Mansard Roofs Have No Place In Today's Construction

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Mansard Roof

Mansard Roof: Benefits, Risks, and Facts You Should Know

Mansard roof architecture goes way back to 1550 where it was used as a roof style for the Louvre Museum.

Regarded as a highly fashionable feature for buildings during the Second Empire, mansard roofs have become a popular choice over Europe, Canada, and the United States.

But why is it regarded as such? How does it benefit commercial buildings and private homes today? And are there any risks to this French architecture roof design?

Let’s find out.

What Is a Mansard Roof?

It’s not enough to define a roof solely by its historical background (more on this later).

More importantly, understanding the structure and architectural design is crucial, especially if you plan to install one for your home.

So what is a Mansard roof? In its simplest terms and also regarded as a French or curb roof, a mansard-style roof is a hybrid four-sided design between a hip roof and a gambrel roof.

Let’s dissect these two roof types, shall we?

Hip roofs are characterized by their straight gentle slopes that extend downwards on all four sides to the walls. A hip roof looks similar to how a camping tent would look like.

A gambrel roof is characterized by two sides having two slopes where the bottom slope is steeper than the upper slope.

Although a gambrel roof appears to look flat with regards to its upper slope since it’s much flatter than the bottom slope.

Later on, we’ll discuss more how you’ll be able to identify a mansard roof.

If you combine the roofing styles of hip and gambrel roofs, you get a mansard roof. This style is also widely common for barn houses.

One distinguishable feature of a mansard roof is the dormer windows found on the lower slope. Dormer windows are an integral piece of gambrel roof architecture.

However, Mansard roofs aren’t limited to the design used in the 17th century. Over the years, Mansard roofs have evolved and now have several design variations: convex, concave, and straight.

Mansard Roof Architecture Design Variations

Convex

A convex mansard roof style typically follows an S-shape or bell shape pattern, and its design has an outward curve on the lower slope.

The shape of a convex mansard roof provides more interior space in your roof without needing to add additional floors to your home.

This roofing style is also most commonly found in courthouses.

When installing a convex mansard roof, it’s essential to note that one should remove any tree branches or obstructions within five feet of the home or building.

Straight

A straight mansard roof is the first design featured for mansard roofs.

The lower slope is nearly completely vertical, while the upper slope has a slight slope, making it hard to tell if you’re looking at it from ground level.

Straight-designed mansard roofs feature dormer windows that provide ventilation, more space, and light.

However, a main concern with the straight design is during the winter season. Due to the weight of snow and through a large buildup, this can cause cracks and leaks in your roofing structure.

Concave

Last but not least, concave styles have an inward curve and a bottom slope with a steep angle.

A concave-type mansard roof is typically found in mansions or large buildings built during the second half of the 19th century.

Similar to a straight-type mansard roof, concave types are vulnerable to weather conditions, such as snow and rain. Large amounts of rain and snow can erode the roof and cause leaks & cracks.

How to Identify a Mansard Roof?

Distinguishing mansard roofs from other roofs can be tricky since its steep sides, and double pitch are a feature shared by many roofs.

It’s also difficult to identify a mansard roof from a ground-level angle since the upper pitch is hardly visible, making you believe it’s a single-pane roof with steep sides.

The best way to identify a mansard roof is by looking at the gradient.

Mansard roofs have gradients on all of its sides compared to gambrel roofs with gradients only on two of its sides.

Furthermore, a mansard roof will always have a low pitch as opposed to a gambrel roof that ends in long sharp points in the main roof beam.

Advantages of a Mansard Roof

Great Aesthetic Appeal

One of the primary advantages of installing a mansard roof for homes or any building is its added elegant look.

Its sophisticated appeal and aesthetic appeal is largely due to the fact it erupted during the Renaissance period and served as an integral part of French architecture.

Up to this day, homes and buildings with a mansard roof are still as elegant-looking as they were in the 17th century.

Provides Extra Attic Space

Due to the almost vertical bottom slope design of a mansard roof, it has more attic space than hip and gable roofs.

Even better, a mansard roof’s loft area has so much space it can even fit a master bedroom if necessary or need be.

This is an added luxury to any home, seeing as how the included dormer windows also enhance the ambiance and allow natural light into the building or home.

More Expandability

If you have plans of installing additional stories or floors, installing a mansard roof makes it less of a struggle and an added advantage on your part.

As mentioned earlier, the structure of a mansard roof accommodates more space and makes it less complicated if you want to add more room or living space to your home.

Flexible to Use for Rural and Urban Areas

Due to its expandability and the extra space, mansard roofs are suitable for rural and urban areas, especially a commercial building, since adding more floors is easier.

Improved Heat Distribution

The added windows and natural expandability provide efficient heat distribution throughout the building, making the space more comfortable.

In effect, efficient heat distribution also helps lower heating costs.

Disadvantages of a Mansard Roof

Expensive Installation Costs

As far as advantages go, no roof is so flawless it doesn’t come with its own risks.

We’ve talked a lot about how the roofing style, structure, and look of a mansard roof are all benefits to installing this type of roof.

However, the price you have to pay for your home to look elegant and sophisticated is also quite steep.

Because mansard roofs have two slopes on each side and follow a hybrid form of a hip and gambrel roof, you can see how the installation is far from a simple one.

This complexity contributes mostly to the installation costs involved.

Furthermore, since only a few roofing experts are familiar with how to install this type of roofing, it’s only natural why the cost is so high.

High Repair and Maintenance Cost

As far as elegance goes, the repair costs for a mansard roof are just as steep as the installation cost.

A mansard roof is especially vulnerable to snow and rain, which is costly to repair and difficult to maintain.

In addition, finding roofing experts to perform the repairs are difficult. As a result, this adds to the overall maintenance and repair costs.

Not As Weather Resistant

This makes it difficult for a mansard roof to cope with heavy rain and snow due to the almost flat upper pitch of a mansard roof.

Not only will this cause water leaks in your roof, but it can also cause the entire structure to fall apart due to the snow’s weight.

Tough to Secure a Permit

Depending on your location, the taxes, requirements, and restrictions/limitations may vary.

There could be height restrictions and higher taxes associated with the installation of a mansard roof in your area.

If you plan to install a mansard roof, make sure to look into local laws first before attempting to install one.

Historical Background of Mansard Roof

Historical records might reveal the accreditation and popularity of the mansard roof belong to Francois Mansart, but this is only half the story.

The creator of this style is the architect Pierre Lescot in the 16th century.

Francois Mansart, an accomplished architect of the French Baroque period, adopted this style in the 17th century and is one of the main reasons it became popular.

The popularity of using a mansard roof rose during the time of Napoleon the 3rd and even spread to western countries such as the United States and Canada.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, most high-rise residential buildings adopted a mansard roof design, and then shortly after, smaller commercial buildings also adopted this style.

Can You Use Asphalt Shingles For a Mansard Roof?

A mansard roof is the exact opposite of a low pitch roof. As a result, using asphalt shingles for a low-pitched roof is not recommended.

Primarily because of the weight of asphalt shingles. The weight alone is too heavy to hang at the pitch of a mansard roof, not to mention, with heavy rainfall or snow, the results could be disastrous.

Furthermore, installing asphalt shingles on a mansard roof will also cause the shingles to slide off.

Regardless of how effective the installation is, or if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions word for word, it still won’t work.

Due to the vertical side of a mansard or curb roof, this largely influences the sliding off of asphalt shingles.

Needless to say, this doesn’t mean you can’t install asphalt shingles on a mansard roof. Just be prepared for the risks and huge installation & maintenance costs.

The Right Shingles to Use for a Mansard Roof

So what are the right shingles to use? Fortunately, there are two options: synthetic and cedar shake shingles.

Synthetic shingles are a roofing material that mimics the look of cedar shake shingles.

On the other hand, cedar shake shingles are a roofing material with a premium appeal made of natural wood materials.

Both of these shingles are priced higher than asphalt; however, the risks are also far less than using asphalt.

Conclusion

So is a mansard roof the right option for you?

This depends on several things, such as budget, preference, local laws, and so forth.

Additionally, finding the right contractor to install a mansard roof while keeping the drainage system in tip-top shape is crucial.

We don’t recommend installing a mansard roof if it compromises your drainage system or is too costly.

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