How to design a roof layout

Updated February 21, 2017

Any building's roof design determines a lot about the structure's architectural style. Design a roof to fit well with the structure itself, but match the roof to the surrounding area. For example, a steeply pitched roof often works well in a mountain setting. A flat roof can work well on a glass building, since a flat roof can create a high-tech feeling. Different rooflines used together, such as an A-frame butted against a hip roof, can make a structure look more upscale. (A hip roof has both sloping sides and sloping ends.) Mixing various rooflines on a structure, adds more architectural appeal.

Decide how many floors a building or home will have. Design a roof that will complement the exterior siding materials used. Plan to install a tiled A-frame roof with a hip roof over a garage, for example, if a house is a single-story Spanish stucco home. Add the hip roof to give the basic roof a more interesting look for maximum kerbside appeal.

Sketch a roof with dormers for a two-story colonial house, for example. Picture a dormer as a window set vertically into a small gable projecting from a sloping roof. Dormers give a roof a polished look indicating that detailed thought went into the planning of it. Design generous roof overhangs to make the house look more upscale. Don't skimp on materials in overhang or guttering areas, since adding a roof with small overhangs will actually detract from market value and curb appeal.

Give all rooflines a generous pitch of at least 45 degrees to make a home look upscale. Use graph paper to define all measurements. Designing a flatter roof with just a 30-degree pitch can make the roof area look cheap. Consult home planning books that provide blueprints of fine homes. Review remodelling magazines to see how roof construction is a large part of design for expensive-looking homes.

Include attic windows or skylights to open a roof area to more daylight. Design a roof for beauty, but make sure it provides good function, as well. Pitch a roof to accommodate a loft room above a garage, for example. Raise a roof somewhat to add a couple of extra feet of overall height to a family room area. Do this by raising 8-foot interior walls to 10 feet. Step up the roof section a few feet higher on that part of the house.

Consider how angles of a roof come together, so that the construction will not include too many valleys. Avoid leaks in the future by planning a roof construction to shed water well. Plan an entire roof section to have just a few additions or changes in pitch or direction. Expect to have leaks in the attic over the years if lots of angles are included in the overall roof design.


Drive through neighbourhoods to study interesting rooflines. It's more difficult to picture a completed roof from a drawing for most people. A roof viewed in reality will demonstrate more about the three-dimensional design. Notice how the design of windows has a lot to do with how the roof design fit any building.


Avoid designing a flat roof, unless the roof is pitched at least 12 inches from front to back. A totally flat roof invites leaks more than any other design type.

Things You'll Need

  • Sketch pad and pencil
  • Graph paper
  • Building design books
  • Remodelling magazines
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About the Author

Judi Light Hopson is a national columnist for McClatchy Newspapers. She is founder of Hopson Global Education and Training and co-author of the college textbook, Burnout to Balance: EMS Stress. She holds a degree in psychology from East Tennessee State University, and has been a professional writer for 25 years.