Dutch and Gambrel roof styles

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You may have seen these two different roof styles and maybe not even known their names.
First let’s take a look at what a dutch roof is and looks like.

In a Dutch roof there is a small gable that is left and it looks almost as if the lower roof was an addition but in fact it was framed that way. If you picture a standard hip roof as in the photo below you may start to see.

Now if you were to take the side to the left in the photo and shorten your rafters so that they came up to a header that was parallel to the edge it would like like the first photo and effectively become a Dutch roof.

The roof built as a Dutch roof has the advantage of a smaller gable end and this can be used for extra ventilation through the use of a window or louvered vent. Yet sometimes it is used as an architectural element alone.

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Dutch roofs do have some disadvantages and the primary one is the loss of interior space and head room because with this roof all four angles of the roof are pitched in the same degree. I agree and disagree with the statement below.

“The style is one frequently used on ranch homes and cottages and is one that is excellent for homes in areas with high winds, tornadoes and hurricanes, as it tends to withstand damage from these conditions better than a gabled or similar style roof.”

Read more: Advantages & Disadvantages of a Dutch Hip Roof Style | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/info_12006033_advantages-disadvantages-dutch-hip-roof-style.html#ixzz2RgwpC9et

In the Bahamas we see many hip roofs and dutch roofs and it’s always been told to me that the reason is that in a hurricane, no matter what direction it comes from the other side will help hold the force.  Here, the little gable ends are often used to add ventilation, which is needed in a warm climate.To this I agree.

Where I disagree is that any roof if not properly attached to the walls will have problems in high winds or hurricanes. Remember the pressure differences between inside and outside in a hurricane and the up lift forces, not just the force of the wind alone against the structure.

Now to many people a Dutch roof is often thought to be this (photo below) but in fact this is what we call a Gambrel roof. I’m not positive but I believe the misunderstanding came about because in places such as Pennsylvania, where there are many people of Dutch descent and farm buildings that are actually gambrel’s, others started calling them Dutch roofs.  

The origin of how a Gambrel roof came to be are not exactly known and have many possibilities. One of these strong possibilities is that it was a modification of the Mansard style of roof, which is pretty close to a gambrel.
“Two distinct traits of the mansard roof – steep sides and a double pitch – sometimes lead to it being confused with other roof types. Since the upper slope of a mansard roof is rarely visible from the ground, a conventional single-plane roof with steep sides may be misidentified as a mansard roof. The gambrel roof style, commonly seen in barns in North America, is a close cousin of the mansard.” Wikipedia
I would add that gambrel roofs are seen in many homes and not just barns today and whether it be a home or barn, the advantage to these roof is the additional floor space on the second floor. Gambrel roofs have two pitches as they rise to the peak and the lower one is always steeper than the top angle. In a Cape Cod home the angle of the roof, even if it is a steeply pitched one, limits the usable floor space. With the Gambrel style roof and it’s steep first pitch, the floor space is thusly increased. So whether it is a home that can use the space for living or a barn, which uses the additional space for storage, gambrel roofs have advantages.
As you’ll see the increase in space is self evident versus if the roof had been framed as a conventional gable where the roof edge started at the eve and when directly to the ridge.
Another thing to consider in either roof style is the climate that it is constructed and the roof pitches used. In warmer climates the shallow roof pitch of some Dutch roofs will be fine because there is no snow load to carry. In northern New England, we see very few Dutch roofs and more gambrels. However even with gambrels, one has to consider the climate and especially the top roof pitch.

Even a Gambrel roof such as this would have potential problems in the north due to the low top pitch angle. Snow would have a tendency to collect up there and as the weight of it increased,  it could lead to some substantial issues if not properly framed and supported.

So there’s a bit about Dutch roofs and Gambrel roofs and I think you’ll see why I had to put in the bit about Mansard style roofs too

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About Todd Vendituoli

Todd Vendituoli has been a builder for almost 30 years with companies in Vermont and the Bahamas and HomeCentrl is an extension of those years of building experience highlighting everything about your home. I am presently working within the field of social media and using my years of construction and design knowledge to help others understand and use social media to enhance their businesses in a multitude of different ways. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and a variety of other social networks.
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