Building a New House? Pay Attention to Roof Design

Most people imagine their dream home, only to settle for a house that falls a little short of the dream. However, when you finally build a home of your own, you will probably get just what you’ve always wanted.

That is, unless you neglect the details of your roofing design.

The Devil is in the Details

Most people don’t pay a lot of attention to their roof’s mechanics during the design phase. Instead, would be homeowners enthusiastically request a mansard roof or dormer windows during initial planning sessions with an architect. Potential design problems may not factor into the discussion at all.

Let’s say you’ve always wanted a skylight in your home. You crave natural lighting, and you feel that a skylight represents the perfect solution.

Step back for a moment. Before your architect creates the blueprints, take time to discuss your roof design with a professional roofer. That way, you’ll get the whole picture before construction begins.

Although architects and general contractors know a great deal about roofing, they may neglect important details that will impact your roof (and your entire home) later. A professional roofer can share practical knowledge about roof construction, such as those shown below.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Roofing Styles

When you choose a roofing style, you may primarily think of visual impact. While good looks certainly matter, so do utility and strength. A roofer can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of common roof designs:

Mansard roof – This roof design features four steep-sloped sides and a flat top. Some mansard roofs also feature dormer windows on the sides. The biggest drawback to this style comes from the flat top, which may collect water and cause leaks.

Gabled roof – Gables represent one of the most common roof types in America, marked by triangular areas at one end or other of the home. Commonly, a gabled roof features two angled roofing panels that join at the roof ridge and create a triangle between them. Two-paneled roofs are simple to care for and are less at risk for leaks than cross-gabled (multi-wing) roofs.

Hipped roof – Americans also build a lot of hipped roofs, marked by four sloped roof panels that join at the roof ridge. Some hipped roofs feature a pyramid shape (‘pavilion’ style) while others feature a traditional roof ridge.

Most roofers like the simplicity of this roofing configuration-particularly because hipped roofs have fewer leak problems than more complicated styles.

Gambrel roof – Homeowners who choose a gambrel style like its rustic charm-it looks reminiscent of country barn roofs. Although the roof allows for two gabled sides, it also features four panels in a slightly hexagonal pattern. Panels one and two join at the top ridge with panels three and four on the opposite side. Gambrels offer a reasonably low risk for leaks.

Even if a particular style isn’t particularly prone to leaks, remember: the more joined edges, facets, nooks, and crannies on a roof, the more potential leak zones a roofer will see.


Dangers of Vents, Skylights, and Additional Features

Before your architect includes a skylight or extra vents, consider the professional roofer’s view on these details:

HVAC vents – Your roofing and general contractors understand the importance of proper venting on your roof. Too few vents, and your roof’s temperature will rise too high (which may lead to damaging ice dams in the winter), too many vents, and you create extra entrance zones for future leaks.

Skylights – While a skylight offers greater direct sunlight, especially in rooms without windows, skylights are also difficult to seal tightly. Professional roofers often advise against them for this reason. Most roofing experts know the right techniques to guard against leaks. Still use caution.

Insulation – No matter the roofing design, all roofs require proper insulation. If you can control your roof temperature in any season, you’ll win many roof maintenance battles, so it is important to install insulation. Talk to your contractor about proper insulation techniques so your roof lasts for many years.

If you favor ornate roofing styles (e.g., Victorian style and others like it), remember that these roofs pose the greatest problems for homeowners and roofers alike. The more cupolas, towers, finials, and turrets you put on your roof, the greater the leak risk.

Also, Victorian roofs often prove difficult to install from their tightly sealed flashings to the final shingle. Speak to your contractor if you want to add tricky details to your roof. Most professionals advise against these elaborate styles.

The Right Design Equals Lasting Results

When you build your new home, you’ll juggle multiple design details, from the size of your great room to the hardware on your kitchen cabinets.

But while you dream up your new designs, don’t neglect the roof. By speaking to a professional roofing specialist before you finalize the blueprints, you’ll avoid many future leak and damage problems.

If you have questions about your roof design, contact your contractor for information about roof slope, shingle options, and more. Your roofing specialist will thank you for taking the time to educate yourself before you build.

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