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Gable vs. Hip Roof: What’s the Difference?

Gable vs Hip Roof

It’s the battle of the two most popular roof styles in the world. Gable vs hip roof. Who will win? They both have their strengths and weaknesses, and unless you are planning to build a new house you likely have one that you are stuck with like it or not.

“I’d tell you the joke about the roof, but it would be over your head.”

-Some Dad

Knowing the differences between a gable and hip roof can help you get discounts on homeowners insurance, insulate better and plan attic remodels with success so let’s dive into the topic so you truly know the differences between the gable and hip roof.

What is a Hip Roof?

The oldest hipped roof structure that still stands in the US is the Block House in Claymont, Delaware. It was constructed in 1654 and is the only remaining structure of a settlement in the area. However, the popularity of hipped roofs in America emerged in the early 1700s inspired by British architectural designs.

If you don’t see vertical wall space reaching up to the roof peaks you are likely looking at some type of hip roof. The roof is sloped on all sides and forms a ridge between the adjacent slopes called a hip. A basic hipped roof house will have 4 sloped sides and one horizontal ridge on top.  

The hip roof can have several variations. Some examples are cross-hipped, mansard, bonnet, hip-and-valley, pyramidal, and most gazebos you see use hip roof construction in the shape of an octagon or hexagon.

Hipped roof
Simple Hip Roof

What is a Gable Roof?

The first use of gabled roofing arrived in the U.S. with the colonists in the early 1600s. The majority of America’s oldest buildings have a gable roof. The gable roof is the most commonly found roof in the U.S.

You will recognize it by having at least two slopes and 2 gables with a ridge running from peak to peak. The gable is the vertical, non-sloped side of the roof and sometimes contains a window or louvered vent. If you see the edges of the roofline create a verticle triangle up to the peak, it is a gable roof. 

Just like the hip roof, gable roofs can have variations such as open, boxed, cross-gabled, gambrel, jerkinhead, and dutch gable. Both jerkinhead and dutch gable roofs are a hybrid of a gable and hip roof.

The jerkinhead roof slopes the ends of the top ridge down partially into the gable.  A dutch gable roof looks like a gable roof built on top of a hip roof where the bottom portions are sloped on all sides.

Gable roof
Simple Gable Roof

Gable vs. Hip Roof

There is a reason why both designs are still being used today, though their designs do have their pros and cons. There are several factors to consider when choosing one of these for a new roof build or when buying a home. What is the weather like in the region? How much space do you need? What about energy efficiency?  How much money do you want to spend on construction?  

Both hip and gable roofs do well in snow and rainy regions. The construction strength of the hip roof can support the weight of snow on top and the pitch of a gable roof can shed rain and snow easily. However, if you are building or buying a home in a high wind region or where storms such as hurricanes are present, a hip roof is a better option.

Hip roofs are made with self-bracing, structurally durable construction, lower pitches, and usually have less large surface areas that can catch the damaging winds. Compared to gable roofs where the higher pitch areas have more of a tendency to lose shingles in high winds and the gable side can behave like a kite, possibly resulting in roof failure or detachment. It is important that gable roofing is installed properly and with adequate bracing.

If you are looking for more storage or living space, go with a gable roof. Hip roofs typically have a lower ceiling in the attic and don’t allow living space in most cases.  They are best utilized as a small attic for storage. A gable roof can have plenty of room for storage and living. By adding windows to the gables, you can add light to the space as well.

You also have the option of adding dormers to either roof type, but dormers installed on a gable roof create the best layout for livable attic space.

Looking to save some money on energy costs? Well, it is really hard to say which is the better option. There are several factors to consider like the local climate, size of the space under the roof, and how you decide to use it. For example, a gable roof design is cheaper to ventilate than a hip roof, but if you use the attic space under a gable roof for living and add an AC unit, the overall savings go out the window.

Deciding your roof design based on other factors first such as aesthetics, regional winds, or living space may be a better start, and then work on a plan for energy efficiency as an afterthought.

If you are building on a budget, you should choose a gable roof over a hip roof design if it’s an option in your region. A gable roof is a simple design with straightforward construction and typically uses fewer materials. Hip roofs are complex to construct, and thus, a more expensive option. However, hip roofs come with lower insurance costs.

When it comes to reroofing costs, it really depends on the complexity of the roof.  Square for square, a simple gable roof will be cheaper compared to a complex hip-and-valley roof design with many intersections, but sometimes gable roofing can be complex as well, such as adding in dormers or extra wings to the home construction.

Here is a quick summary comparing Hip and Gable roofing.  

GableHip
Cheaper Construction Cost?
Cheaper Reroof Cost?✔*
Cheaper Home Insurance Costs?
Better Strength and Durability?
Better Energy Efficiency?✔*
Better Storage or Living Space?
*Complex roofing or living space designs could change this.

conclusion

Both hip and gable roofing are great options in roof design.  If you are going to build, just be sure to do your homework on local climate and weather, before you make a decision on the gable vs. hip roof debate.

Now that you know the difference between a gable vs. hip roof, does that change your plans? Are you happy with what you already have on your own roof or wishing you could change? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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1 thought on “Gable vs. Hip Roof: What’s the Difference?

  1. I have a hipped roof, and I’ve never particularly liked the way it looks. Thanks for this article–it made me feel better about being stuck with my hipped roof, since I’m in east Texas where hurricanes are an issue! We’ve also been hit with straight line winds twice in the 2 years I’ve lived here.

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