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Different Types of Roofs and Their Functions: A Comprehensive Guide

types of roofs and their functions


Roofs are a fundamental part of any building structure, and yet, often overlooked in terms of design and functionality. But what exactly goes into choosing the right roof for your home or business? With numerous styles and materials at your disposal, it’s essential to understand the functionality of different types of roofs and how they can benefit you.

This comprehensive guide delves into various roof shingle types and their functions, enabling you to make an informed decision for your current or future construction project. From flat roofs to elaborate gables, we aim to help you select the perfect roof for your building while keeping aesthetics and structural integrity in mind.

Its Design Characteristics, Advantages, and Appropriate Roofing Materials

Gable roof

Gable roofs are one of the most widely recognized roofing styles, characterized by their triangular shape and two sloping sides that meet at the ridge. This classic roof design is both functional and visually appealing, as it efficiently sheds water and snow while also providing a spacious attic or vaulted ceiling.

One of the main advantages of gable roofs lies in their adaptability, as they can be constructed with a variety of roofing materials, such as asphalt shingles, metal, or clay tiles. Additionally, gable roofs can be easily integrated into various architectural styles, from traditional to modern.

However, it is essential to consider wind resistance when constructing gable roofs, since they can be more susceptible to damage from high-speed winds. Proper bracing and reinforcement are vital to ensure the roof’s longevity and structural integrity. Overall, gable roofs are an excellent choice for their practicality, versatility, and timeless appeal.

Hip roof 

Hip roofs are easily distinguishable by their four-sided, sloping design, meeting at a central peak. This equal incline on all sides adds visual symmetry and provides enhanced stability, especially in areas prone to high winds or extreme weather conditions. As such, hip roofs are perfect for businesses looking to ensure long-lasting durability and structural integrity.

One remarkable advantage of hip roofs is their ability to accommodate customizable overhangs. These overhangs offer added protection from the elements and can reduce energy costs by providing shade during hotter months.

When it comes to roofing materials, hip roofs are versatile. They can accommodate many options, from traditional asphalt shingles to modern and eco-friendly choices like metal or solar tiles. Ultimately, the selected material will depend on budget, location, and desired aesthetics. Still, regardless of choice, a hip roof remains an attractive and functional option for any business.

Flat roof 

Flat roofs are a popular choice for commercial and industrial buildings, as they offer a sleek, modern aesthetic and allow for easy accessibility for maintenance purposes. Flat roofs often incorporate a slight slope to ensure proper drainage of rainwater, preventing any unnecessary weight from accumulating on top of the structure.

One of the main advantages of flat roofs is that they provide additional usable space, which can be used for various purposes, such as installing HVAC equipment, solar panels or even creating a green roof or rooftop garden.

Various roofing materials are appropriate for flat roofs, including single-ply membranes such as TPO and EPDM, modified bitumen, and built-up roofing systems. Factors like building size, budget, weather conditions, and cedar maintenance requirements should be considered when selecting the right material. Overall, flat roofs offer both practical and aesthetic benefits, making them an ideal choice for certain commercial buildings.

Shed roof 

Shed roofs are known for their simplicity and effectiveness in design. This single-slope roof style can be easily identified by its straight, slanting lines, giving it a clean and modern appearance. One of the main advantages of a shed roof is its ability to drain water and snow efficiently.

Due to the slope incline, these roofs are more resistant to water leakage and snow accumulation, making them ideal for areas with significant rainfall or snowfall. Another benefit is the easy installation process, which generally requires less labour and fewer materials than other complex roof designs.

Shed roofs work well with various roofing materials, such as metal, asphalt shingles, and wood. Metal roofing is popular for its durability and energy efficiency, while asphalt shingles are budget-friendly and low-maintenance. On the other hand, wood shingles provide natural insulation and an aesthetically pleasing appearance. All these materials contribute to a shed roof’s overall functions, ensuring your building’s protection and longevity.

Mansard roof 

Mansard roofs, also known as French roofs, have a distinctive design with a four-sided double slope. The lower slope is steeper and almost vertical, while the upper slope is nearly flat or slightly pitched. Often adorned with dormer windows, this type of roof creates additional space, making it perfect for accommodating an extra floor, loft, or attic room.

The advantages of mansard roofs go beyond aesthetics and increased usable space. They provide excellent weather protection and insulation, helping to reduce heating and cooling costs. Additionally, the versatile design allows for easy modifications or expansions should you wish to update the property.

As for appropriate roofing materials, you may consider options such as metal, asphalt shingles, or slate tiles. These materials complement the classic appearance of a Mansard roof and provide durability and sustainability. It is important to consult with a professional roofing contractor to determine the best materials suited for your specific location and climate.

Gambrel roof 

Gambrel roofs, or barn or Dutch-style roofs, are prominent for their dual-slope design on each side. They feature a shallow upper slope and a steeper lower slope, offering additional headroom and storage space for your property. This unique design allows for efficient water drainage and better resistance to wind pressure, making it suitable in areas with heavy rain or snowfall.

Regarding materials, Gambrel roofs are commonly built using asphalt shingles, metal, or wood. The choice of material primarily depends on the building’s location and desired aesthetics. Asphalt shingles are known for their durability, budget-friendliness, and versatile colour options. While initially expensive, metal roofs require minimal maintenance and can last up to 50 years. Finally, wood shingles or shakes offer a rustic charm to your property and excellent insulation properties.

Overall, Gambrel roofs are an attractive and practical roofing option, striking a balance between functionality and appearance. Their additional storage space and resilient design make them an excellent choice for both residential and commercial properties.

Butterfly roof 

Butterfly roofs are a unique and visually striking design that has stood the test of time. With sleek, upwardly-sloping planes that meet in the centre, they resemble the open wings of a butterfly. This form not only adds an eye-catching aspect to a building’s exterior but also serves a functional purpose.

One key advantage of butterfly roofs is their ability to maximize natural light and ventilation. The design enables a wider area of windows to be installed, allowing for efficient air circulation and thermal regulation. Additionally, the central valley created by the sloping planes helps in rainwater management – funneling water to a collection point, perfect for water-saving initiatives.

When selecting roofing materials, it’s crucial to consider durability and compatibility with the unique shape of a butterfly roof. Options like metal panels or seam systems can be a perfect choice, as they offer the flexibility to conform to the design while providing longevity and weather resistance.

Green roof 

Green roofs, also known as living roofs or vegetated roofs, are an innovative and eco-friendly roofing option for modern buildings. This type of roof features a layer of vegetation planted over a waterproofing membrane, providing numerous environmental and functional benefits.

Design characteristics of green roofs often include a drainage layer, a growing medium, and various plant species adapted to the local climate. These components create a visually appealing, energy-efficient, and sustainable roofing solution.

There are several advantages to opting for a green roof, including improved air quality, stormwater management, and increased biodiversity. Additionally, green roofs contribute to energy savings by providing natural insulation, reducing heating and cooling costs.

Most green roofs require specialized materials and installation techniques; waterproofing and drainage are critical elements. Common materials for green roofing include high-quality membranes, lightweight growing media, and various plants that can thrive in the unique rooftop environment. Green roofs can offer a long-lasting, visually stunning, and eco-friendly solution for modern buildings by choosing the right materials and design.

Bonnet Roof

A Bonnet Roof, also known as a “double sloped” or “hooded” roof, is a unique architectural design characterized by its two slopes on all four sides. The upper slope is steep, while the lower slope is much gentler, resembling a bonnet or hood. This design offers several advantages, including excellent protection against heavy rain, wind, and other extreme weather conditions. Its overhanging eaves also provide added shade and protection for windows and walls, enhancing energy efficiency. Commonly used roofing materials for Bonnet Roofs include asphalt shingles, clay or concrete tiles, and metal roofing, ensuring durability and aesthetic appeal for this distinctive roof style.


in conclusion, the functionality and benefits of different roof types are as varied as their designs. Gable roofs offer a timeless appeal and efficient water drainage, while hip roofs provide enhanced stability, especially in windy areas. Flat roofs, favoured in commercial settings, afford additional usable space and easy accessibility. Shed roofs, with their single slope, are ideal for effective drainage and simplicity in design. Mansard roofs, reminiscent of French architecture, allow for an extra floor or attic room, while gambrel roofs, often seen on barn-style structures, offer additional headroom and storage space. Butterfly roofs stand out for their unique design that maximizes natural light and ventilation, and green roofs, an innovative choice, deliver environmental benefits and energy savings. Each roof type’s functionality can be optimized with the correct choice of materials, taking into consideration factors like budget, location, and aesthetic preferences.

Cedar Shake Roof Cleaning in Des Moines Iowa
Cedar Shake Roof before & after cleaning

Meet Bruce

50 Years of Experience &
Over 2,000 Shake Roofs Cleaned

Bruce Sullivan has over 50 years of experience in maintaining, cleaning, and restoring cedar shake roofs. Making him one of the top authorities on cedar shake roofs in the US.

Watch the Cedar Shakes Cleaning Process in Action in this video

Play Video about Roof Cleaning How to Remove Moss, Lichen, Fungi from a Cedar Roof Sullivan Roof


What can I say? Bruce and Keith provided an exceptional service, and they are really nice guys too. Found out at the last minute they were in Minneapolis, and they fit me in for a cedar shake roof cleaning the next evening after their regular job was done. Even cleaned up my gutters, small fence, and small deck at no charge. The place looks outstanding! Highly recommended.

Mike Richards

I highly recommend this business. Due to the work performed we are going to get another 10-14 years out of our cedar shake roof. We were told by some roofing companies that the roof should be replaced in 2 years. I lucked out and found Sullivan Roof Cleaning while researching companies that perform this service, and was pleased to learn that the company does work outside of Iowa. If you need your cedar shakes cleaned, go with Sullivan Roof Cleaning.

Eric Oelrich, 
St Cloud, MN

Bruce did a great job cleaning the whole exterior of my house. The roof has new life! It looks practically brand new. All the mold and moss on the roof, on the gutters, under the eaves, completely gone. He exceeded all our expectations. When he tells you what he can do for your house, you can believe and trust him. Great guy, great service.

Stuart Malone
Kansas City, MO


Cedar shakes are organic. Though a resilient material. Being organic they need to be maintained. Over time, like any organic material that are subjected to weather elements, they reach a stage of deterioration. Like UV exposure, moisture and seasonal changes. Which results in moss, mold, mildew, lichen and brown rot fungi. These infestations need to be removed to further preserve the integrity of the cedar shake.
The proper way to clean a cedar shake roof is from a ladder. By spraying a special formulated solution onto the shakes and then rinsed with a garden hose pressure. Best done by a professional cedar shake roof cleaner. Not DIY recommended.
No. Pressure washer will require walking on the shakes, which will harm them, and even at its lowest setting will also damage the shakes.
On average, cedar shakes should be cleaned every 10 ten years. Subjective to the grade of the shakes and the amount of surrounding tree cover.
Avoiding walking on a cedar shake roof, other than for repairs.
Never seal a cedar shake roof. Cedar shakes need to breathe. They expand and contract in rain conditions. Seal will shorten the lifespan, to the point of premature replacement.
Staining has no real preserve value and can also harm the integrity of shakes, as stated, they need to be able to breathe. Also, if the shakes are not properly cleaned staining can seal the deteriorating infestation within the shakes.
Depending on the grade of the shakes and installation, and if maintained properly, 40 to 60 years.


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