Knowing the differences between a gable roof and a hip roof is interesting in an architectural sense. But it also translates to real-world advantages and disadvantages in terms of house building costs, insulation, energy, attic remodeling, stability in wind, and even the cost of homeowner's insurance. Learn the differences between gable and hip roofs before you build or undertake a major home remodel.
Gable Roof vs. Hip Roof: Major Differences
The main difference between a gable roof and a hip roof is that a gable roof has vertical sides and a hip roof has no vertical sides.
A gable roof has gables: triangular-shaped, vertical sections within the two intersecting roof slopes. With a gable roof, two or more of the walls extend upward to form part of the roofline.
A basic gable roof has two sloping sides of the roof that meet at the center to form a peak. Two open triangular-shaped spaces remain. These spaces are filled in with vertical extensions of the walls.
On a hip roof, sloping sides form the entire roof. There are no vertical wall extensions.
A basic hip roof—called a pyramid or pavilion roof—has four sloping sides that meet at the center to form a pyramid shape. More often, all four sides slope upward and meet at a horizontal ridgeline rather than at a single point.
|Gable Roof||Hip Roof|
|Description||Two or more verticals rising up from walls||No verticals: all sloped roof|
|Durability||Prone to wind damage, though gables can receive additional bracing||Better in high-wind areas|
|Cost||Less than hip roof: fewer shingles, simple truss construction||35- to 40-percent more expensive than gable roof|
When viewing a gable roof from the direction of the roof slopes, the gables are less visible or may not even be seen at all. Yet turning 90-degrees in either direction reveals the gables rising high above the tops of the exterior walls.
A hip roof viewed from any direction shows only slopes, so it has a low, smooth appearance.
Best for Appearance
Since there are no tall verticals on a hip roof, it has a smoother, sleeker, and lower appearance. House gables can have a high, ungainly look. Yet house gables are so commonplace that they are rarely seen as a major visual detriment.
Air Flow and Wind
A gable roof is aerodynamic when wind path is in the direction of the roof slopes. Yet when air is blowing perpendicular to the slopes (toward a gable), greater force is exerted on the house structure.
A hip roof is aerodynamic in all directions. Instead of vertical gables, hip roofs have angles or slopes that direct the wind safely over and off the roof.
Best for Air Flow and Wind
A hip roof is far better than a gable roof for airflow and wind. Because of their unique shape, hip roofs experience less wind pressure than gable roofs.
A gable roof is effective at resisting water and rain because it tends to have a higher pitch. Gravity encourages rain and snow to move to the gutters and downspouts faster than with a low-pitched roof.
Though lower pitched, a well-shingled hip-style roof sheds water well because the roof is a unified cap over the entire house.
Best for Water Resistance
Both gable and hip roofs shed water equally well. A hip room performs marginally better since it does not have gable vents. Some water can enter the attic through gable vents in strong gusting rain.
With gable roofs, trusses run parallel with each other, up to the gable, much like a row of dominos. The gable end is the only brace against truss failure. In fact, this is the key failure area that retrofitting addresses by bracing the last several feet of end trusses.
Trusses in hip roofs are laterally braced. The primary trusses are supported laterally—like buttresses or side braces.
Best for Durability
Overall, hip roofs are more durable than gable roofs because the multi-sided sloping creates less uplift, plus they are better braced than gable roofs.
A gable roof uses slightly fewer roofing materials than a hip roof because there is less roof area. Gables effectively replace some of the hip roof sections with house siding materials, which are easier to maintain.
A hip roof uses more roofing materials and has more seams than a gable roof.
Best for Maintenance
A hip roof requires more maintenance than a gable roof. Hip roofs have more roofing materials than gable roofs.
Depending on where you live, insurance companies may charge higher homeowner's insurance premiums for gable roofs since they're more susceptible to damage in high wind.
On average, expect to pay between $25,000 and $50,000 to build a gable roof and install shingles. Gable roofs are a cost efficient way to build a roof system. Most gables can be constructed of prefabricated trusses, making them even easier to assemble.
On average, expect to pay between $34,000 and $68,000 to build and shingle a hip roof.
Best for Cost
A gable roof costs less to install than a hip roof. One factor is that a hip roof uses at least 5- to 6-percent more shingles than a gable roof.
Besides the 5- to 6-percent savings in shingles, less ridge capping and fewer ridge vents are needed for gable roofs. Not only that but the diagonals created by the hip roof mean more waste shingles, so more shingles need to be ordered.
A gable roof uses less shingles than a hip roof—a slight savings when using petroleum-based shingles.
A hip roof is lower than a gable roof, so it contains less dead attic space that needs to be insulated.
Best for Environmental Impact
If you intend to add solar panels to your home, a gable roof is better because it creates about twice as much space for attaching the panels.
While a hip roof alone may not contribute to the home's resale value, they are often built on more expensive homes, which usually have a higher resale value.
Best for Resale Value
No statistics show whether a gable roof or hip roof is better at influencing resale value. Since hip-style roofs tend to have a more polished look, some homebuyers may perceive these homes to have greater overall value.
All other factors being equal, personal preference and budget determine whether you should buy and install a gable roof or a hip roof.
Outside of taste and budget, one factor can tip your decision in the direction of a hip roof: location. If you are located in a Category III or IV wind zone or your area receives more than 10 tornadoes per year, your location is considered to be a high-risk wind zone, so it may be worth installing a hip roof.
Can you have a gable roof in a high-wind area?
Gable roofs in areas with high-velocity wind can be retrofitted so that gable overhangs are strengthened and the last 4 feet of trusses up to the gable receive extra bracing.
Can gables be decorated to be more visually appealing?
One common complaint about gable roofs is that the gable side of the house is a large, dull, flat expanse of siding. Some builders and homeowners install accent siding made of cedar shakes or stone in the triangular gable section to break up the monotony.
Can a gable roof be converted to a hip roof?
Converting a gable roof to a hip roof is an expensive, major project. Though rare, it can be done. If the aim is to create a more wind-resistant roof, it's usually more cost-effective to retrofit and strengthen the gable roof.