A mansard roof is a roofing structure that has two distinctive slopes, a shallower slope on top of a steeper one. It is very similar to the gambrel roof; however, it does not have open gables, but rather, has roofing material on all sides.
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- What is this roof type, and why is it called “mansard”?
- What is the history of the mansard roof, and when was it popularized?
- What materials should you use for this roofing type?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of this roof?
- What is the life-span of a mansard roof?
- What is the difference between and dormer and a mansard roof?
What is a modern Mansard roof?
A mansard roof is a name given for a roof very similar to a gambrel roof, except all four sides will be closed with roofing material. This roof type has two different angled slopes, a shallower slope above a steeper slope. Two distinctive traits identify it, that being the double pitch.
With this setup, it creates another floor of habitable space; the windows that extend out of this roof are called dormer windows. This roof shape is excellent as there is very little space wasted and can give you an additional floor of living space, unlike a gable roof, which can have an attic space, but not very large or spacious.
This roof is often misidentified as a gambrel roof as the two share the similarities of a double pitch. However, the mansard roof does not have open gables like a gambrel roof but rather closed, similar to a hip roof.
History of a mansard roof.
The earliest known evidence of this roof is sometime in the 1550s, credited to a man named Pierre Lescot when designing the Louvre.
This roof design was first popularized in the early 17th century by a man named François Mansart between the late 1590s and the 1660s. He was the architect for the French Baroque, and you can see the design used there.
The word mansard in Europe means the attic space itself and has nothing to do with the shape of the roof itself.
What does it look like visually?
This roof looks a lot like a barn roof, also known as a gambrel roof. However, it differs from these as a barn roof has two open gables where the mansard roof does not.
Mansard roofs have two different angled slopes, the lower being steeper than the top. I have left three examples below to show what it looks like visually, and how to distinguish if from the gambrel roof.
What materials should you use for this roofing type?
For this roofing type, it is possible to install most materials that are used on a sloped roof. The main concern is the weather that the roof will have to sustain in its lifetime. For example: If you are in a particularly windy area, it may not be the best idea to install certain shingle materials that can withstand this type of pressure.
In Europe, where mansard roofing was very popular, it was primarily installed with tiles and sustained very harsh weather conditions. Here in most states, it is not uncommon to see this roof installed with synthetic wood or asphalt shingles, as is the custom of most homes in the United States.
If you would like a very authentic look for this roofing type, I would personally recommend ceramic tiles or the like, but this does come at a cost and can be quite pricey, so consider this with your budget.
Pros and cons of this roof.
Just as any roof design, this one comes with a few pros and cons that you should consider before settling on the mansard roof as your roof of choice for your home.
Pro #1 Cost-effective.
Due to the design of this roof, although quite expensive to install, boasts excellent cost-effectiveness. The roof is better at distributing heat, and so it gives you better energy costs for heating.
You should also note that because the roof has a steeper slope under a shallower slope, this gives you more room for an attic. You could use this space as a living area as well with the clever use of dormer windows.
The initial setup cost is quite high when being compared to other conventional roof designs; however, the durability and longevity of this roof design are exceptional. It is for this reason that it is so cost-effective despite its high installation cost.
Pro #2 There is more space for another floor.
They are designed with a large void or space between the steeper slopes of the roof, giving a lot of room for a bigger attic leaving you plenty of storage space.
This area can also be used as a living area; it is quite common for users to have their bedrooms in this space. Its visual appeal is excellent, especially when paired up with dormer windows.
Pro #3 More light for an attic.
Mansard roofs have more access to light, unlike traditional roofing, where the only way to let in natural light is through skylights. These can be costly to install and be a complete headache to maintain, as access is often difficult.
Mansard roofs allow you to install dormer windows; this not only allows for natural light to be let in, but they also offer great aesthetic appeal.
Pro #4 Better heat distribution.
With more conventional roofs, there is not a lot of space to fit in ventilation; this is not the case with this roofing system.
It is possible to fit in large dormer windows, used to ventilate the attic adequately and allow a lot of natural light to enter the space.
Pro #5 Modern look and feel.
Although this roof design was first designed and popularized in the 1550s, it still has a great design look today.
You can use this in your modern home, and it gives it a great look and feel and can modernize any home.
Pro #6 Suitable in urban and rural areas.
Many roofing types do not suit all areas, and some are notably better in either urban or rural areas. Not the case with a mansard roof.
Mansard roofs are great for either and look fantastic. They are modern and give a warm feel to the home.
Con #1 High upfront installation costs.
It is no surprise this roofing type is pricey. It is a complex and challenging structure to install. I would highly recommend you use a contractor that has experience in installing these roof types.
You do not want to risk cutting costs for a less superior product that could give you some serious problems down the line. Do your research and get the right contractor for the job the first time.
Con #2 Some states require permits to install.
Before jumping in and trying to get your new roof installed, take into account that you may need a permit. Another thing to consider is that depending on the taxes in your state; you may end up paying more in tax with this roofing type because of the total square feet of the building.
Some locations and states also have a restriction on building height. Discuss this with your building contractor beforehand to establish if this roofing type is possible for you.
Do your research in your area and speak to some of the roofing contractors in your area. Local contractors will be able to assist you with any questions you may have.
Con #3 Time to install.
Just looking at the mansard roof, it is complex in its design, it is, for this reason, it is very time-consuming and challenging to install. Considering its complexity, this is the primary reason I only recommend that you use a contractor with the necessary experience in installing this roofing type.
It takes time to get right and requires some specialized tools and experience to do right the first time. Installing shingles to this roofing type is also difficult and also requires some expertise to do.
I would not recommend anyone take it upon themselves to install this roof unless they have the necessary know-how and expertise beforehand.
Con #4 Low weather resistance.
This roof does not have excellent weather resistance and is susceptible to damage in areas that get high-speed winds. The steep slope of the roof does not react well to high winds, and the roofing materials can be damaged if not the roofing members themselves.
Before installing one of these roofing types, consult an expert in your area to determine whether it is realistic to have one in your state.
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How long does it last?
Materials used on this roof and to build this roof determine its life-span. Using cheaper materials will negatively affect its projected longevity, but by shopping smart, you can drastically increase these stats.
Exposure to harsh elements will affect its longevity, therefore, using quality materials will mean a longer life-span for the roof. So it is safe to say, getting the right contractor that uses the best materials is worth investing in for your peace of mind.
For example, asphalt shingles have a life span of about 25 years; it is at this point that you would want to look at replacing or repairing them. However, what of the roof itself?
If the roof never has to be effected by heavy elements, with yearly maintenance, it is not an unreasonable ask to expect a century or longer.
What is the difference between a dormer and a mansard?
The simple answer here is that a dormer is a structure that extends out of a sloped roof, it usually contains a window or a vent, they create more space in the roof and allow for natural light to shine into the room.
A mansard roof is the roofing structure itself that has two slopes; the one below is steeper than the one above. This roofing type is used for aesthetic appeal and allows for more room for another floor or a larger attic.
As you can see a mansard roof is a great option if you are looking for a modern, stylized roof with the practicality of a second floor then this one is the one for you. Just take into account your budget and the area that you are in. Consult a roofing professional in your area to see if this is the right roof for you.
Jack French is the CEO of EZPZ Roofing. He has over 10 years of experience in the construction industry and has been with EZPZ since its inception. Jack is a hard worker and a natural leader. He takes great pride in his work and always puts the customer first.