If you've ever traveled outside of your own neighborhood, you've probably seen many different types of roofs on the buildings around you.
Every roof is designed with a specific set of benefits in mind. These benefits are often related to the climate and environment in the area where they're built. While some roof types are much more common than others, every roof type has an ideal purpose and use, whether it's because of its simplicity, cost-effectiveness, or functionality.
As you continue scrolling down this page, you're going to see all the most common (and not-so-common) roof types throughout the world. You'll also see a helpful illustrated guide and real-life photographic examples of each one, so you can visualize how they look, understand what purpose they serve, and why these roof types are more common in certain parts of the world.
1. A-Frame Roof
An A-frame roof has a steeply-angled (roofline) that typically functions as both the roof and two of the four exterior walls. The roof will usually begin at or near the foundation and join together at the top in a way that resembles the letter “A.” An A-frame ceiling can be open to the top rafters.
The A-frame roof is a simple and less expensive roof design because the roof serves as both roof and walls.
A-frame roofs can be found around the world, most notably in Europe, North America, China, and the South Pacific islands.
A-frame homes have been around for centuries, but they experienced a surge in popularity in the 1950s. As the design rose in popularity, as both a simple and cost-effective design, A-frames became available as sold by Macy's department stores in the 1960s, which lowered the cost even more (source).
2. Barrel Vaulted Roof
Barrel vaulted roofs have a curved roof that resembles a barrel cut in half. Barrel roofs are designed with a similar purpose to a dome roof, with the primary advantage over dome roofs being, they are able to cover longer, rectangular buildings (source).
Barrel roofs are commonly used in the design of factories and other industrial buildings that cover large sections of land. They are often built with metal, but can also be built with traditional asphalt shingles.
A barrel vault is the simplest type of vaulted roof, with a curved, often semi-circular cross-section with a semi-cylindrical appearance that can span long distances. In cases where windows are installed along the roof of a building, barrel-vaulted ceilings can be beneficial at allowing the maximum amount of light into a building (source) and they also allow for additional height that would not otherwise be available in other roof types.
3. Bell Roof
As its name suggests, a bell roof is a roof resembling the shape of a bell. This roofing type often comes in different forms, such as round, square, and multi-sided.
Because of its classic appearance, a bell roof is typically found on various vintage-looking structures, including Colonial-era churches and schools, as well as historical homes such as Tudor, Victorian, Queen Anne, and Edwardian homes.
Bell roofs can be used along with similar-sounding features like bell-cast, sprocketed, or flared eaves, highlighting the roof flairs and making them look more like the bottom of a bell.
4.Box Gable Roof
Box gable roofs are distinguished by their triangular extensions at each face of the house, with the roof boxed at the end. This roofing type looks similar to a regular gable roof but with the triangular extensions closed off instead of being left open. Box gables have a more pronounced triangular shape than regular gable roofs.
As with other gable roofing types, box gable roofs can be covered with almost any roofing material, such as asphalt shingles, concrete tiles, cedar shakes, and metal panels. Additionally, they can be used on common architectural styles, particularly American Colonial, Cottage, and Craftsman homes.
5. Butterfly Roof
A butterfly roof is generally made up of two tandem pieces that meet midway and are angled up in a V-shape. This gives an effect of a butterfly’s wings in flight when seen from the exterior, making it a good choice for modern and contemporary homes. Not all butterfly roofs need their two pieces to meet midway physically; the only thing they need is the two pieces slope inward at a midpoint.
Butterfly roofs are ideal for homes in arid or desert climates, mainly because their central valley allows for rainwater to be collected easily. Butterfly roofs are also ideal for a modern aesthetic and homes that can take advantage of natural lighting, as the outer edges of the “butterfly” can accommodate larger windows, such as floor-to-ceiling windows.
Due to their unique design, however, butterfly roofs can be difficult to build and maintain, which is why they require solid membranes such as TPO, PVC, EPDM rubber, and metal seams.
6. Clerestory Roof
A clerestory roof has two sloping sides joined by a short, vertical wall. The slope typically falls outward, which means the peak is somewhere near the middle of the roof. Its most prominent feature is a row of even, horizontal windows (or one long, continuous window) on the exposed face of the vertical wall.
This type of roof can either be symmetrical or asymmetrical, which can resemble a skillion roof, and can have a hipped or gable design. Often found on Craftsman, Ranch, and other similar-looking home styles, clerestory roofs allow an abundant amount of sunlight into a home through its windows. As a result, the room stays well-lit even during winter.
7. Combination Roof
Combination roofs are, quite literally, a blend of various roofing styles based on the building's theme and environment. There is no limit on how many types this roof can incorporate or which ones can be combined. For instance, it could be multiple gable roofs together with a hip roof over the front porch or a hip roof paired with a clerestory roof for a distinct look.
Due to their unique architectural appeal, combination roofs are well-suited to modern and contemporary homes. Note, however, that the biggest risk of combining different roofing styles is creating more valleys, creating leak-prone areas. Therefore, this roof may use more material and labor than other roof types.
8. Conical Roof
Also known as a cone roof, witch’s hat, or turret roof, a conical roof is round on a flat pane and rises to a point, forming a cone shape. Like other common roofing styles such as gable and hip roofs, conical roofs also have roof rafters and support columns; although, most of the time, they are shaped unusually and cut at different angles to match the cone form. Some conical roofs project out of the wall to form eaves around the usually circular tower or structure.
This roofing type is often found on top of towers in medieval castles, fortifications, and Victorian homes. Eastern European church architecture, particularly Armenian and Georgian, extensively uses conical roofs.
9. Cross-Hipped Roof
Cross-hipped roofs (or cross-hip) are some of the most popular variations of the standard hip roof design, which can be thought of as two hip roofs joined together at a right angle. These are most often laid over buildings that are in a T or L shape. Cross-hipped roofs come with two intersecting hip sections that run perpendicular to one another. The seam forms the cross-hipped roof, and the two sections meet at the end, forming a valley.
These roofs are great for structures with a more complex layout rather than a usual rectangular or square and can stand up to rain, snow, and high winds incredibly well. Like many hip roof types, cross-hipped roofs can accommodate a gutter system well. They used to be popular in the 19th century and were later incorporated into Ranch-style homes in America.
10. Curved Roof
Often used as an alternative to a flat roofing system, a curved roof is usually attached to a taller exterior wall. It forms an arch that can go from a low slope to a more rounded peak, allowing for water runoff while adding value to architectural interest. A curved roof can be used for various home features such as an addition or wing, an arched entrance, or an entire building. Due to its natural bent shape, this roofing type often requires a flexible metal material.
A curved roof was first seen in the 1920s as covering for barn sheds, which allowed farmers to maximize hay storage in their barn lofts. As a result, a lot of curved roof barns are popular in the Midwest and were even adapted for use during World War II.
11. Dome Roof
Dome roofs are polygonal and characterized by an inverted bowl shape. While relatively costlier than other alternatives, dome roofs are extremely durable and perfect to use for specific home features like gazebos or cupolas. When planned and designed properly, they can also be used as the main roof of a building.
Some of the most common materials used for the construction of dome roofs are metals, shingles, and glass. However, metal requires the least maintenance, making it the top choice for this roof type.
12. Domed Vault Roof
This is a variation of the dome roof, but with a few differences. The domed vault has self-supporting arches, adding drama and visual interest to the structure. Domed vault roofs shed water easily, which is why they are great for areas with a lot of precipitation. Most architects, however, choose them primarily due to their aesthetic appeal.
Domed vault roofs are rarely installed on houses. Instead, they are often used on large structures such as cathedrals and museums due to their Old-World charm and grandiose design.
13. Dormer Roof
A dormer roof is not an entirely separate type of roof, but it takes its name from a dormer or a windowed structure that projects vertically from a sloping roof. The roof that covers this window is called a dormer roof. Dormers are used to make attic spaces livable, which would otherwise be dark and cramped.
Dormers can significantly enhance a house's aesthetics as well, often functioning as the “eyes” of the home. They also come in a wide range of forms, including gable dormer, hip roof dormer, flat roof dormer, and wall dormer. Most of the time, the materials used on a dormer roof are similar to those used on the main roof.
14. Dropped Eaves Roof
Dropped eaves roofs have two slopes that meet at the center, much like a saltbox roof. Their slanting side on the front has eaves that drop steeply, hence their name. This slope results in rooms having slanted ceilings, which increases its appeal among many homeowners. At the same time, it also helps direct water efficiently to the gutters and downspouts, preventing standing water that could damage the roof materials.
Dropped eaves roofs are often covered in shingles and are typically seen in many traditional homes across the United States.
15. Dutch Gable Roof
A Dutch gable is a combination of a hip roof and a gable roof—it practically uses two roofs in one dwelling. It uses a hip roof as “base” over which a smaller gable roof sits in the center. As a result, it increases attic space, but it also makes bracing the structure for storms and wind uplift, not to mention guttering, more complicated.
Since a standard hip roof makes the attic look and feel cramped, the gable roof makes up for it by offering a comparatively more spacious room inside. Meanwhile, the hip structure provides more durability and strength, resulting in better weather resistance for the entire roofing system. A similar structure can be found in East Asian hip-and-gable roofs, particularly in Chinese and Japanese Buddhist temples.
16. Flat Roof
While they look flat from the outside, flat roofs are not exactly flat—they have a slight incline to prevent water from collecting on the top. The National Roofing Contractors Association defines a roof with a slope of 3-in-12 or less to be a “flat roof.”
Flat roofs are mainly used on commercial buildings due to their simplicity and practicality, although many contemporary homes now use flat roof styles. Some of the materials commonly used for flat roofing systems are modified bitumen, TPO, EPDM rubber, and spray polyurethane foam, depending on how the roof is going to be used. For example, commercial establishments that use their roofs for restaurants or additional tenant space may use materials more suited for foot traffic, such as EPDM.
17. Gable Roof
Also known as peaked or pitched roofs, gable roofs are some of the most common roofing types seen in many homes worldwide. They are easily recognized by their standard triangular or inverted “V” shape. Many homeowners prefer them mainly because they shed water and snow easily, allow for more attic ventilation, and are cheaper and easier to build than other roofing types. Gable roofs can be covered with virtually any type of material, including asphalt shingles, slate, concrete tiles, and metal.
Gable roofs can also be combined with other roofing types, and come in other subtypes. However, one of the downsides of a gable roof is that it's prone to storm damage, especially if there is a significant overhang.
18. Gambrel Roof
A gambrel roof is like a gable roof, but only if you add another slope to its lower edges. A gambrel's lower slope has a much steeper pitch, while the upper side has a gentler one.
Gambrel roofs are often described as “barn roofs” because they are often seen on top of barns, farmhouses, and log cabins. However, they can also be used in a wide range of traditional homes, including Georgian and Dutch Colonial. Due to their shape, they help provide more storage within a building. Asphalt shingles, slate, and metal are some of the most widely used materials for this type of roofing. The simpler construction also allows the gambrel roof to use only two roof beams, but it also makes the roof vulnerable to immense stress in strong winds.
19. Hexagonal Roof
Hexagonal roofs are, essentially, roofs with six sides that slope downward. Due to their unique and polygonal structure, these roofs are not suitable for every residential or commercial building. In fact, they are mainly used to improve a structure’s aesthetic appeal rather than utility.
Some of the most common structures that use hexagonal roofs are pavilions, cabanas, and gazebos. While hexagonal roofs can be covered with any type of material, asphalt shingles and clay tiles are usually the go-to options.
20. Hip and Valley Roof
Put simply, this is a type of roof that has both hips and valleys. A lot of residential properties in the U.S. are covered with a hip and valley roof mainly because of its aesthetic benefits. Compared with roofs that have a single shape to cover a house, this roofing type has numerous dips and peaks, adding a dramatic touch and accent to any structure.
A hip and valley roof is standard among many Colonial structures and pre-20th century houses. Nowadays, it is also being used in various modern homes.
21. Hip Roof
Unlike regular gable roofs that do not have sloping structures on two sides of the building, hip roofs have slopes on all four sides. These sides are all equal in size and join together at the top, forming a ridge. This design makes them more structurally stable than gable roofs.
Due to the inward slope on all sides, hip roofs are often sturdier and more durable than their gable counterpart. They are great for areas prone to high winds and snow, as the slant of their slopes enables the snow to slide off easily. They can be covered with any type of roofing material, including shingles and tiles, and can be modified to include dormers or crow's nests.
22. Jerkinhead Roof
Jerkinhead roofs are a combination of two of the most popular roofing types: gable and hip. However, unlike Dutch gable, which is also a fusion of both types, jerkinhead roofs are basically huge gables topped with a flattened, clipped edge, similar to a hip roof.
Compared with a standard hip roof, jerkinhead roofs offer more attic space and much greater wind stability. Note, though, that this roofing type has a complicated design, making it costlier to build than a standard gable or hip roof. This roof type's name likely owes its name from the Scottish word “kirkin-head,” which means “church roof,” suggesting that this was used as the roof of choice for old Scottish churches or places of worship.
23. M-Shaped Roof
An M-shaped roof is basically a double gable roof. The roof rests on two bearing walls with two sloped sides that meet at the center, forming an “M” shape.
Unlike standard roofing types that only have gutters around the edges, M-shape roofs have a central gutter system that runs between the two pitches, preventing snow and water from building up during the winter. Commonly used in American homes, these roofs can be covered with most materials available on the market, including asphalt shingles, metal, and tiles.
24. Mansard Roof
Like the gambrel roof, mansard roofs have two different slopes on the sides of each roof. But while the gambrel only has two sides, a mansard roof has four, which makes it an analog to a hip roof (as the gambrel is to a gable). In a mansard roof, the lower slope is much steeper than the upper, and all sides can either be flat or curved, depending on the building’s architectural style. In fact, the lower, steeper slope can be used as additional floor space, known as a garret, and can be punctuated with dormers.
This roof's distinct French aesthetic is thanks to Francois Mansart, who lent his name to the style in the French Baroque period. Unique materials such as copper and zinc metals go well with this equally unique roofing type.
25. Monitor Roof
A monitor roof is a raised superstructure that runs along the ridge of a double-pitched roof. With its long sides, property owners can install clerestory windows or louvers to help boost lighting and air circulation within a building.
Monitor roofs that run the full length of a building are uncommon on residential properties; instead, they are commonly found on warehouses, barns, and factories, where maximizing additional light from windows at a greater height can be useful. Clerestories built this way can also accommodate vents. Most of the time, the materials covering the main roof are also used on these monitor structures.
26. Pyramid Hip Roof
As its name implies, a pyramid hip roof takes the shape of a pyramid and is constructed on top of a square or rectangular base. It features four triangular sides like a standard hip roof, but instead of forming a ridge at the center, the sides of a pyramid hip roof converge at a single point, which means it doesn't have the ridge as does a standard hip roof.
This type of roof is suitable for small structures such as cabins and bungalows, or small sections of the home, like garages and pool houses.
27. Saltbox Roof
A saltbox roof is known for its asymmetrical shape, which resembles antique wooden saltboxes of the 1700s. A saltbox roof features two slopes of varying length, with one much longer than the other. An easier visual representation would be to look at it like a gable roof, but with one side shorter than the other. The slope may be different on each side.
Buildings with this roofing type usually have two stories on one side and one story on the opposite side. Saltbox roofs were introduced to meet the need for more interior space and cover Colonial and Cape Cod homes in the 17th and 18th centuries. Because of its sloped structure, water runs off easily on this roof, making it ideal for areas that receive heavy rains.
28. Sawtooth Roof
A sawtooth roof is composed of a series of ridges with double pitches on each side. They have numerous parallel planes that resemble a saw’s teeth, with one slope looking steeper than the other one. Windows are often installed in the vertical spaces of the roof, allowing plenty of natural light to pass through.
Sawtooth roofs are commonly used on large commercial and industrial buildings, but they can also be seen in many modern houses today. Depending on the building’s architectural style, this type of roof can be made from steel, wood, or concrete.
29. Shed Roof
Shed roofs have a single slope that inclines at a certain angle. This roofing type is common among many contemporary homes primarily because it offers more interior space than the more popular gable and hip roofs, all while maintaining a simple, sophisticated appearance.
Other structures that use shed roofs include animal sheds, outhouses, and storage barns. Rubber skins and roofing membranes are ideal for this roofing type due to the steep incline. For a more streamlined look, property owners can choose standing seam materials to go with it.
30. Skillion Roof
Skillion roofs are similar to a shed roof in such a way that they both have a single flat surface with a steep and noticeable pitch. However, unlike the latter, skillion roofs can come in numerous planes—for example, the butterfly roof, with an inverted “V” shape, is known as a variation of the skillion roof.
Skillions add a modern touch to any architecture, which is why many homeowners choose this roofing type. They are an excellent choice for buildings in rainy and snowy regions, as their steep slope allows water and snow to shed easily.