What is a Saltbox Roof?

 

Deciding to renovate your home is a big decision, especially when making large-scale changes to the structure. If you’re considering updating your roof or you are looking to install a roof on a new property to something more unique and exciting, a Saltbox Roof is the perfect option.

 

Design

A Saltbox Roof is an asymmetrical two-sided roof with one side sloping down to the first floor of the building and the other side sloping to the usual roof height on the second floor. These roofs are also known as Catslide Roofs where one side extends below the main eave of the roof. Very similar style to a Gable roof however, it is the asymmetrical sides that differentiate the two.

The slope that reaches the first floor is typically longer and has a shallower pitch than the other side, making the house look lopsided. This unique look is what keeps designers and architects intrigued by this style of roof, even today.

Due to the unusual shape, Saltbox Roofs tend to have a chimney starting from the centre of the lower floor. However, it is possible to place the chimney anywhere along the roof, depending on where your fireplace is situated.

Saltbox Roof

History

Saltbox Roofs originated from New England, USA in colonial times. The name comes from the roof’s shape resembling a saltbox from that era. During the colonial times salt was expensive and difficult to come by, so those who could afford it would keep it in a decorated box with a slanted lid to show its worth.

The Saltbox Roof evolved from a Gable Roof when families wanted to add space to their houses as their family grew. This new extension idea meant the existing roof could still be used, and on many traditional Saltbox Roofs you can see a line where the original roof stopped. Extending one side of the roof to add one storey rooms on the side of the house was much cheaper than adding a floor upwards.

It is believed that Saltbox Roofs became even more popular during the reign of Queen Anne who introduced a tax on houses greater than one storey. As the roof began at the first storey, this style of roofing was a loophole to lawfully avoid taxation.

During colonial times, Saltbox Roofs gained popularity not only in New England, but throughout the USA, before losing popularity in the 1800s. Today, they’re now commonly used for simple outdoor structures such as sheds, garages and outhouses.

 

Advantages of a Saltbox Roof

  • Drainage capability – the long slope of the roof allows for good drainage during heavy rain and snow, so weathering damage is less likely.
  • Easy to access – as the roofs edge is closer to the ground, it is much easier to access a Saltbox Roof compared to other styles. This means maintenance and cleaning requires less effort making it a much easier job.
  • Unique design – many architects are attracted to Saltbox Roofs as their asymmetrical design is unique. For those who prefer a style that will make their building stand out; a Saltbox Roof is a great option.
  • Easy to add windows – as this is an extension of a common Gable Roof, it is quick and easy to install a roof window into a Saltbox Roof. The natural light from a window will make the room more pleasant to live in.

Wooden saltbox roof house

Disadvantages of a Saltbox Roof

  • Sloped ceiling – the rooms at the bottom of the longer side of the roof will have sloped ceilings, similar to that of a loft conversion. This can restrict space and prevent these rooms from being habitable.
  • Complex to build – the unusual shape of a Saltbox Roof makes them more complex to build, taking up more time and generally being more expensive than other types of roofs.
  • Limited attic space – even though you are gaining space on the ground floor, when choosing a Saltbox Roof, attic space is sacrificed.
  • Not for everyone – while some may like the unique shape of a Saltbox Roof, it is not appreciated by everyone. It is important to consider your aesthetic preferences before you decide to go ahead with a Saltbox Roof.

When is a Saltbox Roof Suitable?

Saltbox Roofs are best for climates with lots of rain and snow because of their advanced drainage capabilities. Also, if there is heavy snow that gets stuck of the roof, there is easy access to shovel it off without putting yourself in danger.

If you are looking to create more space in your house but don’t want a typical loft conversion, a Saltbox Roof is perfect. Provided your current roof is a Gable Roof or similar style, the current roof can be extended into a Saltbox Roof, just as they did in colonial times.

 

Constructing a Saltbox Roof

Once you have decided on a Saltbox Roof for your building, the first thing to do when completing any refurbishment, including building a new roof, is to check the planning permission laws in your local area.

After you have established planning permission, you must consider the pitch of the roof to ensure drainage isn’t inhibited while still ensuring the rooms on the first floor aren’t too sloped. You should also make sure the roof coincides with the walls that will be used to frame it.

 White saltbox house

Saltbox Roofs are typically built using timber frames and woodworking joints, however, other materials, such as metals can be used. When choosing a material for your roof, it is always important to remember that while cheap materials initially cost less, they may end up costing you more in the long term through maintenance costs.

As mentioned previously, just like the gable it is the ideal design to add roof windows. There are many types of roof windows that could be used such as, centre pivot, roof terrace or a balcony. Look at our other helpful guides on the best windows available.

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