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What Is A Gambrel Roof?

Are you wondering "What the heck is a gambrel roof?" Read on to learn all about it with images, descriptions and more!

Large stone home with tons of windows all around, gambrel roof design with dormer windows on upper level, large green front lawn, green trees and bushes, blue sky, sunny day

I’m sure you’re wondering “What the heck is a gambrel roof?” right now, and I was right there with you before this article. Not only is gambrel a weird name, it takes a minute to get the pronunciation down. Surely, for such a strange name this style of roof must be equally as odd. Right?

Well, I guarantee that you do actually know what a gambrel roof is but that you know it by a completely different name! Isn’t that crazy? Let’s find out!

The gambrel roof design is the same as a typical barn roof design, with the angled, four-part roofing. Houses with this style of roofing will often have dormer windows, making it a dormer gambrel roof.

Deep blue sky, sunny day, tan home with a gambrel style roof, large red brick chimney and red front door, green grass and shrubs, super tall bushy trees around home

Why is it called a gambrel roof instead of something that anyone would be able to recognize like a barn roof? Well, the word gambrel comes from the Latin word gamba. Gamba references a horses hock, defined by Oxford as “the joint in a quadruped’s hind leg between the knee and the fetlock, the angle of which points backward.”

This just means that the shape of the roof, two slopes that meet on either side, resembles the shape of the back leg of a horse due to the angle at which it bends.

Pretty simple, right? Then the name ‘barn roof’ obviously comes from the gambrel roof being a common style for barns, and being regularly seen as a barn style roof.

Cream colored French Victorian Colonial style home with gambrel framed upper dormer windows, white trim, tall green trees and bushes, green grass and shrubs, blue sky with big fluffy white clouds

The mansard roof is also considered to be a type of gambrel roof thanks to its four sides that develop a steeper slope as they go down. This roof style is also often seen with dormer windows because the design provides ample space to be turned into something useful.

Wentworth Studio has an entire blog post dedicated to mansard style roofs, explaining its origin with French Second Empire homes in accurate detail. That’s right: the mansard style is a French roof!

Gambrel Roof Examples

Classic Style Barn Roof

Red barn with white trim in a country field, tall gree weeds with white flowers, wooden fence, tall green trees, light blue sky, sunny day

Although not all barn roofs look like this, this is the most commonly depicted style of a barn.

Gambrel-Gable Roof Combination

Brown home with white trim and a gambrel style roof, green front lawn and tall green trees, blue skies with white fluffy clouds

Gable roofs are two slopes that meet at the center of the house – the most used roof design that you’ll see.

Dormer Gambrel Roof

Bright blue sky, bright yellow home with a red brick chimney and red wondow shutters, little woodne picket fence along front yard, green shrubs and bushes, sunny day

The dormer gambrel roof is a favorite for homes with the gambrel roof design. This is because it opens up the top floor with light and extra ventilation.

Gambrel Dutch Roof

Old home made with a combination of white siding, stone and brick with a gambrel roof, tree red brick chimneys, tall trees and shrubs and flowers growing up all around home, blue sky, sunny day

Gambrel roofs were adopted by the Dutch and are often seen on Dutch colonial houses.

Dormer-Gambrel-Hipped Roof Combination

Solid blue sky, wood shingle home with gambrel roof line and white trimmed dormer windows, red brick chimney

This is a three-style combination for a roof, with the gambrel roof design as well as a dormer window, and the hipped section that seems to ‘grow’ out of the main part of the house.

What Are the Pros and Cons of the Gambrel Roof Style?

White cottage style home in the country with a gambrel roof and dormer windows, red shutters on lower windows, wood picket fence around front yrad garden, tall trees all along back of home

Before you go falling in love with this architectural design, it will be important to know and understand the benefits and drawbacks that come along with it. Take a look at the 8 gambrel roof advantages and disadvantages to consider before deciding on this design.



Close up of water pouring out of a roof drain, splashing onto ground

The steeply sloped roof provides excellent drainage during the rainy seasons. Certain roof designs can suffer from the damage that rain causes when it’s not properly drained. Water ponding after it rains can result in warping, rotting, ruin the insulation underneath, and cause leaks. The angles of gambrel roofs ensure that there won’t be any risk of standing water.


Inside a large barn, hay covering ground, sun peaking through slots in the structure

Storage space is one of the main reasons farmers adopted the gambrel roof design for their barns. The angle of the roof beams and construction gives more storage space toward the top of the building, allowing farmers to store things like animal feed, which is where the name ‘hayloft’ comes from.

This isn’t any different for a house, but of course without hay, because it is a much better choice for a room in the attic space. The way the roof is designed allows you to stand in any part of the room, rather than the slimming angle of gable roofs.


Gray stormy sky above a wooden frame structure in the process of being built

Not only is this roof easy to build thanks to the simple frame, but it doesn’t require the same abundant amount of materials that many other roofing designs do. This is because there are only two roof beams with their joints to create the roof frame. Options for construction materials are very flexible, making the range of appearance and price easily adapted to meet your needs.

Dormer Windows

Blue sky, small yellow home with gambrel roof and 2 red brick chimneys, small wood picket fence along front, green shrubs and trees all around, sunny day

Gambrel roofs are the easiest roofs to add windows to. These dormer windows provide additional, natural light to a room so that you don’t have to have an endless amount of lightbulbs. This is also great for any upstairs bedrooms in a home with a gambrel roof, keeping it from being dark and dim in a space that should be enjoyable for whoever lives there.


Snow Accumulation

2 men on snow covered roof shoveling the snow off, cloudy sky

Unfortunately, the top halves of a gambrel roof aren’t quite steep enough to keep snow from building up. Snow accumulation can lead to warping from the pressure of heavy snow sitting on the roof for long periods of time. It’s even possible that part of the roof could fall in or cause a collapse, so you definitely need to watch out for this.

Wind Damage

Close up of a roof damaged by wind andother weather, blue sky

Wind damage is another weather related issue with gambrel roofs. The gambrel roof design is particularly vulnerable to wind because of the flat surface of the bottom half of the roof. Unlike the gradual slope of other roofs, the wind is unable to smoothly pass over. Tornados, hurricanes, and any incident with strong winds can shift the structure of a gambrel roof and potentially the rest of the building.


Man in gray jeans and a gray sweatshirt on a roof using a tool to remove parts of a dameaged roof

The damage caused by these disadvantages will clearly require repairs but there are other reasons to schedule regular check ups when it comes to buildings with a gambrel roof. This is mostly for older gambrel roof homes because typical wear and tear can be more severe due to the weather conditions you’ve already read about. A way to prevent this is to plan ahead and build with stronger, sturdier material from the get-go.


White cloud covered sky, winter trees, green grass, old red barn with white windows and door

Poor ventilation is another well known issue of gambrel roofs. Older structures won’t have a proper roof vent system, causing heat and moisture to rise toward that second floor or loft space. This can cause a lot of issues, such as swelling, leading to structural instability, or mold, which can cause similar problems as well as health risks. Luckily, you can avoid this by installing a ventilation system!

How Are Gambrel Roofs Built?

Stormy dark blue sky, green rolling hills, little bit of sunshine, gambrel roof barn wood frame in the middle of build process

Well, if it’s one of the gambrel roof advantages, it should be easily explained. Right? Not exactly. As with any roof, it is a hefty construction project to take on. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done!

The first step to take when you build a gambrel roof is to get the framework done. Fortunately, that is a simple task since it doesn’t require as many materials as other roofs. If you’re looking to install a gambrel roof onto an existing building, things will get a bit more complicated. It can be difficult to fit the gambrel design to a home that wasn’t laid out for that style. This is definitely a time to consult with professionals for proper installation.

Remember that the required maintenance of gambrel roofs is one of the gambrel roof disadvantages, and be sure you plan ahead by selecting durable roofing material!

Once the frame is up, the roof deck comes next. A roof deck is just the plywood placed over the beams that you secure the rest of your materials to. Then the shingles are laid over a drainage sheet, typically in multiple layers. This helps protect your roof if any shingles come off.

Roofing like this for the average house can last three to five days, or even over a week depending on weather and possible issues.

This is the simplified version, of course. If you’re interested in a step-by-step guide, check out this article on! While you can build a gambrel roof on your own, you should always at least consult professionals and be extremely cautious with the steep angles. Safety first!

What Are the Estimated Installation and Maintenance Costs?

Green grass and miles of green trees, large barn with red metal exterior and gray metal roof being built, some blue skies peaking through gray and white storm clouds rolling through

Roofing prices will constantly vary depending on the size of your roof, where you live, and how much needs to be done. Installation costs have to cover materials and labor, as well as whatever road bumps are found during the construction process. This might cost you from $4 to $20 per square feet, whereas maintenance can be completely unpredictable. The amount you spend on any roof for repairs and average maintenance depends on things like the quality of material, how old the roof is, and the effects of harsh weather.

According to a question asked and answered on, the size of a roof on the average house is about 3,000 square feet. If you do the quick calculation of $4 to $20 per square foot, you reach about $12,000 to $60,000 for installation. Repairs and maintenance depend on the extent of the damage, ranging from water damage and leaks to rotting wood, broken beams, or shingles in need of replacing.

For a more accurate pricing quote, check out to find the best roofing contractors in your area! It’s always smart to get multiple quotes before deciding who to hire, so make sure you inquire with different contractors!