Gable vs Hip Roof
Deciding what kind of design to use when building a new home can be hard in the beginning, especially when it comes to the roof. There are four basic designs to choose from—gable, hip, flat, and shed, with a multitude of variations in between like mansard, gambrel, and saltbox.
The two most commonly used are the gable and hip roof. This article will go over the pros and cons of gable versus hip roofs for your home design.
Gable Roof Design
A gable roof is the most common design you’ll see on homes (and on kids’ drawings). Known for its quintessential “A” profile, the gable roof has this triangle shape on the front and back of the house, with sloping sides that meet at the top.
It’s the simplest and most traditional roof design, going back to the first homes ever built by the ancient Greeks. Gable roofs are also known as pitched or peaked roofs, and gabled roof cabins are often called “A-frames.”
Types of Gable Roofs
The most common gable roof is the front gable. The “A” or triangle shape will be facing out toward the street with the same at the back of the house. The sides will slope down at a pitched angle.
Boxed gable roofs are merely front or side gable roofs that are boxed in at the bottom where it meets the house. Boxed gables turn the A into a triangle by adding a bottom line.
Side gables are the same construction as front gables, but the “A” shapes are the sides of the house, not the front and back. This is not as common as the front-facing gable as the front door usually coincides with the vertical end.
Cross gable roofs will combine two front facing gable designs together. It's essentially like building two separate homes and then merging them together with space in the middle. This design offers more interior space and overall square footage while keeping the traditional look.
Dutch gable roofs are a combination of gable and hip roof designs where a full gable is placed on top of the hip base. The design offers the benefits of the two designs, but is more complicated to build.
Hip Roof Design
A hip roof also has one peak at the top, but instead of two sides, all four sides join up to it. It doesn’t have any vertical sides. The pitch of a hip roof is usually less steep since all sides must meet.
All of the sides slope downward on an angle or pitch, but none of them are flush with the walls of the house. They may meet at a single peak point or at a roof line at the top.
Types of Hip Roofs
The regular hip roof has four sides that meet together at one peak with one longer end and one shorter end. Usually, the front and back ends are shorter, and the sides are longer. Front and back will be symmetrical, as will the sides, and their pitch will all be the same.
The pyramid hip roof is a traditional hip roof where all four sides are exactly the same size and length. These are usually used for smaller, decorative structures like gazebos or pergolas, as they do not maximize square footage.
Cross hipped roofs bring two hip roofs together in an L-shape. This can add square footage to the home’s design, and give it a little more interest while keeping the traditional hip roof design all throughout. Popular for rancher homes.
The half-hipped roof is another combination design where gables are added to opposite sides to allow for some of the benefits of the gable like eaves troughs, but with a proper hip roof at the top. These are more common in European home designs.
What is “Pitch”?
Roof pitch is important to understand when deciding on gable versus hip roofs. The pitch is the amount that a roof rises over every foot (or twelve inches). You’ll see the roof pitch commonly written as 4/12, indicating that the roof has a four pitch since it rises four inches every 12 inches.
Common pitches are between 4/12 and 9/12. Anything below four is considered a low pitch, and anything over nine is considered steep. Gable roofs will generally have higher pitches than hip roofs, but technically there is no prescribed pitch for either, it depends on the home design and needs.
Gable Roof Advantages
One of the main advantages of a gable roof is that it's simple to build. Construction of a gable roof tends to go smoothly since the calculations are easy, and these types of roofs have been installed for centuries.
Their easy construction also makes them cheaper to build since they require less material than other types of roofs, meaning there is also less labor to achieve the design.
This makes them relatively easy to maintain and fix as they can be accessed easily, allowing for simple patchwork repairs. Installing shingles on a gable roof is a straight-forward job, since you only have to cap the top peak.
The other big advantage is that snow and rain will run off easily from a gable roof since the pitch is steeper than a hip roof. For areas where heavy snow and rainfall are expected, the gable roof will help ensure that the home is protected, meaning the roof will last longer, too.
On flatter roofs, or ones with lower pitches, moisture and snow can get trapped or build up more easily, which can lead to heavy snow loads, water damage and leaks, mold, moss, and pests. Same goes for clogged gutters, since leaves will naturally fall off a steeper roof rather than collect.
While drainage and snow protection are the main advantages, gable roofs also provide better ventilation for your home, which is important when considering your design.
Higher pitched gable roofs will have more attic space, and, when vented and insulated properly, can help keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Ridge vents installed in the roof allow for moisture and heat to escape when necessary, and air vents from the home allow for proper circulation.
The more space that an attic has, the better your home will be at maintaining a conditioned temperature all year round, as opposed to a smaller, closed in attic space.
Gable Roof Disadvantages
Due to its design, a gable roof will not perform as well under strong winds, and is therefore not recommended for areas that experience hurricane or tornado weather.
While you can overcompensate for their weak points by designing away from wind tunnels, or adding extra supports and bracing with stronger materials, this ends up making the simple design more complicated, while also upping the cost.
There will ultimately be more repairs to a gable roof after any bad storms, even if you don’t live in a hurricane zone because shingles are more exposed to wind uplift. While you may like the design and look of the gable roof, if heavy winds are a concern, it may be worth looking at other options.
Gable roofs with very high pitches can be a disadvantage if you ever want to renovate the attic space into liveable space, as there is usually little headroom as you move towards the sides, meaning you will have to crouch down.
This makes it difficult to get materials in place, and takes away usable square footage for anything other than storage. While a loft bed or home office can often be integrated, it’s something to consider when designing a gable roof and pitch.
Hip Roof Advantages
Contrary to gable roofs, hip roofs are recommended for areas that experience high winds or hurricane seasons. Strong winds are more easily dispersed across four sides, especially at low pitches. Strong forces are distributed across the roof without any particular high spot to catch onto, unlike a gable roof.
This can protect the whole house since there’s less exposed surface for wind-blown objects to slam into during dangerous storms.
Hip roofs are also fairly good at allowing for snow and rain runoff, so unless you live in very Northern climates, it may not be a problem. While they may not be as good as gable roofs, as long as they are constructed properly with a decent enough slope and proper eaves and downspouts, it’s not uncommon to see hip roofs in areas that experience regular amounts of snow and rain.
Overall, they are stronger than gable roofs which can make them beneficial for that reason alone.
Hip Roof Disadvantages
Hip roofs will be slightly more complicated to design, and therefore the overall cost will end up being higher, as well. They will need more structural components meaning that material and labor costs will be higher than a gable roof.
Of course, these things do depend on other factors like square footage of the home. A basic hip roof may be less expensive than a large gable roof, but generally speaking, you are building four sides instead of just two.
When installing shingles on a hip roof, care must be taken to match the angles of all the peaks so that they can be capped, preventing any water or moisture leakage.
As a general rule, this type of roof requires extra shingles and more attention to installing in order to match the patterns and lines required when laying the shingles down.
The other main disadvantage is that hip roofs don’t allow for as much attic space.
Depending on your climate and needs, this may not be a problem, but for areas that experience temperature fluctuations from all four seasons, a small attic will not achieve the same amount of ventilation and heat distribution that a larger attic will. Small attic spaces can trap heat and moisture, meaning you will need to consider this when designing your home.
Not having a large attic space can be a disadvantage if you want more liveable or storage space. While we don't recommend filling attic spaces with junk anyway (so that air can flow easily), it can be helpful to have a larger attic, especially if you don’t have a garage or basement where things can be stored.
On the other hand, if small attics are insulated and vented properly, and you don’t require extra space, it’s not a major concern.
Gable Vs Hip Roof Costs
Gable roofs are easier to build, and, therefore, the least expensive because of the limited materials needed. The rafters that form the simple peak are easy to calculate, and can all be cut one length once the original angle is found.
This makes a gable roof a more common DIY job, as homeowners don’t need to worry about complex calculations and angles. Gable rafters can also be ordered from a truss manufacturing company at a fairly reasonable price since, once again, there’s no complicated cutting to do.
The bonus of ordering them through a company is that they can all be delivered at one time, and may offer the use of a crane to help set them in place.
The hip roof is more complicated to build, and is, therefore, more expensive than the gable roof since the construction calls for more rafters and framing to connect all four points. It’s not as conducive to DIY building, although it’s not out of the question depending on your experience.
If you have the skills and time, you can save money building the roof yourself on something that doesn’t require a professional, otherwise, you are going to be paying a roofer more to build a hip roof.
The rafters for hip roofs can also be ordered through a truss manufacturing company that will deliver and use a crane to help install them, but the cost will be higher because of the increased amount of pre-made rafters that will be needed.
The amount of insurance for a gabled or hip roof will depend on where you live. If you are building a gable roof in a hurricane-prone area, the premiums may go up.
Or, if you live in a temperate climate with no major storm action or winds, then a hip roof may be more expensive to insure since there are more building materials to replace if something happens. Do your research and get quotes on home insurance before planning your build.
It could help you make the right decision, but also, don’t choose the least safe one just because you may save some money.
Is Gable or Hip Roof Better?
In the end, the answer to this question depends on where you live and what kind of house you want to build. The main concern with gable roofs is that they are more prone to wind damage, but the majority of Americans don’t live under this constant threat.
The main advantages and disadvantages between the two are minimal, as the most important thing is good quality construction and materials. While hip roofs will be more durable overall, they will likely require more maintenance than a gable roof since there is more roof to preserve.
When it comes to gable versus hip roofs, both are worthy of consideration for new builds with various pros and cons depending on your individual home needs.
Further Gable Roof Reading
How to Convert to a Gable Roof
Building a Gable Roof Over a Deck