Most British houses have either gable or hip roofs or some variation of the two styles. Gable roofs are cheaper and easier to build and stand up well to most weather conditions. Hip roofs make it easier to add living space under them. Gable roofs have two slanted sides that form a peak at the top -- the ends form a triangle or gable. Hip roofs have centre peaks, but slope downward at either end to make a uniform edge or soffit around the building.
Gable roofs are most popular
A gable roof is the most popular British style, because of its ease of construction and its ability to shed rain, snow, ice and other debris down its sloped sides. Gable roofs are installed over a truss that goes across the frame of the house, with triangular sides that slope to a peak; trusses are braced diagonally for support. Typically, roof trusses are nailed to the top of the house frame, sheathed with plywood or oriented strand board, known as "OSB," then covered with shingles. Gutters are placed on the sides of the roof.
Options for gable roofs
Gable roofs limit the use of the space directly under them. Because of their pitch or slope, only the centre-most sections directly under them are suitable for rooms or other living space. A cross-gable roof provides more room -- it consists of two gable sections that meet at one end, forming an L; the space where they join is more open for interior finishing. There also is a "French gable" option in which one gable end is removed to create a flat open space, usually for a porch or deck.
Hip roofs have bigger eaves
Hip roofs also have a peak from the sides, but the ends slope downward to make a level and uniform edge around the house. This provides a bigger overhang or eave which will help keep walls and windows cool from the sun. The hip design also provides more usable internal space by cutting off the ends of the peak. It allows guttering to be placed on all sides of the house, but the hip joints create valleys, which can build up with leaves and debris and hamper drainage. Installation is similar to gable roofs, with trusses to support decking and roofing, but trusses are modified at the ends to slope downward.
Hip roof options
Hip roofs also offer other options. They can be cross-hipped -- essentially just two hip-roofed sections that butt into each other. This will allow a lot more interior finish room at the juncture. There also is a pyramid hip style -- four equal hip-roof slopes that meet at a centre peak. And there is a "Dutch gable" style in which one end of the hip is cut off and finished with a gable roof. Dutch gables are often used as space for a louvered attic vent.