard roofs were considered especially practical because they allowed usable living quarters to be placed in the attic. For this reason, older buildings were often remodeled with mansard roofs. In the United States, Second Empire - or Mansard - was a Victorian style, popular from the 1860s through the 1880s.

Today, mansard style roofs are occasionally used in one- and two-story apartment buildings, restaurants, and Neo-eclectic houses.

Jerkinhead Roof

Jerkinhead Roof

Jerkinhead Roof on the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hartford, Connecticut. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge Archive Photos/Getty Images (cropped)

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hartford, Connecticut has a hipped gable, or jerkinhead.

A jerkinhead roof has a hipped gable. Instead of rising to a point, the gable is clipped short and appears to turn downwards. The technique creates a less-soaring, more humble effect on residential architecture.

A jerkinhead roof may also be called a Jerkin Head Roof, a Half-hipped Roof, a Clipped Gable, or even a Jerkinhead Gable.

Jerkinhead roofs are sometimes found on American bungalows and cottages, small American houses from the 1920s and 1930s, and assorted Victorian house styles.  Is "Jerkinhead" a Dirty Word?

The word jerkinhead appears on the list of 50 Words That Sound Rude But Actually Aren't by mental_floss magazine.

Learn More

  • MissPres Architectural Word of the Week: Jerkinhead Gable by Thomas Rosell, Preservation in Mississippi, May 18, 2012

  • Building Language by Connie Zeigler, Historic Indianapolis, September 3, 2011

Gambrel Roof

Gambrel Roof

Picture Dictionary of Roof Styles: Gambrel Roof The Dutch Colonial Revival Amityville Horror house in Amityville, New York was the site of a horrific murder and the subject of the Amityville Horror book and movie about paranormal activities. Photo © Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

The Dutch Colonial Revival Amityville Horror house in Amityville, New York has a gambrel roof.

A gambrel roof is a gable roof with two pitches. The lower section of the roof slopes gently up. Then, the roofline angles in form a steeper pitch.

Gambrel roofs are often called barn-shaped because the this roofing style is so often used on American barns. Many Dutch Colonial and Dutch Colonial Revival homes have gambrel roofs.

Butterfly Roof

Butterfly Roof

Picture Dictionary of Roof Styles: Butterfly Roof Alexander Home in the Twin Palms Neighborhood, Palm Springs, California. Photo © Jackie Craven

Shaped like a butterfly's wings, a butterfly roof dips down in the middle and slopes upward at each end. Butterfly roofs are associated with mid-century modernism.

The home shown here has a butterfly roof. It's a mid-century modern, whimsical version of the gable roof, except it's upside down.

The butterfly roof style also can be found on Googie architecture, but it is most often a roof design seen on mid-twentieth century houses such as the Alexander Home in Palm Springs, California shown here.

Saltbox Roof

Saltbox Roof

Daggett Farmhouse, c. 1754, Colonial Saltbox Style. Photo by Barry Winiker/Photolibrary/Getty Images (cropped)

The Saltbox is sometimes called a house style, a house shape, or a type of roof. It's a modification of a gabled roof. Rarely is the gable area on the front, street-facing facade of a saltbox.

A saltbox roof is distinctive and characterized by an overly long and extended roof in the back of the house—often on the north side to protect interiors from harsh New England winter weather. The shape of the roof is said to mimic the slant-lid storage box that colonists used for salt, a common mineral used to preserve food in Colonial New England.

The house shown here, the Daggett Farmhouse, was built in Connecticut in the 1760s. It is now on display at Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan.

by Jackie Craven

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