The gambrel roof, with its distinctive silhouette and dual-sloped sides, stands as a testament to architectural ingenuity and practicality. This roof style, often associated with the classic American barn, has transcended its rural origins to become a favored choice for residential and commercial buildings alike. In this comprehensive exploration, we delve into the gambrel roof’s design principles, advantages, and its place in modern architecture, providing insights for those considering this elegant roofing solution.

Understanding the Gambrel Roof

A gambrel roof is characterized by two distinct slopes on each side: a shallower upper slope and a steeper lower slope. This design not only creates an iconic profile but also significantly increases the interior space of the upper floors, making it an ideal choice for adding functional living or storage areas without altering the building’s footprint.

Historical Significance

Originating in the 17th century, the gambrel roof has roots in Dutch architectural traditions, quickly gaining popularity in North America for its practical benefits and aesthetic appeal. Its name, “gambrel,” is derived from a historical term for a horse’s hind leg, reflecting the roof’s resemblance to the shape.

Design Flexibility

The gambrel roof’s versatility allows it to be adapted to various architectural styles, from traditional farmhouses to contemporary homes. Its unique shape can be customized with dormers, windows, and other features to enhance natural light and ventilation, making it a flexible option for creative architectural expression.

Advantages of the Gambrel Roof

Choosing a gambrel roof for your project brings several benefits, including:

Enhanced Interior Space

The gambrel roof’s design maximizes the usable space within the attic or upper floors, offering ample room for additional bedrooms, offices, or recreational areas. This space efficiency makes it an excellent choice for urban homes where land is at a premium.

Aesthetic Appeal

With its distinctive appearance, a gambrel roof adds character and visual interest to any structure. Its symmetrical design and elegant lines can complement a wide range of architectural styles, from historic renovations to new constructions.

Efficient Water Runoff

The steep lower slope of the gambrel roof ensures rapid water and snow runoff, reducing the risk of leaks and water damage. This feature is particularly beneficial in areas prone to heavy rainfall or snowfall.

Cost-Effective Expansion

For homeowners looking to expand their living space without extensive renovations, the gambrel roof provides an opportunity to add extra stories or an attic conversion with relative ease, potentially saving on construction costs and time.

Considerations for Gambrel Roof Installation

While the gambrel roof offers numerous advantages, there are considerations to keep in mind:

Structural Requirements

The gambrel roof’s unique design demands careful attention to structural integrity, especially in regions with heavy snowfall or high winds. Proper engineering and construction techniques are essential to ensure the roof’s durability and safety.

Maintenance and Upkeep

The complexity of the gambrel roof’s design may necessitate more frequent maintenance, particularly for roofs with multiple dormers or intricate detailing. Regular inspections and upkeep are crucial to maintaining the roof’s condition and preventing potential issues.

Zoning and Building Codes

Before embarking on a gambrel roof project, it’s important to consult local zoning regulations and building codes. Some areas may have restrictions on roof styles or heights, which could impact your design choices.


The gambrel roof remains a popular choice for those seeking to combine aesthetic elegance with practical benefits. Its ability to enhance interior space, coupled with its distinctive appearance, makes it a versatile option for a wide range of building projects. Whether you’re designing a new home, renovating an existing structure, or adding functional attic space, the gambrel roof offers a unique solution that marries form and function. For residents of Mcmurray, PA, Planet Roof stands ready to bring your gambrel roof vision to life, ensuring a seamless blend of style, space, and structural integrity.