About Gambrel Roof Design

Gambrel Roof – Origins, Designs, Pros And Cons

Gambrel roof designs are quite attractive but there are a few things to consider before actually using one. Also, referred to as a barn style roof, gambrel roofs look like gable roof with a difference in the slope partway found in the roof. It’s very unique and tries as much as possible to maximize any floor space found in the attic. This type of roof is symmetrical, 2-sided and has slopes on both sides. One slope is at a very shallow angle with the other is very steep. With this roof design, you can maximize the headroom in the building while gaining the advantages that come with a sloped roof. Basically, it makes the roof shorter and more appealing, especially in the upper levels.

Gambrel Roof

Origins of Gambrel Roof Designs

Gambrel has Latin origins where the word ‘ gamba’ refers to the leg or hock or a horse. It also has an American and European origin which basically refers to a curb roof.

Despite the distinction, Europeans had a hard time differentiating mansard and gambrel roofs and collectively used the same term for all of them. Today, there are a few variations of gambrel roofs such as Dutch, Dutch Colonial, Swedish, German- English, New England or French gambrel roofs. Besides gambrel and mansard roofs being similar, they have different cross-sections. For instance, for the gambrel, there is a vertical gable rather than one that’s hipped at 4 corners like the mansard. Also, unlike the mansard, the gambrel roof overhangs at the facade.

As for North America, the origins of gambrel roof designs are unknown. In America, the oldest design was built in Harvard University as far back as 1677. Peter Tufts House circa 1677 to 1678 is the oldest house in the U.S with a gambrel roof. The Fairbanks house, the oldest framed house surviving today also has a gambrel roof but this was added later.

There are a few claims to the origins of gambrel roofs in America. First, there were Dutch, Spanish, English and Portuguese traders and mariners that settled in Southeast Asia (Indonesia) before settling in Europe and later America. When in Indonesia, they encountered homes built with roof designs where there was a hip at the beginning and ended with a gable found on the ridge. The gable found at the end was simply acting like a chimney to dissipate smoke from any fires lit inside for cooking purposes.

Evidently, these designs were brought back to Europe and America and introduced by local builders. There are different parts of the world that still use this roof design up to date. Secondly, there are gambrel designs originally found in Netherlands that were brought back to America by seamen. Lastly, these roof designs were introduced for reasons such as allowing wide buildings, using short rafters or as a way to evade paying taxes.

Advantages Of Using Gambrel Roof Designs

  1. Gambrel roofs were used mostly during the colonial era for Georgian and Dutch style residences. Therefore, people who still use these designs today keep their past legacy intact.
  2. They are easy to construct giving way to more space in the top floor. Framing of the roof is very easy since it uses 2 roof beams and uses very simple gusset joints.
  3. They are very cheap to construct compared to other roof designs in use today.
  4. Gambrel roofs are very stylish with two curved lines that are very distinct.

Disadvantages Of Gambrel Roofs

  1. They can’t withstand tough weather elements such as heavy winds, snow or heavy breezes. Therefore, they are not ideal for homes found in locations that experience this kind of weather.
  2. If you want your roof to stay longer, it needs frequent maintenance that could be very hectic. Every once in a while, you should paint over time and fix any issues to extend its durability.
  3. There are lots of roofers who easily confuse gambrel roofs with other roof designs. Therefore, if you’re looking for a roofer, make sure that he is knowledgeable about this roof design for the best results.

Now that you know the origins, pros and cons of gambrel roofs, you should take your time choosing the right roofer for the job if you want the best results!

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