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Traditional vs Modern Roof Styles

July 18, 2023
Traditional vs Modern Roof Styles

Form and function. We all know about the function of a roof, but what about its form? Unless you’re an architect or a builder, you probably don’t know about the long list of roof styles or the pros and cons of each. While there are many ways of categorizing the roof styles, the overriding classifications are traditional vs modern with specific designs within each.

Traditional vs Modern Roof Styles

Let’s take a look at three popular types of roofs within both categories — an activity that can prepare you for making critical decisions if you’re building a home or remodeling one.

Traditional Roof Styles

Traditional roof styles include gable roofs, hip roofs, and gambrel roofs.

Gable Roof

This is an extremely popular traditional style found in neighborhoods all over the country. Remember the houses you drew as a child? Two slanting sides forming a ridge at the top? You were drawing a gable roof. Gable roof styles are built with rafters rather than trusses or purlins.


This simple, no-nonsense design is easier and cheaper to build than more complex styles. Due to the roof angle, rain, snow, and most debris can slide off, not accumulating to cause damage. Other benefits include better ventilation and additional space for an attic, additional room, or vaulted ceilings.


While this popular roof style is good because of the pitch, it’s also bad because of it. Gabled roofs are more vulnerable to high winds and severe weather. Proper frame support is absolutely necessary to prevent the roof from collapsing. Severe winds can cause roofing material to blow off.

Hip Roof

This classic design is sloped on all four sides, forming a ridge at the top of the roof.


A hip roof is stronger and sturdier than a gable roof. It’s ideal for climates that experience heavy snow and strong winds. The design lends itself to the addition of a dormer to create more living space.


Because the design is more complex than some, hip roofs require more material and labor to install, making them more expensive. While the addition of a dormer has advantages, the addition can be a source of leaks that form in the valleys created from additional seams.

Gambrel Roof

This roof is what you normally see on old barns, featuring two sides and two slopes. The lower slope on the gambrel roof has a very steep slope, while the upper has a less severe slope that angles into the ridge.


One of the obvious benefits of this style is that it provides more functional area for living and working. The simple design of the gambrel roof requires less material, making it an economical option compared to other roof choices.


While this is more affordable than some roof styles, it is not the best choice for areas that experience strong winds or heavy snow. Not only can it collapse in extreme weather challenges, but leaks are an issue if you add windows.

Modern Roof Styles

Modern roof designs include flat roofs, skillion roofs, and jerkinhead roofs.

Flat Roof

If you love all things modern, a flat roof aligns with your sense of beauty. This style is based on broad horizontal planes, bringing to mind nature’s expansive horizon. Clean lines and simplicity are trademarks of flat roofs.


Because they don’t have a peak, flat roofs are ideal for adding living space, such as a rooftop garden or patio. Plus, you can hide your HVAC systems on the roof rather than add clutter to your ground-level green landscape. As you would expect with a design as simple as the flat roof, it is less expensive — and easier to build — than other styles. If you want to add solar panels, this is the roof for you.


The negative side of flat roofs is they are prone to water leaks and damage because of the low pitch, making them a poor choice in areas with heavy snowfall and rain. While the initial cost of a flat roof doesn’t bring on sticker shock, it may cost more in the long run in maintenance and repairs.

Skillion Roof

Also known as a shed or lean-to roof, this style is pure simplicity. It features one single slope that is pitched in one direction. Skillion roofs are becoming more popular with people who appreciate a modern or contemporary style.


Skillion roofs are easy to build and don’t require much material, making them an economical choice. You won’t lose sleep worrying about leaks when your home is covered by a skillion roof —snow and rain run off easily.


While the steep pitch is advantageous, it’s also a drawback. This style works well in environments with heavy snow and rain, but not so well when subjected to frequent high winds. Skillion roofs also lag behind some other styles when it comes to efficient use of space. Attic space is dramatically decreased or even eliminated due to the pitch.

Jerkinhead Roof

This design offers the best of both worlds: the superior drainage of a gable roof with the space advantages of a hip roof. Visually, the jerkinhead roof presents the traditional triangular shape of a gable roof with hipped ends.


The jerkinhead roof’s main benefit is its strength. The truss and rafter systems required for this rather complex style make it one of the most stable of all roof styles. Also, the clipped points are less vulnerable to high winds than more traditional overhangs. The steep pitch allows for maximum living space.


Due to its difficult design, the jerkinhead roof is more expensive to build.

Choosing Traditional vs Modern Roof Styles

Keep in mind these are only six roof styles. There are many options with many variations. McKinnis can help you choose the design that’s right for your aesthetic, vision, and budget.


If you are in need of a roof inspection, roof replacement, or windows, siding, and gutter work, give us a call today at 402-426-2644, visit our website at, or fill out our contact form. Our Omaha roofing and exterior experts are highly trained and always ready to help!