This is one of the most important questions you can ask, both from a design and a functional perspective, when designing your porch.
When we meet with new clients, most assume their options are a gable or shed roof. I guess this is because gable and shed are often the roof styles you see on porches – but not on a Porch Company porch. You will more often see a hip or a flat roof on our porches. Why is that?
First, you need to know the terminology of roofs. There are many different roof types, such as: gables, hips, shed, flat, etc. Here is a good article I found on the web to get a basic understanding of the roof styles. You will be able to quickly pick out which one(s) are included on your house.
From a function perspective for a porch, we especially want to control the run-off water, and to keep it from being blown back onto the porch. A porch with large overhangs and gutters on all sides is ideal. The two roofs meeting that description are the hip and the flat roof. And that is why these are the most common rooflines you’ll see on Porch Company Porches.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of each of the four most often used roofs: gable, hip, shed and flat.
The gable roof is loved for its vaulted ceiling and beautiful lines. However, the large triangle at the outside edge of the roof is often screened to allow for the view and the light streaming in. Unfortunately, this is also an area for water to be blown in. In our part of the country, our blowing winds come from the west and south, so we will avoid gables on porches facing west or south. But if the porch is facing east or north, we will take the minor risk of getting some rain blown in through the gable end wall. We’re more likely to use a gable roof if that is the appropriate roof line for the house and if it’s the look the homeowner prefers.
Ah, you say, just close in the gable end wall with glass and that solves the problem. No, it does not. Any water blown onto the glass wall will drain down and then be blown onto the porch.
There is one solution, and that is to close the gable and add an apron roof – which allows for a gutter to catch that water.
We love the hip roof. It gives you a vaulted ceiling, very cool geometry when the framing is left exposed, and gutters on all sides! It’s perfect. Well, you miss the light coming in through the gable end wall. OK – let’s add some skylights. Problem solved.
The shed roof is a simple-to-build roof line, and I think it is often used for that reason alone. That’s why it’s such a classic on a farmhouse. Those houses were built by the homeowner who was more farmer than a builder. Hence, they kept it simple when adding onto the house. We tend to like what is familiar, so the shed addition to a farm house just looks right. But not so much on a brick Federal style house. Those houses were generally built by professional builders who were more likely to adhere to the correct architecture style.
It’s important to keep in mind that the shed roof will give you gutters on one side only. Also, if you’re adding a porch to a two-story home, the upstairs windows may prevent you from getting the roof line high enough.
In this example, the outside edge of the roof line is too low.
The flat roof is not completely flat. It does have some slope – but very little. The objection most have to flat roofs is the idea that they will surely leak. But if a flat roof is installed properly (especially with the products available today for flat roofs), then it is a great option! We like a PVC roofing material called Duro-Last. We like the fact that that it comes in light colors to reflect the sun and keep some heat off the porch. You don’t have to put gutters on all sides of a flat roof, but we do. Controlling the water is what it’s all about! Another advantage of the flat roof is the ceiling height you can get on a porch. Using the same example we used for the shed roof – look how much height we get for the porch ceiling with a flat roof:
The flat ceiling also allows for a second-story deck should you want that.
From a functional stand point, the hip roof is our first choice, and the flat roof our second.
It’s awfully tempting to put form over function, but they really both must be satisfied to have a successful porch. The architecturally correct roof line for your porch will be largely influenced by the roof lines of your existing house.
We try to mimic the roof style, roof pitch, roofing material, gutter heights and soffits details to make the porch look like part of the original design of the house. We also know that the more complicated a roof is, the more susceptible it is to failures. K.I.S.S. is always a good idea when designing roofs.
As you look at your house, you probably have more than one roof line. Gables and hips and shed and flat roofs are often seen on one house! Multiple times! Just because your main roof line is a gable does not mean your porch has to be a gable. Perhaps we can switch to a hip but keep the pitch to help it blend. Maybe you have a U-shaped patio in the middle of your house and you simply add a flat roof that ties all three sides together.
Now we simply solve the puzzle. We want to blend with the architectural style of your existing house and create a roof that will keep as much weather off the porch as possible. We also want to keep it as simple as possible. We know we have it right when all of those come together to satisfy both form and function!
Are you thinking about adding a screened porch to your Nashville-area home? We are the screened porch specialists who know which porch roof style will work best for your home. Call us at 615-663-2886 or visit our design studio. We would love to meet with you to discuss your porch needs!