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What Is a Mansard Roof?

By Mark Soto

June 21, 2022

Home with a dark shingled mansard roof.

A mansard roof is one of the more unique styles of roof, especially in a residential setting. Beyond its aesthetic, it offers a set of benefits that other roofs can't match—however, it also comes with some special considerations. On the right home, mansard roofs can provide both style and protection for you and your family.

What Is a Mansard Roof?

Mansard roofs traditionally have four sides: each one has two slopes, one above the other. The lower slope has a much steeper pitch than the upper slope. This type of roof first gained popularity during the French Renaissance before expanding to other countries.

Mansard roofs can be part of a gambrel design, but do not have to be. They can tie into a low slope roof or be the visible side of a parapet on a low slope roof in both residential and commercial construction. The main difference is that mansard roofs on residential houses have four sides, while gambrel roofs only have two. Hip roofs and mansard roofs also share similarities—they both have four sloped sides—but the mansard's dual slopes draw a distinction.

History of Mansard Roofs

Mansard roofs became popular in France during the 17th century, but their creation dates back to the 16th century. The architect François Mansart used their design to help increase the living space in his buildings. This French foundation is why the style is also commonly called the "French roof."

In the 19th century, architects in the United States started to use mansard roofs in their design which grew their familiarity. The ability to add more living space upwards without needing to expand sideways made it quite an attractive option, especially in urban areas where land was scarce.

In recent years, the roof has decreased in usage due to height restrictions in some areas. Mansard roofs are much more common in large buildings rather than single-family homes. However, there are still plenty of large family homes throughout the nation that use mansard roof designs due to their unique ability to add living space to the home.

Benefits of a Mansard Roof

Aesthetics played a significant role in this roof spreading out of France. Mansard roofs offer an elegant look that can be difficult to match with styles like flat or gable roofs. They also typically feature dormer windows on their lower slope, allowing in plenty of natural sunlight. Dormer windows are a vital part of the roof architecture, so they're very common. Windows brighten up dim attics, promote airflow, and give a stylish appearance from the outside.

Due to their design, these roof types also provide more living space for attics. Without a steep roof pitch that cuts off areas, as with a gable or hip roof, you can make an additional room out of your attic. Plus, the natural light that enters makes any area feel bigger. Another favorable feature they provide is ease of expandability. If you're looking to add more space to your home one day, it's a much easier process with this roof due to its almost vertical bottom slope.

Types of Mansard Variations

There are three main mansard variations that can affect the look of the roof.

  • A straight design has a minor top slope that isn't always visible and an almost vertical bottom slope. If you look at it from the bottom, it's hard to see the slope at the top.

  • A convex design is similar to a straight design, but the bottom slope goes out at an outward curve instead of straight. You can get the most space out of the area with this option.

  • A concave design gives an inward curve appearance at the bottom slope. While this appearance can be quite elegant, it also reduces the amount of space inside compared to the other two choices.

If a mansard roof sounds like a good option for your home, contact a certified roofing contractor by GAF* for your next roofing project.



*Contractors enrolled in GAF certification programs are not employees or agents of GAF, and GAF does not control or otherwise supervise these independent businesses. Contractors may have agreed that they will use GAF roofing products, and may receive benefits, such as loyalty rewards points and discounts on marketing tools from GAF for participating in the program.

About the Author

Mark Soto is a freelance writer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has comprehensive knowledge of home improvement projects based on his previous work. Mark comes from a family of DIYers and has worked with landscapers, plumbers, painters and other contractors. He also writes about camping and his enthusiasm for the outdoors.

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