Hip Roof Design: How to Plan and Build a Hipped Roof

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Example of hip roof design on a home with a hip roof

A hip roof design has sloped ends instead of vertical ends, and it’s a very common roof type in American houses. Hipped roofs are one of many different types of roofing design. It’s actually a type of gabled roof — the form of roof that’s been in use since ancient Greece. In this piece, we’ll give you a quick overview of what hipped roofs are and how to build them.

What is a Hip Roof?

Those hips are what distinguish a hipped roof from a conventional gabled roof. On a standard four-sided home, each hip extends from the peak of the roof to each corner of the home. The following image shows a simple hipped roof with some callouts labeling its features.

Components of a hip roof design
Components of a hip roof design. Image by author, all rights reserved

Types of hip roof design

You can choose from several hip roof designs for your roofing project:

Simple hipped roof

A simple hipped roof slopes upward from all sides of the structure, without any vertical ends, gables, dormers, or other elements.

Half-hipped roof

A Half-hipped roof design shortens the two sides to create a pseudo-gable effect on the two ends of the structure.

Cross-hipped roof

If your house has a wing, a cross-hipped roof applies the principle of a second hipped roof at a right angle.

Pavilion roof

A pavilion roof is a  hipped roof where all four hips meet at a single peak, similar to a pyramid. This is a relatively uncommon style since most homes are rectangular. You may see these on smaller, inexpensive homes such as the figure below.

A small house with a pavilion roof, a type of hip roof design
A small house with a pavilion roof, a type of hip roof design. Image by author, all rights reserved

Gambrel roof

A Gambrel roof is a more-complicated hipped roof with two slopes on the two longer sides. It presents a barn-like shape. You will also see gambrel roofs on many after-market storage sheds.

A Gambrel roof, a hip roof design that resembles a barn, with two slopes per side.
A gambrel roof, a type of hipped roof that resembles a barn, with two slopes per side. Image by author, all rights reserved.

Hip Roof Design Advantages

All of the hipped roof types allow the building of usable attic space without having to build in another floor. (Of course, basic gabled roofs offer the same advantage.)

The hip roof design is popular in windy and snowy climates because they have no locations where snow, moisture, or debris can build up. Hipped roofs are more effective against weather extremes such as gale-force winds, powerful rainstorms, and snow storms. They enjoy greater stability than gabled roofs, all other things being equal. They are also relatively simple to build.

Builders design construction elements into the roof framing to compensate for wind load differences between a gabled roof and a hipped roof. Hipped roofs are more stable than standard gable roofs, but construction quality matters a lot here. The wind load of a hipped roof is less than a gabled home because of its lower profile. Conventional gabling allows a straight wind impact onto parts of the roof. It’s something to think about if you live in an area of frequent tornadoes or the risk of hurricanes.

Hipped roofs make the home’s profile more horizontal, presenting a more pleasing perspective. Architects actually prefer hipped roofs for the continuity of an eave line around the entire house. On a gable roof, each side of the gable has an eave where your gutters are. The rake is the angle that goes up to the ridge and back down, interrupting the visual line and adding complexity to the build.

Hipped roofs may cost a bit more for materials since the design is more complex.

How to Plan Your Hip Roof Design

Decide up front if a hip roof design is right for you. A standard gabled roof is cheaper and simpler to build.

Using a hip roof design for your home comes down to an aesthetic decision. To design a hipped roof (or any roof, for that matter), a key element is the massing of the building. By using a hip roof design, you completely change the visual massing and geometry of the building. A hipped roof makes the building less prominent because you don’t have those big gable peaks sticking up in the air. You will also have less attic space than a comparable gable roof.

A hip roof calculator can help you plan

Planning ahead is critical to the success of any roofing project. Ensure that you have the help you need. Plan for weather changes, especially if you’re re-roofing an existing home. You don’t want the contents of the home to be rained out while the project is underway. Have all the tools you need, including a good miter saw, framing saw, pitchfork or roofing shovel, a roofing hammer, a good compressor and nailer, and so much more.

You can do a quick calculation of the area of your new hip roof design with this handy widget:

Understanding hip roof framing

The framing components of a hipped roof.

For framing tasks, you have a couple of choices. If you’re a carpenter or are hiring one, you can resort to conventional framing methods. Framing for a hip roof design includes:

Ridge

The ridge forms the peak of the hipped roof. There is one ridge board for a typical hipped roof;

Hip rafters

The hip rafters form the “hips” of the roof and are the main difference from a gable roof. These descend at an angle from the ridge to the eave. There are four of these for a typical hipped roof.

Common rafters

The bulk of the lumber used for a hip roof. Common rafters reach all the way between the eave and the ridge.

Jack rafters

The jack rafters support joists for the four hip rafters between the eaves and the ridge. They have complex mitered cuts to fit their position. If you’re doing these yourself, measure twice (at least) and cut once!

Eaves

The eaves form the bottom edge of the roof where your rain gutters attach. As noted, hipped roofs provide a pleasing continuous eave line around the entire house.

You can also get a hip roof truss package that arrives ready to assemble for the home. They go up faster, and everything is pre-cut, like a kit. You don’t have to count on your carpenter to measure each board and each cut for the buildout. You’ll often see these kits in developments where the homes have a common design and common measurements. You can buy some kits for preexisting standard size homes.

Whether you buy a kit or build it out yourself, you will assemble the roof frame before putting it on top of the house.

How to build a hip roof

Keep the following tips in mind when adding a hip roof and make sure your roofing project is successful:

Make sure all of your lumber is sized correctly and you have the correct joist hangers for your construction. You can always cut down a piece to fit, but you can’t enlarge pieces to fit. If you’re making your own cuts, especially for jack rafters, use a compound sliding miter saw. Pre-check it to cut straight before use. Use fresh blades.

Don’t make measurement mistakes, because you can double-check everything before you make a cut. You don’t want to finish assembling the hip roof frame, only to find that it’s a foot or two off. To determine the exact measurements of every piece of your hip roof design, including all of the framing, use this handy hip roof calculator.

To master critical parts of the roofing, make practice cuts for items such as the jack rafters. This applies only if you are making these yourself.

Note that the hip rafters must be at a 45-degree angle from the corner of the eave to the end of the ridge board. If you are building it yourself, keep this in mind.

If you are using a truss kit, make sure all the trusses are correctly assembled.

Let us know in the comments below about your roof-building experiences!

 

Featured Image: CC by SA 2.5, Blahedo, via Wikimedia Commons

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