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Roof Shapes & Sizes

If you are building your new home in New England, or need to replace or repair the roof on your existing home in Maine, one of the first choices you need to make is what shape of roof do you have and want. The size and style of your home will be a significant factor in choosing the roof design and getting an accurate estimate for repairs. The current style will also impact the amount of labor and expense to transform it into the roof you want. These are just a few ideas of roof styles you will find in New England and Maine, courtesy of New England Living Today:

The Colonial Sherburne House (c. 1695-1703) at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Aimee Seavey

Colonial houses are usually side-gabled (roof ends at the sides of the house), flat-faced, wooden structures, covered with narrow pine clapboards, although most of the earliest ones had shingles. With no eaves, shutters, stoops, porches, window trim, or door decoration, these houses present a very plain façade.


Featuring original 18th-century woodwork and beamed ceilings, Athearn House, in Edgartown, Massachusetts, is one of the few Cape-style homes of its age still remaining on Martha’s Vineyard. Over the years, owners adapted its basic layout, adding dormers and extensions as needed, while retaining the home’s historic footprint and classic style. Greg Premru

A variation on the theme is the classic Cape Cod house — wood frame, 1-1/2 stories high with a pitched roof, little or no space between windows and roof gutter, and no overhang on the gables. Known for more than 100 years as “The Homestead,” this cottage off the coast of Maine’s Pemaquid Peninsula includes four bedrooms and two bathrooms.

“The traditional Cape Cod plan lends itself to the efficiencies of super-insulated homes, with a compact form and resourceful use of space,” says ZeroEnergy architect Stephanie Horowitz. “The short or absent overhangs allow us to wrap a house with continuous insulation. In other styles, longer overhangs can create a thermal bridge at a notoriously weak point where the roof meets the wall. Not so with a Cape.”

Pinterest user Melinda Farrar saved to Nantucket and the Grey Ladies Three Quarter Cape, Chatham, MA

The three-quarters Cape has two windows on one side of the door and only one on the other side.

18th-century Cape Cod-style house

The half Cape has only two windows and a door to their side.

The Georgian Chase House (1762) at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Aimee Seavey

In roof form, chimney placement, and cladding, Georgian houses are much like their Colonial predecessors. However, they are bigger, typically two stories high and two rooms deep, and the roofs only moderately pitched.

Georgian houses are best identified by the orderly plan of their windows and doors. The window placement on the front facade is absolutely regular. The windows march across the second story, usually at even-spaced intervals and almost always in odd numbers of three, five, or seven across. The lower-story windows appear directly below the uppers with the doorway in the center, making the facade exactly symmetrical.

The Federal Goodwin Mansion (1811) at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Aimee Seavey

Federal houses can usually be distinguished by their freer, more elaborate detailing. For quick identification, look at the arrangement of glass below the crown of the front doorway: if there is a row of small rectangular windows, the house is almost certainly Georgian; if there’s an elliptical or semicircular fanlight, it’s probably Federal.

The Nathanial Lord Thompson house in Kennebunk, Maine is an example of Greek Revival architecture. Brenda Darroch

Driving into a sleepy New England town, the traveler may suddenly find himself confronted with the Parthenon. This happens frequently, for in the first half of the 19th century, Americans’ enthusiasm for things democratic spawned a radical backward turn in architecture, all the way back to the public buildings of the original democracy of ancient Greece. The resulting Greek Revival houses are the easiest of all New England house styles to identify because they look so utterly out of place.

By 1850 New England’s admiration for the bold, clean lines of classical architecture had waned, but one common feature of Greek Revival houses, especially the high-style ones, endured: the transformation of the old side-gabled house into a front-gabled house. By rotating the house 90 degrees, Greek Revival builders faced the peak of the roof on the street, where the cornice detailing could be shown to better advantage. Later builders, caught up in the craze for Victorian houses, made extravagant use of this simple change of house plan.

Steep, many-gabled roofs, irregular floor plans, and an asymmetrical arrangement of windows and doors give Victorian houses their characteristically excited look. Patterned roofs and multi-textured walls show off the builders’ experimentation with curves, arches, hexagons, and other complex shapes. Porches appear everywhere, along with the profusion of fanciful detailing familiarly known as “gingerbread.”

A Victorian sits overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the New Hampshire seacoast. Aimee Seavey

Now that you’ve determined what kind of roof your home has, you can calculate the costs of labor and materials.

Before you can decide what type of roofing material you will choose, you first need to know how much you’ll need because the material and labor costs to install asphalt shingles are much less expensive than the cost to install a metal roof; however, long-term benefits of a metal roof clearly outweigh the short-term financial benefits of an asphalt roof.

To receive an accurate estimate on your home, fill out our request form and someone will contact you to perform a thorough inspection, talk about available materials and give you a fair estimate.