Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Hip Roofs

Say, for the sake of argument, that you’re planning on building a new house or upgrading the home you already have. How much time do you suppose you’ll spend thinking about roofs?

And if you are thinking about roofs, you’re probably still making some of those big decisions that go into a remodel or construction project before you break ground. And it probably has you pretty busy. You might be found talking with friends, coworkers or family about construction, design, styles and materials. And the time you devote to online research goes without saying. You’re probably eyeballing roof styles of houses on your way to work, too, whether consciously or not.

If we’re right and you’re in that design stage of a roof replacement or construction project, you’ll be facing a few dilemmas about what type of roof to choose, what design, and what materials to use—if you haven’t slammed up against those questions already. These decisions have to be made on a timetable, but you also don’t want to make them haphazardly. 

Shoot. That all sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it?

Knowing how to choose the best roof does have a learning curve, it’s true. But it’s a learning curve that pays off if you choose right, because the roof of your home will be the centerpiece of its look (not to mention a big player in the functionality of its interior). 

And really…none of these projects should end up being stressful. That’s just not fair. Choosing the right roof should be an exciting experience because, after all that effort, you’re finally able to build or upgrade your house into the home you want and need. So, we consider it the mission of this article to make the experience of choosing a roof fun again.

If you are investing in a new roof, you’re in the right place. We’ll talk about one of the most durable and stylish (and, naturally, most popular) roof types, along with how to make the most of it for your project. We’ll talk about construction design styles, what materials to choose, roofing materials and other construction considerations, complex roof designs and costs.

The roof type we will be talking about is, of course, the hip roof. By the end of the article, you will have a clear image of what a hip roof is, the major hip roof pros and cons, hip roof costs, and how to use hip roofing to make your building or renovation dreams come true.

hip roof pros and cons

Why you need a new roof?

So, why does any house need a new roof? Most of the reasons are self-evident (we’re starting easy). A house often needs a new roof when:

  • It’s time for the house to get a makeover
  • You want to increase the value of a house 
  • The roof is severely damaged
  • There will be additions built onto the house
  • You’re building a new house

1. Home remodels and additions to your current house

We want to think of our home as the safe place for our families. It’s the place we spend so many of our most valuable moments. And, naturally, we want it to be beautiful. 

Most home remodels will take place without major structural changes, but the remodels that bring the biggest “return on enjoyment” are generally those that bust walls and include additions.

Just think about it. Why would you be undergoing a huge remodel with an addition? Maybe a new room with a darling crib has something to do with it? Or maybe you’re upgrading your guest and entertainment space?

Major remodels that include expanding your living space are excellent opportunities to look at upgrading the roof. Maybe the current one isn’t totally falling apart yet, but how soon until it does? Maybe compromises were made in its original construction, and it’s “just time” to upgrade. Any of these being the case, factors like performance, space, style and roofing materials are important to make the most of your opportunity. Keep reading and you’ll soon have everything you need to make your decision.

Whether your addition includes skylights, dormers, or simply adding additional space to your floor plan, these major makeovers require changes to your roof anyway. Adding a new roof instead of sporting a mix of old and new roofing makes sense on both a functional and aesthetic level.

2. Increase the value of your house

Besides being our “safe place,” your house is also a great investment. For most families, it’s our biggest and most important investment. Another reason for a new roof, then, is to increase the value of your home.

Now, to hip roofs. This roofing style is not only popular, but has a long-lasting return in the market. If you are in the process of building a new house, a hip roof in most markets can mean an increase in the value of your home that will last 20 or 30 years after building it. This is because a hip roof is one of the most durable roof designs (more on that soon).

If you are getting prepared to sell your house in the short-term, you should consider your options. On one hand, installing a hip roof in combination with a new paint job or exterior siding can make your house look brand new and increase its value a great deal. On the other hand, all these upgrades can rack up in cost to you. Talk to your realtor to discuss what upgrades will bring you the highest return.

3. Damage-related reasons

Replacing any roof due to damage is an unfortunate thing. Repairing your existing roof is sometimes possible, but even in the aftermath of an accident, this might be a rash decision. A damaged roof is sometimes an opportunity to reassess the functionality and durability of your current roof altogether. Maybe you can upgrade to a roof that won’t be susceptible to the same kind of damage?

If replacing your roof is necessary, you should do it as soon as possible, because a severely damaged roof can lead to all sorts of problems in the rest of your home, including structural damage, leaks and pest infestation.

hip roof damage

What can cause severe roof damage?

Severe damage to your roof is most common after natural disasters and storms. And let’s not forget that the United States is a pretty enormous hunk of land, meaning the terrain is home to severe weather conditions of all types like tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards and intense storms. All these factors can severely damage your roof and render a roof replacement necessary.

Now, no one wants to hear it, but we have to say it: another reason for severe roof damage requiring whole-roof replacement is due the lack of maintenance. Roofs, like any other construction, can only last so long. The sun’s rays, months of ice each winter, and water pounding in rainfall year-round can gradually cause irreparable damage to your roof. If a roof is not checked at least once a year, a replacement will be needed sooner than you’d ike.

If you’re replacing an existing roof, one of the reasons above probably spells out why. Now you’re geared up to learn everything about hip roofs and why they are ultimately one of your best options. They’re functionally superior in virtually all housing constructions around the U.S., regardless of design, space, or weather conditions.

But before we start examining hip roofs, we almost forgot to mention that you aren’t alone in this quest! Take the Browns family, for instance. They’re in the process of expanding their house by adding a whole new wing, and they also came to us looking for information. The Browns already know that the hip roof is the best roof option for them (their contractor told them so), but they want to learn more about it, as well as which hip roof design will make more sense for them.

OK, now we’re ready for real. Buckle up, because we’re going to run you all the way through hip roof advantages, hip roof disadvantages, hip roof costs and more. 

What is a hip roof?

The “hip” in the hip roof harkens back to the 1960s for the more seasoned readers out there. Are hip roofs “hip?” Sure—they are nifty and modern, but “hip” doesn’t actually refer to that. “Ah, it must have a flare like the shape of human hips,” Mr. Brown ventured in a recent call. But nope, try again.

The best hip roof definition comes by picturing a house with a roof shaped like a pyramid. In the case of the hip roof, the four sides of the pyramid consist of four slopes that slant together downwards and out from their common point, all at a consistent angle. The top of the pyramid is called the ridge (or hip end), and it is the highest place of the roof where the four slopes meet. 

And that’s it, now you have it! That’s exactly what a hip roof is. Go back to your kindergarten drawing class, and you’ll see the key difference lies in the four sloping sides, compared with the two-sided “A-shaped” roofs we drew as kids (which, in case you were wondering, are gable roofs). 

That said, we’ll eat our words in the next section of this article as we get into different hip roof styles, because they share common features but do have some major differences between them. Since most houses aren’t perfectly square (or not square at all) thanks to that impulse of human creativity at the heart of architecture, there is a library of hip roof variations ready to satisfy every taste and need. We’ll get into those next, but for now, remember this: hip roofs have four sloping sides, unlike gable roofs, which have two.

what is a hip roof?

Quick history lesson about hip roofs:

We don’t actually have a known invention date in the history of hip roofs. What we do know, however, is that the rise of hip roofs can be traced back to the 18th century and the Georgian period of architecture.

Hip roofs’ popularity started in the French Quarter of New Orleans, where they were first built in greater numbers. Around that same time, hip roofs emerged in the North, too.

Hip roofs became popular in the North and South for different reasons, however. In the southern and mid-Atlantic United States, the stately houses were regularly built as two-story brick structures with hip roofs. These houses relied on hip roofs for sun protection—the deep eave overhangs of hip roofs protected the building’s walls and porches from sun rays, allowing the residents to sit on the porch and stay cool. On the other hand, in the North, hip roofs were mainly used for stylistic reasons and to distribute weight across the roof during snowfall.

These days, the hip roof is second only to the gable roof in popular roof designs in the United States, and it’s believed that this comes down to two very important factors:

  1. The first reason for the hip roof’s popularity is its durability. The hip roof is strong! This durability originates from the innate hip roof design. Because it lacks vertical and flat surfaces, it’s aerodynamic and good at shedding water and snow. As a result, a hip roof option is often the best option for areas anything from high winds to snowfall.
  2. The second reason for the popularity of the hip roof is its innovative design. The design of the hip roof is perfect for house additions like dormers, skylights, crow’s nests, and adding additional space to a house in general. Furthermore, its modern-looking style can be incorporated in any construction design, resulting in stunning houses that can satisfy every taste. Do you prefer an ultra-modern design? Or perhaps classic is your taste? Do you like simplicity and straight lines? Whatever the case, a hip roof will leave you quite satisfied.

Now let’s get into the specifics of some of the most popular hip roof designs. 

Hip roof designs

Hip roofs come with a plethora of design options. Some are simple, others are more complex. And some are nothing short of totally unique hip roof plans using of a combination of styles—this is a design luxury we have when using hip roof constructions, which are extremely versatile. That said, every hip roof design has its base in one of the five basic hip roof designs. These designs include:

  1. The simple hip roof
  2. The half-hipped roof
  3. The cross-hip roof
  4. The pyramid hip roof
  5. The hip-and-valley hip roof

The simple hip roof

This is considered the basic hip roof design, and is easily one of the most popular. The reason for its popularity is the simple design, allowing for a lower cost compared to other hip roof designs. In many markets around the U.S., simple hip roof costs can run from $8 to $12 per square foot, which (on an average house with 1,600 square feet of surface) pans out to between $13,000 and $18,000. Consider these “standard prices” your baseline hip roof calculator.

Now, remember the pyramid we mentioned previously? The simple hip roof design is exactly that, except two opposite sides are longer. This means it has four sides—two long ones with a polygonal shape, and two short ones with a triangular shape. The slope of all sizes is identical in grade, and they meet in the highest area of the roof to form a simple ridge. The simple hip roof is great for houses, yes, but also for garage roofs, pool houses and more. Can you picture a hip roof barn? That’s downright charming!

simple hip roof

Above you’ll see a basic hip roof. Although simple, look how beautiful the house is. You can see here that the roof is very aerodynamic, and equally great for water and snow shedding thanks to its shape and gutter.

One simple hip roof disadvantage, however, is that this design doesn’t leave much space in the attic. This drawback can be solved by constructing a roof of greater height, but there you’ll be compromising in aerodynamics. If the place you live doesn’t have strong winds, you can consider a simple hip roof with a higher ridge to gain the attic space you need.

If you are curious about raising the ridge of a hip roof, you can use an online hip roof calculator to see how a change in the angle will ultimately change the area of your hip roof.

The half-hipped roof

The half-hipped roof (also known as the Jerkinhead or clipped gable roof) is actually a hybrid between the hip and the gable roof, the two most popular roof constructions in the country. The half-hipped roof consists of a gable roof (the classic inverted “V-shaped” roof) with two gable sloping sides. But then, the top-outer parts of the gables are replaced with small hips.

The half-hipped roof design is a complex but breathtaking design, and is more common in Europe (across Austria, Slovenia, Denmark, and Germany). That said, the photo below pictures a gorgeous hip roof house on our side of the pond, down in South Carolina.

half-hipped roof

The house pictured above consists of a complex roof design. But if you look closely, you’ll see that the structure at the top-left of the photo also has a half-hipped roof. In its complex beauty, the roof consists of two gables and a small hip. 

The major advantage of the half-hipped roof is that its construction makes it ideal for places with the highest winds. Although it is a complex design, it has few bends or curves, and its slope is very gentle. Adding to its durability, this design also allows for easy installment of rain gutters.

As with all roof designs, the half-hipped roof does also have some disadvantages. The first drawback, once again, has to do with limited attic space. This is typical for many types of hip roofs. In general, the design of half-hipped roofs does not allow much space inside of the ridge at the top. One other drawback of the half-hipped roof is limited ventilation and, in some cases, less light entering into the house. And finally, because the half-hipped roof is a complex structure, it typically carries a higher cost.

The cross-hip roof

Now, think of L-shaped floor plans, or houses with separate wings. Their roofs will most likely be a cross-hip roof. A cross-hip roof consists of at least two hip roofs, laid out perpendicularly over L-shaped floorplans or similar. The cross-hip roof is a great option if you want to expand your house, and for bigger houses with separate wings. This type of roof was made popular in Italy during the 19th century and in ranch-style homes in North America during the 20th century.

cross-hip roof

This hip roof house…what a looker! The cross-hip roof applied here is the ideal solution to connect its two wings. In addition, the overall design paired with gray shingles makes for a very contemporary look. 

The cross-hip roof, similar to the other types of hip roofs, is another excellent option for wind protection. It’s equally well-equipped for water shedding, also, since gutters can very easily be installed. 

But, alas, increased cost and limited attic space are the two disadvantages of the cross-hip roof. You’ll see these disadvantages peppered through most hip roof designs, but take heart—there are solutions to make the hip roof work for just about any project.

The pyramid hip roof

The pyramid hip roof (also known as the pavilion roof) is just as the name suggests! It consists of a basic hip roof that sits on a square plan. It, too, has four sides, but this time they all have the same length. We’re back to hip design basics, here. 

The slope of the sides on a pyramid hip roof is, of course, the same all the way around, and the sides all meet in the highest area of the roof to form a pyramid point instead of a ridge. The pyramid hip roof is a good option for small houses as well as hip roof garages and pool houses.

The pyramid hip roof, although a simple design, is packed with many remarkable advantages. For starters, it provides excellent protection from wind. Having four sides of the same size allows for greater aerodynamics, with the ability to withstand strong winds and storms of all types around the country. Furthermore, the pyramid design has hip roof eaves all around the structure, resulting in great insulation (eaves provide shade to windows, doors and walls). The pyramid hip roof’s wind resistance and insulation can save the homeowner money in the long term, both in terms of energy bills and because they rarely need maintenance after a storm. And for a final advantage, there’s not a flat inch found on a pyramid hip roof, meaning it has maximal water-shedding capacity.

When it comes to pyramid hip roof disadvantages, this hip roof design has the same disadvantages as most other types of hip roofs. It has limited attic space, and construction is more expensive than other types of roofs—though, comparing hip roof costs, the pyramid hip roof design will be among the more affordable.

The hip-and-valley roof

The hip-and-valley roof is a complex roof structure, and its existence can be traced back to early colonial architecture. To describe it in its simplest terms, the hip-and-valley roof is an extended hip roof. It has more than four hips, and “valleys” are formed at the inside corners.

To get a better idea, imagine two rectangle-shaped structures intersecting with one another, and two half-hipped or simple hip roofs connecting together and forming an “L” or “T” shape. 

The hip-and-valley roof is beloved among homeowners who like a traditional look. In fact, a hip-and-valley house is thought to automatically emit that traditional home appearance. 

hip-and-valley-roof

And, of course, the hip-and-valley roof comes with its advantages and disadvantages. The first advantage is its wind resistance. Paired with diagonal braces, a hip-and-valley roof can withstand storms, hurricanes and even tornados. In addition, their shape (similar to other types of hip roofs) prevents any possible lift from strong winds.

Another advantage of the hip-and-valley roof is its attic space. We told you there would be a solution! Since hip-and-valley roofs are typically used in larger houses, the increased width allows for skylights, crow’s nests and dormers. The upper-construction of the home radically changes, giving way to bigger attics.

The biggest drawback here is the cost of a hip-and-valley roof. We are talking about a complex and heavy structure that needs planning, with additional joints and braces required to hold their weight. And if you wish to take advantage of the hip-and-valley roof’s attic space, additional cost for constructions like dormers will be something to factor in.

And that’s it! These are the five major hip roof designs, and now you know all about them. The Browns family decided to go with the cross-hip roof design in the end since it’s one of the better options for separate wings. 

Next up, let’s talk hip roof construction.

Hip roof construction

In general, hip roof plans and construction are more complex, and require expert contractors and more labor than other types of roofs. The reason is that a hip roof framing is more difficult to design and build than framing other types of roofs since it consists of at least four sides (instead of two). In many hip roofs, these sides have variable lengths. These designs also require a complicated system of hip roof trusses and hip roof rafters.

You get the idea. These are the main reasons for the increased cost of hip roofs compared to other types of roofs. There are four other factors that are important to understand looking the construction, design and cost of hip roofs, so let’s go over those quickly:

Style: As we’ve seen by now, the style of a hip roof can range from simple to quite complex. This is what makes a hip roof unique, and what makes it so beautifully versatile. If you do opt for a more complex design, the planning construction will be harder, and it will cost you more. The features you gain, however, might very well be worth it. Roofs are such a long-term investment that it’s important to think here about the return on enjoyment as well as the return on investment.

Strength: In general, hip roofs are extraordinarily durable. Their strength originates from their aerodynamic, rain-shedding design. However, for areas where strong winds, tornados or hurricanes are more common, special consideration should be given to the hip roof pitches and the plan of the hip roof in general. For example, to combat high winds, the hip roof pitches should be constructed with only the highest accuracy to provide the best possible aerodynamics and durability. 

Eaves: If hip roof eaves are included, the cost and design of the hip roof will change. Having eaves can provide shading to windows, doors and walls. As a result, they assist in cooling the interiors of a house, and this fact can reduce energy consumption. Spend a little money for a beautiful look, save a little money on the cooling bill thereafter.

Attic space: If additions such as dormers and crow’s nests are on your radar, they will both alter the design and cost of a hip roof. But oh boy, will they be beautiful.

Hip roof materials

There is a delightful variety of hip roof materials that you can choose from. Some are more cost-effective while others are notoriously durable. In the following list, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular hip roof materials along with their average life expectancy.

  • Asphalt shingles: 20 to 30 years
  • Wooden (cedar) shakes: 30+ years
  • Metal: 50+ years
  • Clay tiles: 50 to 100 years
  • Concrete tiles: 35 to 50 years
  • Terra-cotta tiles: 50 to 75 years
  • Slate shingles: 100+ years (wow)
hip roof materials

If you are interested in reducing costs, you can go for asphalt shingles. Asphalt shingles for hip roofs are the most popular roofing material because they are inexpensive and still quite dependable. If you do go for Asphalt shingles, just remember that you’re already saving a lot in your hip roof materials, so be sure not to choose the cheapest ones. Quality varies a great deal with the cost. Always check for asphalt shingles with a good hail rating.

Wooden shakes are more expensive than asphalt shingles, and they’re actually not as durable. Many homeowners like the way they look, however, and wooden shakes can also provide great insulation (and reduce energy consumption in your house). Take note that wooden shakes also require frequent maintenance. 

Metal roofing materials are typically made from steel, aluminum or copper. They are more expensive but also more durable than asphalt or wooden roofing materials, and highly energy efficient. As another boon, they don’t require frequent maintenance.

Concrete, clay and terra-cotta tiles are durable tiles with a high life expectancy. The cheapest option is generally a concrete tile, while the most expensive is terra-cotta. The terra-cotta option, although expensive, is the most durable option and is also heat-reflective. Concrete tiles are lightweight, while clay and terra-cotta are extremely heavy—this means that additional reinforcement to the hip roof construction will usually be necessary.

And finally, the slate option is the most durable (though also the most expensive) option. It’s both fireproof and can withstand any weather condition. It’s also extremely energy efficient. Adding to the cost, however, slate shingles are heavy, and so excellent installation and reinforcement to the hip roof construction are mandatory.

Hip roof advantages

One of the biggest advantages of hip roofs is that they are extremely durable, and therefore the best option for places with severe weather conditions. Their durability partially comes from the roofing materials you choose, but also comes inherently from their design. Unlike other types of roofs, hip roofs are typically shorter and lack vertical and flat surfaces, resulting in great aerodynamic and water-snow shedding properties.

Another advantage (which, for most of us, is a pretty important one) to hip roofs is their great aesthetic design. All you need is some imagination and a great contractor to create the roof you’ve always wanted. Do you like the classic look? Do you prefer a more modern, geometric design? Whatever the case, with a hip roof you will definitely have a roof that will satisfy your taste.

As another key advantage, no matter the hip roof design, hip roofs in general provide great insulation. Their design—combined with good roofing materials and hip roof eaves), can keep your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. As a result, you can reduce your energy bills with a hip roof.

Hip roof disadvantages

The major disadvantage of hip roofs is their cost. Though, when you think about it, if you’re looking at a roof that could last 100 years, the investment goes down a little smoother.

And the cost is not “for nothing,” either. Hip roofs are complex structures and require great planning, more materials, and more labor to build. In addition, if you go for those heavier roofing materials, further reinforcement to your hip roof plan will be necessary. But do bear in mind, the more complex the design, the more expensive the construction.

The second common disadvantage (though not one that has to go un-solved) is the limited attic space in the average hip roof. Besides the hip-and-valley roof option (which is a more complex design), all the other hip roof options come with limited attic space due to their short height and the design that meets in a point or a ridge. You can increase your attic space by adding a dormer or a crow’s nest, but these additions will also increase the overall cost of your roof.

After such volume of information, we’re finally done! Now you know everything you ever wanted to know about hip roofs, and can properly school your friends or coworkers the next time your construction project comes up.

Let’s finish up with some FAQs and some final thoughts about your ideal hip roof selection.

The Browns learned everything they need about hip roofs, too, and decided to go with the cross-hip roof design option. They fell in love with slate roofing, finished the design of their new roof, and then were able to find a reliable contractor at CostGuide.com. You could be like the Browns soon—who knows?

Hip roof FAQ

What is a hip roof?

A hip roof is a type of roof with no flat or vertical surfaces. Typically, it consists of four slopes that slant together downwards and out at a consistent angle. The roof’s top is called the ridge, or the “hip end.”

How much does a hip roof cost?

The hip roof is among the more expensive roof types because it has a complex design that requires more labor, planning and materials. The average cost of a hip roof in the U.S. ranges from $18,000 to $50,000, depending on the style elected. In addition to the style, the size and hip roof materials play a crucial role in determining the total cost of a hip roof.

What are the hip roof advantages and disadvantages?

The major advantage of hip roofs is their durability, meaning the hip roof is perfect for places with severe weather conditions. Another great advantage of hip roofs is the way they look, along with their enormous design versatility. The only thing you’ll need is a little creativity, and you can have the roof you’ve always dreamed of. And finally, hip roofs provide great insulation, which can reflect on your electricity bills.

The major disadvantage of hip roofs is their cost. Due to their complex design, hip roofs are harder to construct and require better planning and more labor. The second more common disadvantage of hip roofs is their limited attic space. Hip roofs’ short height coupled with the slope of the hip roof on all sides results in limited attic space. This disadvantage can be tackled by installing dormers or a crow’s nest, but those will also increase the overall cost of a hip roof.

Do hip roofs have load bearing walls?

This is an interesting question that we’ve come across a few times. Mr. Brown was the last person to ask. Yes, hip roofs do have load-bearing walls. In fact, all roofs will have at least two of the home’s exterior walls bearing their weight. What’s interesting about hip roof load-bearing walls is that there are more of them than with many other roofs. Hip roof load-bearing walls are essentially all the exterior walls of the house, because each of four sloping sides of the hip roof needs direct support.

Wow, you’re now a graduate of Hip Roofs 101! You’ve read all about hip roofs—what they are, how they look like, how they are constructed, their pros and cons, and their cost. 

The mission of this article was to take some of the stress out of your project and give you the right information to make the best decision for your roof, based on where you live, your budget, and your personal taste. Do you have additional questions? Feel free to get in touch!

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