Most of us probably don’t give our roofs much thought, but they’re an absolutely essential part of our homes, workplaces, leisure time… you name it! They provide shelter, protect our homes and belongings, and can even offer unique aesthetics.
If you’re building a new home or seeking to re-roof your current one, there’s a lot to consider in the roofing department, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. In fact, you might want to begin your research with a quick look at our guide to roof terminology or our Ultimate Guide to Getting a New Roof.
To give you an idea on what to look out for and to set you off on the right foot for your roofing journey, we’ve put together a guide to some of the most common (and most exciting!) roof designs you’re likely to come across during your research.
What to consider when choosing a roof
Before we jump into the various roof designs, here’s a few things you’ll need to think about when choosing your roof.
As you’ll see as we go through our list of roof designs, cost can vary hugely from project to project. There’s a lot that goes into that, including labour, materials, design complexity, and on-going maintenance.
Cost is, naturally, a huge factor for a lot of homeowners, but don’t be tempted to skimp on your roof – it’s your safety at stake!
Roofs can be made from a number of materials, and the type of roof – as well as your budget – can determine just what those materials are.
Some common roofing materials include shingles, slate, corrugated iron, Colorbond steel, and tiles.
Construction is more than just putting the roof together – it’s WHO you get to do it. Finding a reputable roofer is a given, but if you’re leaning towards a more complicated or less common roof design, you’ll need to make sure they have the experience and skillset to do it – Mansard and gambrel roofs, we’re looking at you!
If you’re adding to an existing roof or simply want the option to be able to do so further down the line, you’ll need to consider what’s actually possible within the realms of the design. Remember that not every roof is suited for solar panels or skylights, and drastic additions can have drastic effects on roof structure and aesthetic.
Are you living in a particularly windy area? Are your summers unbearable without the air-con running 24-7? Does it rain hard and often?
Different roofs respond to weather events differently, so planning for the future is imperative when selecting a topper for your home. You might need to plan for extra shade or improved ventilation. Or you might need to prepare for a hurricane season, or ensure you have a drainage system you can have total confidence in. Guidance from professionals who know the area well is a must here.
It’s recommended that your roof be checked by an expert every 3-5 years, but general maintenance – cleaning, checking gutters, watching for cracks, keeping an eye out for pests, inspecting after a storm etc – is an ongoing process, no matter the roof. Some of this you’ll be able to manage yourself, but other times you’ll need to call in the professionals.
You want to love the home you’re in, and that includes how it looks!
That said, you should remember that aesthetics and street appeal can affect resale values too – what appeals to you might make the home harder to sell later down the line. Also, something you enjoy visually might not work practically. That’s why it’s important to consider your design carefully.
Now, with all that out of the way, let’s look at some roof designs for homes in Australia!
19 roof designs for your home
A flat roof is just about what you would expect – a flat surface with a slight pitch to help with water drainage. Flat roofs are experiencing a bit of a comeback, with homeowners making the most of their bold aesthetic and relatively inexpensive price.
Flat roofs generally require less materials, as they don’t need as many supports or rafters as some of the other roofing types we’re going to explore. They’re also more accessible, meaning general maintenance, repairs, and making additions such as solar panels becomes much easier.
In terms of materials, modern flat roofs should be made of metal, as other materials such as tiles and rafters need stronger angles to help with water run-off. Metal can be much more securely joined together, removing the risk of leaks.
Image from Sydney Roof
The skillion roof is a common roof type, featuring one flat surface at a relatively steep pitch. Perhaps better known in Australia as the “shed roof”, you’ll likely have seen it gracing plenty of industrial buildings and sheds, even if you didn’t know the name!
Generally a cheaper option than other roof styles, construction is quick and simple, as they only have one slope. That single sloping roof also makes them great at managing water run-off and collection. Skillion roofs are also ideal for adding skylights or clerestory windows which can help increase the amount of natural light in the house.
There are a few drawbacks to the skillion roof. These include a lack of loft area and a sensitivity to high winds and hurricanes. Adding multiple skillion roofs – such as in a skillion and lean-to combination below – can help mitigate this risk.
The skillion roof’s simple design means it’s adaptable and versatile – here’s a few variations on the original design that you might like to consider.
Skillion and lean-to roof
A lean-to roof. Image from Dream Civil
This angular and interesting design combines the traditional skillion with a smaller sloped roof. The varying heights make for a modern look that’s often seen across new housing developments in Australia.
A skillion roof’s single slope makes it sensitive to damaging winds, but adding multiple pitches, as with this adaptation of the design, can help protect your building.
Butterfly skillion roof
By Taxiarchos228 – Own work, CC BY 3.0, Wikipedia
A butterfly skillion roof features two sloping roofs that meet in the middle, making an effect rather like – you guessed it! – butterfly wings. This design first gained popularity in the 1950s, and is particularly effective at water management, as it provides a natural run-off channel between the two slopes. It’s also great for solar panels.
Oval skillion roof
Image from Nicolás Boullosa
A variation of the skillion that features more rounded edges, the oval skillion is designed for better wind resistance. It’s commonly seen in small-scale civic structures, such as covering outdoor seating and waiting areas, though it makes for an exciting design choice for homes too.
While we might be more used to seeing skillion and flat roofs in our modern Australian suburbs, it’s the gable that has become the enduring roof icon. Ask anyone to draw a house and, odds are, they’ll give it a gable roof!
At their simplest, gable roofs are triangular in shape. Two sloped sides meet at a high point, which provides a great opportunity to create an attic space or add dormer windows. The actual “gable” refers to the exposed wall at either end of the roof. If the gables are left exposed, the roof is referred to as an “open” gable. In some variations, the gables will be covered with a triangular extension – this is a “box” gable.
This simple design makes them cheaper than more complex roofs, but they can struggle in areas with high winds. Ensure the roof is properly braced, that there’s not a lot of overhang for a strong wind to get underneath, and always have a gable roof inspected after a bad storm.
Like with the skillion roof, the simple design of the gable roof means it’s a versatile choice, and variations of it are seen all over the world.
By CaptJayRuffins – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia
The saltbox is an interesting version of a gable roof, also known as the “catslide”. It features two asymmetrical sides, with the longer slope much steeper than the shorter one.
The steep slope ensures excellent water run-off, making them ideal for areas that experience a lot of rain, though you’ll need to have a strong gutter system to manage it. The mis-matched planes create a large attic space – perfect for renovations – though the slopes obviously carry on indoors, meaning the side of the house underneath the longer side will have a particularly low or angled ceiling.
Image from Inhabitat
The M-shaped roof is, essentially, a double gabled roof, with two triangular prisms sitting side by side to create an ‘M’ shape.
The channel between the two gables is ideal for water run-off and drainage, and there’s obviously a lot of scope for expansion into the two attic spaces.
That said, aesthetically they’re more associated with commercial and warehouse-type buildings, rather than homes.
A hip or hipped roof takes the basic form of the gable and adds extra sloping sides into the mix, all rising together to form a point. A simple hip features two long sides and two smaller sides, while a pyramid hip features sides of equal size. They’re a particularly common feature in Australia, more so than the traditional gable roof, and it’s not without reason!
A hipped roof offers the added protection of deep eaves – the part of the roof that extends past the house. These are useful for adding shade, particularly over windows, which helps keep the interior of the house cool, as well as potentially provide a porch-type cover around the home.
They’re also great for water drainage, as installing gutters is a much simpler process compared to on a gable roof, and can offer extra roof space in a potentially more practical shape.
Cross hipped roof
A variation on the traditional hipped design, cross hipped roofs have been around for centuries, but have really found their place atop ranch-style dwellings.
In a cross hipped roof, two hipped roofs are connected perpendicular to each other, to create an L-shaped roof. This roofing style is great for managing strong winds and creating shade, and, as with most hipped roofs, installing gutters is a breeze.
However, compared to the standard hipped designs, there’s likely to be less attic space, so be sure to factor that into your plans!
Hip and valley roof
Hip and valley roofs feature multiple sloping sides and smaller hipped roofs, all connected together to form one roof.
The design has an interesting and contemporary aesthetic, but it’s a tough one to construct. One small mistake could make the entire thing structurally unsound. This also makes it an expensive choice, but potentially one that is very long-lasting, given the time and care that goes into it.
Homeowners will need to be wary of debris building up in the valleys of the roof, and ensure that an appropriate drainage system is in place. Too much extra weight on a hip and valley roof can be a disaster!
That said, they’re fantastic for managing winds, with all those different levels providing useful resistance in a gale.
Dutch gable roof
By Hein Elpers – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia
If you enjoy all the advantages of a hipped roof but can’t quite shake the lovely traditional aesthetic of the gable, you might want to consider a Dutch gable. This roofing style combines the features of both a hipped and gable roof, and first emerged during the Renaissance period. The main part of the roof is in a hipped style, but instead of those sloping sides coming together to a ridge or point, they’re drawn together by a smaller gable roof on top.
Dutch gables are relatively popular in Australia, given the combination of extra roof space provided by the gable topper, alongside all the advantages of hipped roofs.
The name might not be all that appealing, but the aesthetic might well be! Drawing inspiration from church roofs, jerkinhead roofs combine elements of the hipped and gable roofs to create something visually appealing and without some of the issues of its roofing parents.
The mild slope and subtle curves increase wind resistance, and the complex system of rafters and trusses that hold the roof together increases stability.
That said, you’ll find a jerkinhead roof loses some of the extra space offered by hipped and gable roofs, and with such a complicated build, they’re expensive and, often, hard to access for maintenance purposes. They can also be difficult to ventilate, which likely isn’t ideal for Australian summers.
A gambrel roof, sometimes known as a Dutch colonial roof, is a style often seen on historical American houses. Brought to the states by European immigrants in the 1600s, the roof features two symmetrical sloped sides facing away from each other, with a moderate slope at the top giving way to a steep, angled slope lower down. Think of those traditional red American-style barns and you’ll have an idea of what they look like.
Gambrel roofs can be adapted to include gables or dormer windows, and there’s huge potential for attic space within the roof. They’re relatively easy to build, requiring less materials, and given that there’s still plenty of 17th century examples around, they definitely pass the longevity test! Those steep slopes allow for fantastic drainage too.
That said, gambrel roofs aren’t ideal for snowy areas, and they’re relatively vulnerable to strong winds. The unusual style might also be a bit of mystery to some roofers – not ideal when you’re looking for help maintaining it!
Depending on who you ask, the strong architectural impact might be a positive or a negative thing, but if it suits the home you’re envisioning, a gambrel is certainly worth considering.
If the gambrel/Dutch colonial has got you thinking about unusual roof aesthetics, the Mansard roof is another exciting choice. Otherwise known as a “curb” or “French” roof, you might have seen this style adorning the buildings along the boulevards of Paris.
A mix of a gambrel and a hipped roof, a relatively flat upper slope gives away to steep sides, providing attic space potential. The aesthetic is a little more forgiving for contemporary homes than its close cousin, the gambrel.
Dormer windows can help increase natural light and curb appeal, and it’s also a great long term economical choice, as the extra space the roof provides can also help with air circulation, making the whole home cheaper to cool or heat as required.
That said, like the gambrel and the hip and valley roof types, construction and installation can be expensive. Installation is a complex process, and will require roofers with very specific skills for a long period of time.
Mansard roofs are also known for having drainage issues, as rain or snow can accumulate on the flatter sections of the roof. Similarly, homeowners might find debris building on top of the roof too, meaning maintenance will need to be regular and consistent.
A bonnet roof (also known as a kicked-eave or belcote roof) could be described as a Mansard in reverse, with a steep upper slope and shallow lower slope. That lower slope can create a porch-like overhang around the house, making it ideal for homes looking for extra shade.
Like the Mansard, it was popularised in French architecture before making its way to the US, but it’s easy to see how that lovely shaded porch might suit Australian homes too.
The design is, however, more complex than it looks. A perfect pitch is an absolute must, and you might find that the lower slope will need a little extra support in the form of columns or beams. Given that this is a less common style, you might struggle to find a builder with the skills necessary to nail this roof design.
Image from Applet
A combination roof is exactly what it sounds like – a blend of roof types put together to create something unique. This is a great option for people who want a specific aesthetic but perhaps deal with weather events that make their preferred choice less than ideal.
The design and build process for this type of roof is, as expected, an expensive one. Careful consideration must be paid to how the different styles of roof come together, what materials can be used throughout the build to ensure both aesthetic and safety standards are met, and what maintaining such a roof will mean for the homeowner.
If you have limited outside space, a green roof might be an exciting option for you!
A green roof features a roof surface that is covered in plants and vegetation. While they might feel like a modern invention, designed to balance out an urban sprawl, they actually have their roots (pun intended!) in ancient dwellings around the world.
There’s plenty to like about a green roof. They increase energy efficiency within the building, can help reduce noise, and do a fantastic job of managing rain and storm water. All this while improving bio-diversity and combating pollution!
The downside is, of course, the initial cost. It’s a complex build, requiring a strong roofing structure to support the plants. But the ongoing advantages and the potential resale value, as well as the aesthetic appeal, will certainly make it a tempting prospect for some.
While it’s not likely to be something you might be seriously considering for your home, we couldn’t resist wrapping up this list with a beautiful domed roof.
As a roofing style, domes have been around for millennia, with examples from around the world standing strong for thousands of years.
Building materials change depending on when and where they were built, but reinforced concrete has become a common choice in recent times, as it is cheap, durable, weather-resistant, and energy-efficient.
Whatever stage you’re at in selecting or designing a roof, and whichever roof style you end up choosing for your dwelling, the key things to consider never really change: cost, general practicality, and aesthetic.
And, of course, reaching out to a professional roofer is an absolute must, as they can guide you in a direction that suits you, your vision, and your budget. In fact, why not kick things off with our guide to choosing a roof for your home?
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