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What are the Three Basic Types of Pitched Roofs in the UK

Roofing GL5 Gloucestershire Stroud Pitched

A pitched roof refers to a sloping roof typically found on residential and commercial buildings in the UK. Compared to flat roofs, pitched roofs have several advantages:

  • Better drainage and resilience against water accumulation and leaks
  • Increased attic/loft space for storage or conversion
  • Enhanced aesthetic appeal

The angle and shape of a pitched roof is a key factor in its functionality. There are three common types of pitched roof seen across the UK:

Gable roofs – A pitched roof with two sloping sides that meet at a central ridge. The end walls are known as gables.

Hip roofs – A pitched roof with sloping sides and hips at each corner. No gables are present.

Gambrel roofs – A hybrid design with a shallower lower slope and a steeper upper pitch. The change in slope creates more space.

Choosing the right pitched roof involves assessing climate, budget, usage needs and aesthetic preferences. This article provides an in-depth look at common pitched roof components, the distinctions between the three pitched roof types, suitable materials and finishes, and additional considerations.

Common Pitched Roof Components

Several structural elements and frames are vital to a sound pitched roof.


  • Rafters are sloped roof beams that extend from the ridge board to the eaves.
  • They provide essential structural support and create the characteristic angled shape.
  • Careful rafter sizing and spacing ensures weather resistance and longevity.
  • Connection points to ridge board and wall top plates are also critical.

Ridge Board

  • The ridge board is a horizontal beam running the length of the roof peak.
  • It anchors the angled rafter ends together at the high point.
  • Provides crucial stabilizing support for the roof frame.
  • Material must be moisture and decay resistant.

Roof Trusses

  • Roof trusses are pre-fabricated triangular frames placed in sequence to form the roof structure.
  • Very common for spans over 20 feet.
  • The angled top chords serve as rafters once covered with sheathing.
  • Offer increased strength, stability and ability to handle heavy loads like snow.
  • Permit wider open attic spaces without interior load-bearing walls.

Types of Pitched Roofs

There are some prominent differences when comparing gable, hip and gambrel roofs.

Gable Roofs

A gable roof is the most popular pitched roof style in UK homes. Characterized by two sloping sides that meet at a centered ridge. The ends of the roof extend to the full height walls of the house façade, forming triangular gable peaks.


  • Ideal for rectangular homes.
  • Simpler framing compared to hip roofs.
  • Allows full room height and vertical space at the side walls.
  • Often least expensive pitched roof to construct.


  • Less wind resistance since gable ends are more exposed.
  • Snow can more easily slide off the sides.
  • Interior space limited compared to other pitched options.


  • Most common roof choice for detached and semi-detached houses.
  • Frequently employed even when building extensions or dormers.
  • Variations possible by adjusting the upper and lower pitch.

Hip Roofs

Eliminates gables in favor of diagonal hip joints at each corner. Requires more complex design and framing.


  • All sides are equally angled, enhancing wind resistance.
  • Improved structural integrity to handle heavy snow loads.
  • Less possibility of leaks compared to roof penetrations from chimneys/vents.


  • More skill needed for layout and construction.
  • Hip rafters involve complicated cuts and joins.
  • Cost is often 10-15% higher than simple gable roofs.

Typical Uses:

  • Frequently employed on bungalows or any house with a square or irregular floor plan.
  • Annual roof inspections recommended to check flashing and joints.
  • Can extend roof life by lessening risk of wind, rain and snow damage.

Gambrel Roofs

The distinctive dual pitches maximize headroom and usable floor space, ideal for lofts or attics. Permits expanded living areas under the roof. The steep upper pitch helps snow and rain slide off easily. The large roof overhang shelters the home’s exterior walls, including insights from a roofer in Stroud.

Features and Benefits:

  • The distinctive dual pitches maximize headroom and usable floor space.
  • Permits expanded living areas under the roof, ideal for lofts or attics.
  • The steep upper pitch helps snow and rain slide off easily.
  • The large roof overhang shelters the home’s exterior walls.

Considerations in the UK:

  • Gambrel roofs require greater spans which increases cost.
  • The complex framing requires expertise to construct correctly.
  • Mainly seen on larger detached propertiesin rural locations.
  • Can complement the aesthetic of older period buildings.

Roofing Materials and Finishes

Several material types and options exist for protecting the roof structure and interior from weather and moisture damage over the long run.


Clay tiles withstand weathering and last over 70 years. However, weight load requires robust trusses. Lighter concrete tiles mimic clay and slate aesthetics while minimizing truss requirements. Synthetic rubber and plastic tiles offer diverse styles from Mediterranean to Victorian. Great durability and UV resistance. Shape options include flat, interlocking and simulated clay barrels. Color variation ability.

Key Tile Considerations:

Local climate impacts material suitability like durability in high winds or heavy snow. Roof pitch, size, height affect appropriate tile choice. Need to account for the extra weight load on trusses. Regular inspections and some breakage replacement expected.


Valued for incredible durability, fire resistance, and timeless beauty. Weighs less than clay tiles although still substantial. Skill needed for repairs to replace damaged slate tiles.

Pros of Slate Roofing:

  • Can last well over 100 years. Needs minimal lifetime maintenance.
  • Historic, prestigious appearance on older Victorian era homes.
  • Available in shades of grey, purple, greens.
  • Impervious to rot and moisture.

Potential Drawbacks:

  • Natural slate is more expensive upfront.
  • May require roof structure reinforcement to handle heavy weight.
  • Skilled specialist must handle installations and repairs.


  • Featured often on prestige homes and iconic buildings/churches.
  • Works on virtually any roof style from gables to turrets.


Offer effective protection despite typically only having a 20-30 year lifespan. Simple nailing installation and availability of budget options adds appeal. Effective for covering small roofs on extensions, dormers or sheds.

In the UK climate:

  • Asphalt and composite shingles common in warmer South East areas.
  • Natural wood shingles left unpainted can deteriorate quicker in wet conditions.
  • Synthetic alternatives mimic wood appearance without moisture damage.
  • Slate shingles retain traditional charm but involve expertise to install.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get more clarity on key pitched roof considerations:

What is the average lifespan of a pitched roof?

Good quality tiled roofs generally last from 50-100 years. Regular cleaning, inspections and minor repairs can maximize longevity. Swiftly addressing any leaks, flashings damage, or tiles dislodged in storms reduces expensive structural issues. Slate roofs often endure 100-150 years before replacement needs considering.

Can I convert my flat roof to a pitched roof?

Converting an existing flat roof to add a pitched roof is possible in many cases. However, it represents a major project. Weight load capacity of walls below must be assessed regarding the roofing material selected. Increased attic height would provide useful living space but involves extending walls. Professional structural evaluation is strongly advised before undertaking such a conversion.

Are pitched roofs suitable for all weather conditions?

Pitch and layout choices do influence all weather viability. Steeper 60°+ pitches handle heavy snow better than shallower ones. Large overhanging eaves protect against driving rain. Gable roof ends can be vulnerable in coastal or exposed areas. Hip roofs often fair better against high winds. Special seals, underlayments and flashings boost weather resistance overall. Maintenance checks after major storms helps prevent longer term deterioration.

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