What is a Hip Roof? - Definition & Design

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

There are many kinds of roofs. In this lesson, we'll check out the hip roof, see what characterizes it, and see what the pros and cons are in comparison with other styles of roofs.

The Hip Roof

When designing a building, the roof is important. Yes, obviously it keeps out the rain and birds and whatnot, but it's also a pretty substantial visual element as well. The roof can have a sizable impact on the overall look of the structure, so you need to put some serious thought into what kind of design you want to use.

In domestic architecture, there are literally dozens of options, but one widely popular one is the hip roof. Yes, it's a cool roof, but no, that's not why we call it hip. In architecture, a hip roof is one with all sides slanting downwards at a consistent angle. It's a pretty popular design choice for many home builders.

A hip roof


Try this. Take a square piece of paper and lay it flat on the ground or a table. Then take another piece of paper of the same size and draw diagonal lines from corner to corner, creating four triangles. Cut them out, and prop them over your first sheet of paper, making something that looks like a pyramid. See that? That is your basic hip roof. This roof has four sides, and all sides slope down and out.

The obvious question is: isn't that what all roofs look like? No, it isn't. Get rid of the triangles and grab a new piece of paper. Cut it in half, then lean the two halves against each other over the flat square, making something like a tent. That's a gable roof (which you'll learn more about in another lesson). See how it only slopes on two sides, but is open on the other two sides? That's the difference between a gable and a hip roof. A hip roof has sloping panels on all sides, extending all the way to the eaves.

There are several ways to make a hip roof, but in general they come down to two basic shapes. First is the square, or pyramid, hip roof. This is the one that you've already made out of paper. To cover a square building, four triangle-shaped sections meet at a single point in the center of the structure, just like a pyramid.

A pyramid hip roof

But what if your building isn't a square? What if it's a rectangle? In this case, you're going to have parts of the roof that are different sizes. Rather than all meeting at a single point, the two longer sides will share a ridge, running parallel to the direction of the building. Basically, two edges will be just like that tent-like gable roof. Instead of leaving the ends open, however, triangular sections slope outward from the edges of the ridge. With four sloping sides, that's a hip roof as well.

Rectangular hip roof

Pros and Cons

As with every architectural feature, hip roofs have their pros and cons. In terms of the benefits of building a hip roof, the lack of any flat, vertical surfaces means that the roof is more aerodynamic. Therefore, if you're building in an area with high winds, it may be beneficial to consider a roof that's sloped on all sides. This system also provides consistent and reliable drainage during storms, letting rainwater or snow melt run off in all directions. In fact, most architects agree that hip roofs are stronger in general.

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