While there are multiple variations in the style and materials of a hip roof, the basic shape of this type is four sloped sides that meet in the middle at one horizontal ridge. Hip roofs are among the most popular styles of roof in the U.S. today, typically the second most prevalent style after a gable roof depending on the geographical region.
Hip roofs became common to North American homes starting in the early 1700s because of their connection to British architectural styles. The oldest hip roof structure in the United States is believed to be the Block House in Claymont, Delaware, which was built in 1654.
Georgian-style homes in the Mid-Atlantic and South frequently have a brick exterior with a rectangular hip roof, which is the most typical shape for that style. Hip roofs are also found on Southern plantation homes, especially those that are French colonial or French creole style. In the South, hip roofs often are built with a deep overhang to shade the walls or to cover a porch. From the 1890s to the 1930s, American Four Square-style homes, a simple and plain architectural style, became popular and nearly always included a hip roof. In the 1950s, hip roofs were common on ranch-style homes. Most gazebos have a hip roof, often with multiple hips in an octagonal or hexagonal shape.
Advantages of a Hip Roof
When you’re evaluating roof styles for a custom home or a semi-custom home, you’re likely to start with aesthetics. Consult your architect or builder for individualized advice on the best roof style for the home you’re building.
Below are six advantages of the hip roof:
- Visually appealing and complement nearly any home style.
- Tends to be more durable and stable than other roofs because of the inward slope of all four sides.
- A good choice for areas with high winds and hurricanes because of their lower pitch, self-bracing design, and fewer large surface areas.
- Ideal for areas with a precipitation mix of heavy rain, ice, and snow, as the slanted sides facilitate runoff.
- Depending on the height of the slope, a hip roof can accommodate dormer windows that create attic living space.
- Energy-efficient, as the four sides of the roof shield the home from excessive heat in summer and from heavy snow in winter.
Drawbacks of a Hip Roof
Despite their popularity, there are some disadvantages to choosing a hip roof rather than a gable roof or another style, such as:
- Hip roofs are more complex to build than a gable roof, which means that more materials are required, and it can take longer. That makes this a more expensive option.
- A hip roof typically has a lower pitch than a gable roof, which makes the addition of interior attic living space a little less appealing. It’s more common to see attic storage under a hip roof rather than a bedroom or bonus room.
- Depending on the style of the hip roof, it can be susceptible to leaks. The valleys of the roof and connections of the sloping sides of the roof can allow water to penetrate, so it’s important to make sure the roof is installed with waterproofing and proper flashing.
Material Options for a Hip Roof
While the durability of a hip roof is a prime attraction of this style, its life span depends in part of weather conditions in your area, proper installation, maintenance, and the materials you choose. Hip roofs can last as long as 50 years if checked at least annually and after storms for debris and damage.
Hip Roof Architectural Variations
- Hip. A basic hip roof has four sloping sides with triangles on two sides and polygons on the other two sides that meet in the middle at a horizontal ridge.
- Hip and valley. A hip and valley roof has more than one section with sloping sides. The area where those sloping sides meet is called a valley. This type of roof is often seen on contemporary-style homes. The valley can be prone to water pooling after a rainstorm or when snow melts, so it’s important to have waterproofing applied to this portion of the roof and to check for possible damage or leaks.
- Cross hipped. A cross hipped roof is similar to a cross gable roof and includes separate hip roofs on different wings of a home. A cross hipped roof will have a valley where the two sections meet. The different wings typically form an L or T-shape.
- Pyramid hip. A pyramid hip, also sometimes referred to as a pavilion roof, usually has four equal sides of sloped roof that meet in a central peak. The sides of the pyramid hip roof are triangles.
- Half-hipped. A half-hipped roof has two shorter sides and two longer sides rather than four even sides. The shorter sides create eaves. This roof style, often called a jerkinhead or clipped gable roof, has the advantage of easier drainage from the gutters.
- Double-pitched hip. A double-pitched hip roof has a steeply sloped upper section and a lower section with a gentle slope.
- Bonnet. A bonnet roof is common in French architecture, frequently seen in Louisiana. This roof style has a double slope on all four sides with a steeper slope on the upper sections and a gentler slope on the lower sections. Typically, the lower slopes overhang a porch or patio to provide shade.The steeply pitched upper section makes room for a loft or finished attic space under the roof.
- Dutch gable hip. A Dutch gable hip roof offers more interior space for an attic bedroom or bonus room because it includes a gable near the top of the roof, often with a dormer window.
Hip roofs can be seen throughout the U.S. on residences in a variety of architectural styles. They offer a practical solution in climates that experience heavy rain, ice, and snow, as well as in windy or hurricane-prone areas. Talk with your builder or architect to learn if a hip roof matches your style, location, and budget.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.