At this point, as a homeowner, if you don’t know how important your roof is, then you really need to take a moment to reevaluate some priorities. Your roof is actually more or less the most important singular component to your home’s structure. Yes, the foundation is crucial, everything is, but your roof is a line of defense against nature declaring an unrelenting war on everything mankind builds.
The sun may be life-giving, but it also produces literal death rays of UV and intense heat, which your roof must deflect and absorb, depending on the climate. Pests never stop looking for ways into anywhere they can potentially fit, and your roof is key to deflecting them as well.
Rain leads to water damage, and water damage will accelerate the decay of every part of your home while cultivating often potentially lethal molds and mildews. Your climate control can leak out into the environment, causing your energy bills to become nigh unmanageable over enough time.
It gets even worse. If your roof is bad enough, your resale value can drop to next to nothing, your curb appeal will disappear (oh your neighbors will love you for this one), and you could even be staring down the barrel of your home being condemned if it gets too out of hand.
So, you know your roof is important, but choosing your type of roof matters too, if you’re replacing your roof or building a new home. Obviously, materials are a concern, but so is the roof style itself. There are specific styles of roofs, which a lot of people may not immediately realize, and one of the most under-appreciated styles is the gambrel roof.
Today, we’re going to learn about gambrel roofs, how they’re built, and why they may be worth considering when building your home. You may not know the terminology offhand, but we can promise you that you’ve seen a gambrel roof more than once, and just not known it had a name.
What is a Gambrel Roof?
So, what is a gambrel roof? Well, it’s a roof made with two (Sometimes more than two) distinct slope angles, which creates a unique polygonal-arch shape with a large volume to the top floor/attic space. Gambrel roofs aren’t uncommon on houses, especially those built in a lot of Dutch and Scandinavian architectural styles, as well as some variations of Tudor homes, but you’d more likely be familiar with them as “those roofs barns have”.
In the United States especially, there has been a tradition of using the gambrel style for barn roofs, and it’s not an aesthetic choice in those cases, but rather one of practicality, as we’ll see when we get into the benefits of this roof style.
Gambrel roofs are noted by, like we said, having more than one distinct angle of slope, and while traditionally they tend to have two, gambrel roofs with three or four distinct slopes are actually not unheard of, and seen in some modernist designs that throwback to old-world construction with a new flair.
However, more than two angles to the slope contribute only to that unique aesthetic and do little to further the practicality already offered by the existing two angles.
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Gambrel Roof Construction
Gambrel roofs are usually built in two stages, the top (where the summit is located) being a 30-degree slope, with the second stage being a 60-degree slope, which produces that oh-so-unique polygonal arch design we discussed.
These roofs do not, however, have to adhere to a 30,60 set of angles with variations being entirely possible based on the designer’s own tastes, within reason. Gambrel roofs are usually constructed on the ground or some other flat area, and then installed in sections, with two roof beams supported by a gusset plate. A gusset plate is a triangle-shaped piece of wood, though sometimes it may be a metal plate, reinforcing the joints of the entire structure.
The trusses then have individual (usually four) pieces of roof decking connected, and then a type of shingle, usually three-tab or architectural, applied in a very standard way. Truss count can vary depending on how big this roof and the parent structure are, and variations on the gusset plate, assemblage of the four-surface structure etc. also vary depending on methodology and the designer’s own interpretations of the style in general.
All in all, they’re a simple design compared to many other roofs out there, and this is partly due to being a very old design. However, given this old design persists so widely even today, should itself say something about the beneficial nature of this design.
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Benefits of a Gambrel Roof
Gambrel roofs are, aesthetically, a love it or hate it design. Some people find the old world charm of them to have character, while others tend to associate them so much with barns as to find them unappealing for use on modern suburban or urban homes. However, if you’re on the fence about this style, let us walk you through some of the actual, practical benefits which gambrel roofs can provide. Like we said, there are reasons these are used by practically-minded farmers, and why this ancient design is still so widely used either way.
- Ease of Construction – As out brief look of their construction shows, these are very easy to assemble, compared to a lot of other roof styles commonly used today. This ease of construction impacts the cost in a positive way, as well as making the construction project naturally a faster affair overall.
- Spaciousness – If you’ve ever stood in the loft of a barn, looking up at the vast space inside a gambrel roof, you know just how much additional volume this design provides. For farmers, it’s to trap warmth and promote air circulation, but it’s also excellent for a partial extra story in a house, or a vastly increased attic size, among other things.
- Excellent Drainage – Water and ice/snow will find it hard to build up on a roof like this.
- Cost-Effectiveness – While the slopes on these can be a bit scary to many, for a professional roofer, these are remarkably easy to maintain and repair, making them far more cost-effective.
- A Bold Statement – Contrary to what you may think, a gambrel roof will not make your house look like a barn, but it will give it a bold and distinct look which will stand out, with some old world charm.
To learn more about gambrel roof construction and other interesting roof styles, fill out our contact form today!