From Gambrel to Mansard: What Roof Architecture Means for Roof Maintenance

You love your home, and care about every detail from the foundation to the rooftop. But how much do you really know about its architecture? It's important to know the advantages and disadvantages of each architectural style if you want to effectively care for your home.


This is particularly true for your roof. The better you know your roof style, the better your maintenance plan will be.


The Basics of Roof Architecture

Take a close look at your roof. Perhaps you're fully aware of its architecture—in fact, that may be what attracted you initially. However, if all roofs look the same to you, it's time to review the basics of roof architecture.

Roofs come in 3 basics styles:

  1. Hip – This style is both popular and common in North America. Essentially, a hip roof features angled panels that slope upward from each side of a structure. The hip refers to the angle of the panels as they join together to form the roof ridge.
  2. Gable – This roof style features two sloping sides that meet at the roof ridge, with gables at both ends. In this case, the gable is simply the triangular wall that closes off the roof at either end. Gabled roofs are also commonplace in Canada and the United States.
  3. Shed – Because this roof style includes one angled plane as the roof, it's the simplest roof style. Shed roofs are characterized by their asymmetrical look (and the fact that one plane doesn't meet another to form a roof ridge).

If your roof style is one of these three, your upkeep is usually fairly straightforward. If, however, your roof is a variation on the 3 styles, it's probably more complex to shingle and maintain. Here are the most common style variations:

  • Mansard – a variation of a hip roof, characterized by steep, short angles on all four sides and a flat top (no peaked roof ridge).
  • Gambrel – a variation of a gable roof, the Gambrel-style forms at least 3 roof ridges, the center ridge being higher than the others. This style is sometimes called the "Dutch" roof. Some versions of a Gambrel roof are modeled after hip roofs, and feature small gables near either end.
  • Flat – this roof type is straightforward, being entirely flat with no gables or sloped planes. It is a shed roof without the angle.

Complex Styles May Require Complex Maintenance

Anyone who lives in a home with a Mansard or Gambrel roof knows that each style takes some effort to maintain properly. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Roofs with lots of sections can be difficult to frame.
  • Lots of intersections look interesting, but they're also prone to leaks.
  • Steep roofs create distinct challenges for roofers doing shingle installations.
  • Dormer windows and skylights are usually excuses to put extra holes in your roof.
  • Inconsistently sloped roofs mean that water may pool on the roof.
  • Unusual roof styles create problems for chimney and plumbing vent placement.
  • Complex styles also make it difficult to install flashing properly and avoid leaks.
  • Uneven angles can increase the risk of ice dams each winter.

It is one thing to consider these problems if you're designing a new home; you'll know what problem zones to avoid as you build. But it's another thing entirely to deal with problems once you have a complicated roof style on your current home. Ask your Calgary roofer at Century Roofing for the best strategies.


Meanwhile, if your home has a Gambrel roof, ask your Calgary roof contractor to check out the current ventilation plan and insert a ridge vent if your attic isn't venting properly. While you're at it, have the roofer see if your insulation is trapping excess moisture or heat. You don't want to harbour mould that makes your family ill or compromises the roof.


If your Mansard roof needs new shingles, your roofing contractor will take special care with fasteners so that shingles are completely secure against gravity's pull. An experienced roofer knows what kinds of shingles work best for those steep angles!


Although flat roofs are common on businesses, they're less usual in areas of heavy snow and moisture. This is one reason why most northwestern homes have sloping roofs. If your home has a flat roof, your roofer can talk to you about the best maintenance options. You can start by keeping the debris off of your roof (do regular clean-ups several times per year) and keep all the drains clear, all of the time.


Enjoy Your Roof and Maintain It Properly

Finally, remember that your roof creates a signature for your home's architecture. Regardless of its issues, your roof can protect your family for years to come—you just need to know the right strategies to care for it.


Check our roofing blog regularly for the latest maintenance tips and roofing advice. Or call one of our roofing contractors at Century Roofing today!

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