ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Common Home Roofs

Updated on April 16, 2024

A roof is the covering and supporting framework on the top of a building. The basic function of a roof is to provide shelter from the rain, snow, hot sun, or wind. A roof is one of the first needs of man in all parts of the world.

The first primitive huts had roofs made of straw, rushes, reeds, palm leaves, or similar material. This kind, called a thatched roof, requires a steep slope to allow water to run off rapidly, and it usually is built in the shape of a cone. At some time, primitive man discovered that he could lay tree-trunk beams on earthen or masonry walls and thus make a flat roof. Early man thus developed two of the main kinds of roofs—flat roofs and roofs with sipping sides.

The dome and the vault, the other two main types of roof, came into use much later, after man had developed cities in early civilizations. At this time, man had sufficient economic and material resources and technology to use the roof not only for shelter but also for such purposes as architectural grandeur or beauty

A vaulted roof.
A vaulted roof.

Flat Roofs

The flat roof was developed mainly in hot, dry regions by peoples such as the ancient Syrians and Egyptians in the Middle East and the Indians of the American Southwest. The flat-roofed house has remained in use through the centuries in Arab countries and other places with hot, dry climates.

About the end of the 19th century, steel and reinforced-concrete frames, along with efficient drains and roof waterproofing materials, made the flat roof practicable for office buildings and other large buildings in nearly every climate. Since about the mid-20th century the flat roof has been widely used in western Europe and the United States for factories, office buildings, and other commercial buildings.

Sloping Roofs

The sloping, or pitched, roof has been used most frequently in regions with heavy rains or snow. It has been the predominant form for residential buildings for centuries in western Europe and since colonial times in America. Although there have been great varieties in the wood framing and roof sheathing for the sloping roofs of homes, their roof designs can be reduced to four main types- the gabled, the hipped, the mansard, and the gambrel. See accompanying illustration.

The gabled roof, the simplest form of sloping roof, dates at least from classical Greek architecture, in which the gable is called a pediment. Gabled roofs for homes were common in northern Europe no later than the beginning of the Renaissance and had become one of the main types of residential roofs in America by 1700. The gabled roof has continued to be a standard form for present-day homes.

The hipped roof, also dating at least from classical Greek times, early became a common form of roof for homes in European countries on the Mediterranean Sea. The hipped roof later came into prominent use in French Renaissance chateaus, Italian villas, and Georgian mansions in England. In America the hipped roof had become one of the main forms for houses by the end of the 17th century. It remains a standard form of roof in modern American homes.

The mansard roof, named after the French architect Francois Mansart, came into use in France, Italy, and England about the middle of the 16th century. It was particularly favored in French Renaissance architecture and was commonly used in 19th century Victorian buildings in Europe and the United States because it provided increased attic space. The mansard roof is little used in present-day homes.

The gambrel roof had come into prominence in northeastern colonial America by the end of the 17th century. Although used somewhat in Europe about the same time, it gained favor there later, mainly in Scandinavian countries. The gambrel roof, which also provides good attic space, is widely used in the United States.


The third main type of roof, the dome, was developed in Mesopotamia and Egypt around 2000 BC and then disappeared. It did not reappear until it was revived by the Romans.

The stone, brick, or concrete dome is the crown of a building, but if it is made too small it is ineffective visually. Consequently, the use of the dome through the ages generally has been restricted to large Buildings- notably, the Pantheon in Rome, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, St. Paul's Cathedral in London, the Taj Mahal in Agra, and the national Capitol in Washington, D. C.


The vault, the fourth main type of roof, is a stone, brick, or concrete arched covering over a building. It was brought to a mature form by the Romans, beginning as early as the 1st century AD. The Romans cast concrete in one solid mass, creating vaults with spans several times greater than those of later English cathedrals. These spans made it possible to cover great spaces without intermediate supports, such as the interior columns used to support the roof timbers of Greek temples.

Roman vaults were the basis for more complex vaulting, especially that used in the cathedrals and churches built in Europe from the 11th through the 14th centuries.

20th Century Innovations

Striking innovations in the designs of roofs for large buildings have been made in the 20th century. In shell construction, thin spherical, cylindrical, or barrel-shaped surfaces of reinforced concrete are used for long-span roofs to provide large unobstructed interiors, as in airport terminals and auditoriums. The same purpose can be achieved by a thin roof suspended by cables, as in the Madison Square Garden sports arena in New York City. Another interesting innovation is the geodesic dome, which has been used for factories and other structures.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Bits-n-Pieces


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)