Perhaps the most prominent feature of a home is its roof, which makes the style of roof you choose a critical factor in the appearance of your home. Ask anyone, child or adult, to “draw a house,” and you will most likely be presented with a depiction of a gabled roof. At its most basic, a gabled roof has two parallel slopes that meet in a spine that runs the length of the house, forming an inverted “V” shape. The slopes extend past the walls of the building, forming an overhang that protects the walls that run parallel to the roof spine. The perpendicular walls end in triangular tops that fit into and support the slopes of the roof. These triangular sections are called gables.
Due in part to its ease of construction and utility in keeping rain and debris from accumulating on the roof of a building, the gabled roof is one of the more popular roof styles, with a long historical tradition. Buildings from the Classical era of Greece and Rome, such as the Parthenon in Athens, boast gables decorated with elaborate sculptural scenes; these ornamental gables are known as pediments. Steeply sloped gabled roofs also feature in Gothic architecture, and were often ornately decorated.
In addition to their classic appeal, gabled roofs also have many practical advantages. The relative simplicity of their design makes them less expensive to construct than many other roof shapes, and the slope’s ability to shed water reduces the likelihood of leaks forming. Because the edges of the roof extend past the vertical walls of the house, rainwater is carried further away from the walls, offering them some protection against water damage. One of the greatest advantages to a gabled roof, however, is the extra interior space it provides. The slope of the roof provides the equivalent of another half-story of storage or living space. Though the ceiling of these rooms will be sloped by the pitch of the roof, windows can be placed in the gable ends to provide light and comfort.
If you choose a basic gabled roof, you still have options to customize the look of your home. Front-gabled buildings are designed so that the gable wall contains the entrance – which is particularly desirable if, like the ancient Greeks, your gable has ornamental features. Side-gabled buildings are constructed with the spine of the roof running parallel to the street, giving them a broader front view. More complex gabled designs, such as the cross gable roof, involve segments or wings of the house with separate, intersecting spines. In these cases, gable walls will face in multiple directions. Another design option, which adds more space and light to the upper story of a home while adding elegance and style to the outside, is the inclusion of dormers. A dormer is a small structural feature that protrudes from the sloped side of a roof. It has its own gable, but the ridge of its roof doesn’t reach the spine the larger roof. Windows are often installed in the gable of a dormer, providing additional light within.
There are some drawbacks to gabled roofs. In regions prone to hurricanes or high winds, there is the risk of damage when a gust of wind catches beneath the overhang of the roof, potentially peeling the entire roof away if sufficient force is present. Gable roofs will also typically require additional ventilation. You should always consider the climate and weather patterns in your region when choosing a roof style for your home. Gabled roofs are an excellent choice for many places, but aren’t a universal solution.