Gambrel Roof Overview: What It Is, Pros, Cons, and Examples

Gambrel roofs are a common feature among modern barns but also grace the top of dutch colonial-style houses and are a popular pick for dormers.

Gambrel RoofView in gallery

These roofs have two slopes on each side, maximizing the area underneath. Gambrel roofs give a clean look to a home, are easy to build, and can shorten an otherwise tall roof.

If you’re considering adding a gambrel roof to your home or outbuilding, here’s what you should know.

What is a Gambrel Roof?

What is a Gambrel RoofView in gallery

A gambrel roof has two symmetrical sets of slopes on each side. The top pitch is positioned at a shallow angle, while the lower slope is steep. 

The design of gambrel roofs is simple. They maximize attic space in homes. In barns and sheds, they allow for a taller loft area. 

Gambrel roofs have a romantic, old-world look. These roofs became popular in the United States starting in the late 1600s. Builders placed them on Dutch Colonial-style homes, but they also became a staple for Georgian-style houses and farmhouses. 

You’ll also see these roofs as an accent on some mansions.

What Materials Can You Use on a Gambrel Roof?

The material on a gambrel roof typically depends on the design style. You can use any shingle, including asphalt, wood, or slate. You can also install a metal gambrel roof.

Gambrel Roof vs. Gable Roof

Gambrel Roof vs. Gable RoofView in gallery

A gable roof is a classic-looking triangle you see in most kids’ drawings of a house. Its simple design allows water to drain off easily. And since gable roofs have sharp angles, snow doesn’t pile on them.

Gable roofs are among the simplest in design. They’re also one of the least expensive to build and replace.

Gambrel roofs come to a point like a gable but have two slopes on each side. These roofs are great at maximizing space but look more decorative than a standard gable. 

Gambrel roofs are also ideal for water drainage, but because they have a shallow top slope, they give space for snow to pile up. In extreme circumstances, this can be too heavy of a load for the roof. 

In terms of design, gambrel roofs are simple. They’re typically preconstructed, and builders assemble them in pieces. Since gambrel roofs cover a little more area, you can expect them to be slightly more expensive than a gable roof.

The Pros and Cons of a Gambrel Roof

Gambrel roofs are a simple and attractive option. But, like anything else, they have their pros and cons.

The advantages of a gambrel roof:

  • Aesthetics – Gambrel roofs can give your home an old-world romantic feel.
  • Simple Design – The simple design makes building these roofs easier and less costly.
  • Lots of Material Choices – You can use almost any roofing material on gambrel roofs.
  • Maximize Attic or Loft Space – A gambrel roof will maximize the space on your top floor.

The disadvantages of gambrel roofs:

  • Not Ideal for High Wind – Gambrels may not be the best suited if you live in an area with frequent high winds.
  • Not Ideal for Heavy Snow Loads – The shallow top slope of a gambrel roof gives space for snow to pile up. In extreme circumstances, the load can be too much weight for the roof.

Gambrel Roof Examples

Gambrel roofs are timeless. They tie back to colonial America and fit many types of home styles. Here are some examples of houses and outbuildings with gambrel roofs.

A Quaint Cottage with a Gambrel Roof

A Quaint Cottage with a Gambrel RoofView in gallery
Michael Bowman Photography

This beautiful cottage has gambrel-style roofs that contribute to the quaint look of the home. The house is wood and stone, and the roof has a complimentary shingle. 

If you’re currently building a cottage-style home, this roof is one to consider. It works well if you want your house to look like it’s been standing for centuries.

Attached Garage with a Gambrel Roof

Attached Garage with a Gambrel RoofView in gallery
KOENIG Building + Restoration

The house pictured has an attached garage with a gambrel roof. The area below the roof gives the homeowners the perfect space for an accent of wood siding.

Even though the house has a standard gable roof, they’ve chosen a gambrel for the garage, adding character and curb appeal to the home.

Gambrel Roof on a Mansion

Gambrel Roof on a MansionView in gallery
Patrick Ahearn Architect

It’s not uncommon to find gambrel roofs on mansions. They give the structure an ornate, timeless look rather than a cold and modern feel.

Gambrel roofs are common on mansions with stone, brick, or wood siding.

Large Barn with a Gambrel Roof

Large Barn with a Gambrel RoofView in gallery
Sand Creek Post & Beam

The most common new builds with gambrel roofs are barns. A gambrel roof maximizes space while shortening the roof. 

It’s typical to see both older and newer barns with this sloped roof style.

Gambrel Roof on a Shed

Gambrel Roof on a ShedView in gallery
Spang Builders, Inc.

Aside from barns, sheds are the next most common new builds for gambrel roofs. You can find premanufactured sheds with gambrel roofs and building plans for them.

Since gambrel roofs are simple to build and maximize space, they are a top contender for outbuildings.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Are Gambrel roofs the same as Mansard roofs?

Gambrel and Mansard roofs are different. The Mansard roof is also known as a curb roof and has curved angles on all four sides. A gambrel roof has two symmetrical sets of slopes on two sides. The design of a gambrel roof is much more straightforward than a mansard style. 

How long will a Gambrel roof last?

The structure of a properly installed Gambrel roof will last 100+ years when well maintained. But, like any other roof, the material you use will determine how often you need to replace it. For instance, a metal roof can last 50 years, while asphalt shingles may only last 20.

What type of buildings have Gambrel roofs?

The buildings most likely to have Gambrel roofs include large barns and sheds. Gambrel roofs are also the standard for Dutch Colonial homes. You’ll also see them on some Georgian styles, older farmhouses, and some mansions.

Final Thoughts

Gambrel roofs have two slopes on each side. The top slope is shallow, while the lower one is steep. These roofs have a timeless look that ties back to colonial America. You’ll often see them on Dutch Colonial, Georgian, and farmhouse-style homes.

While not as popular for new builds, gambrel roofs are the standard for barns. They maximize space under the roof, are affordable, simple to build, and provide excellent drainage.