There’s more to the hip roof vs gable roof discussion than how the roof looks. There are cost differences, potential attic venting challenges to consider with hip roofs, and the fact hip roofs perform better in high-velocity winds.
This guide to understanding gable roof vs hip roof construction and performance will assist you in choosing the best roof design for your project.
Here’s an overview of the two popular roof designs.
DEFINITIONS AND DESIGN
A hip roof features a peak or ridge at the high point of the roof with all sides of the roof sloping down. While a classic design, hip roofs are less popular for two reasons: Cost and appearance. They cost more to build with both higher material and labor costs. And when the roofing is replaced, cost is higher too. They do reduce siding cost, but on most homes, the cost of the additional roofing construction is higher than for siding.
Secondly, most homeowners prefer the look of a gable on the ends of the home. There are no gables on most homes with hip roofs, though a few homes employ both.
Gable roofs have two sloping sides that come together at a peak. The triangular area of siding beneath the peak is referred to as the gable. Most roofing contractors suggest that gable roofs should use an 8/12 or steeper pitch in areas with heavy snow – the steeper the roof, the easier for snow to slide off it. Homes with four exterior walls have two gables. Those with six walls have three, etc.
Hip roofs are recommended in areas prone to high winds, especially high-velocity hurricane zones, or HVHZ. Contractors suggest using at least a 6/12 pitch to reduce the already-lower risk of wind damage.
In all other areas, whether you use a gable roof or hip roof design is a matter of personal choice and your construction budget.
There are hip roof pros and cons here. Hip roof design is structurally stronger and more stable than gables because their construction requires less diagonal bracing – the hip framing filling the need. Higher material and labor cost, as already reviewed, is the downside. Costs are significantly higher when the hip section of a hip roof is framed with rafters, built onsite, rather than a truss package built with automated means in a factory. See our guide to Rafters vs Trusses to explore this topic in detail.
Gable roofs are easier to construct for the obvious reason that there is no hip to frame. And the construction design of gable roofs is generally considered more visually appealing. This is especially true of dramatic gables created by a steeply sloped roof. The gables – the area of wall beneath the peak – can be covered in an accent siding such as shakes (wood, vinyl or composite) or stone for added good looks.
A gable roof generally costs about $15-$30 per square foot to construct. This includes the rafters or trusses, the wood roof deck and your choice of roofing material installed (materials and labor): Asphalt shingles ($2.25 to $6.50 per square foot with an average cost of about $3.75), wood shakes ($6.75 to $10.15 per square foot with an average cost of about $8.35) and metal panel roofing ($9.50 to $14.00 per square foot with an average cost of around $12.75) being among the materials most often used. For a further comparison read more about metal roofs vs shingles and rolled roofing vs shingles.
Total cost estimates for a hip roof are about 40% higher than for a gable roof for the reasons given above. As a partial offset, a hip roof will usually qualify for a small cost savings on your homeowners insurance in areas where roof damage from high winds is common.
Regular maintenance of either your hip or gable roof is necessary in order to keep your roof functioning properly. Too often homeowners wait until they see a leak in their ceiling or roof before they begin to tackle the problem. Making sure that your roof is free of leaves, sticks, and other debris will help your roof last longer. Also, if you live in a region that has a lot of snowfall, it is important to regularly shovel the snow off your roof. Yes, that’s a thing! Finally, check your attic space and areas of flashing for any leaks or signs of moisture.
DURABILITY AND LIFESPAN
Most roofing materials fair about the same on a hip roof or gable roof. If the hip faces the direction where high winds normally come from, the West in most regions, the roofing material on it might take a beating, especially if the winds are driving hail or debris. So, that’s a negative for the lifespan of roofing on hip roofs. However, absent the hip, your home’s exterior siding in the peak would take the brunt of the elements and might require early repair or replacement.
Where damaging winds are common, a hip roof will prove more durable because it does not have open eaves like a gable roof – eaves vulnerable to high-wind uplift. This video shows how wind affects gable and hip roofs differently.
Pro Tip for High Wind Zones: Since eaves catch wind, eliminate them with slopes that don’t create an overhang/eave. Eaves provide important venting for the roof, so if you eliminate them, you or your builder will have to provide an alternative venting option.
The lifespan of a roof – meaning the roofing material covering the roof – is all about the materials used. Expect 12 years to 50+ years when considering the range of options from cheap asphalt shingles to quality metal roofing
We’ve covered the wind issue.
One possible negative for hip roof design is that they have additional seams where roof sections come together. When your roofer does a poor job installing the roofing materials over the hip ridge, aka the seam, the design can be prone to leaks. Consequently, gable ends are a safer bet in areas with lots of rain, like the Pacific Northwest, but without the tropical storm and hurricane-force winds that make gable roofs vulnerable.