Mansard Roof: An Architectural Style With Distinctive French Touch

Apr 13, 2023


Viking Contractors




April 13, 2023


May 10, 2024

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Let’s explore the splendor of mansard roofs!

The mansard roof was and continues to be one of the most sought-after types of roofing. It was popular in 17th-century France, and it’s gradually growing in popularity in the US and Canada. 

This type of roof represents the ideal illustration of how architectural design involves more than simply engineering for optimum functionality; it also involves art! 

Aside from its stunning appearance, the mansard roof comes with numerous benefits that many of us will find useful.

Let’s discover the history and characteristics of mansard roofs to help decide whether this is ideal for your house! 

History of Mansard Roof: Contemporary Architecture with Medieval Origins

The first thing that comes to your mind when you see this type of roof might be that it belongs to the Baroque era, and you’re close to the correct answer!

The mansard roof, often known as the French roof, was invented in France in the late 1700s and is named after the famous architect who popularized this style of roof, Francois Mansart

Mansart, who frequently used the mansard roof in his designs, helped this roof type gain a lot of prominence in France during the Baroque period. Aside from the fame it received with Mansart, this form of roof was favored for urban structures due to its functionality. 

What’s interesting is that this type of roof predates Mansart! 

The medieval style of roofing, which had steep slopes sides and a virtually flat top, is where the mansard roof got its origin!

When it comes to the United States, this type of roof rose in popularity in the 19th century. It was frequently applied in constructing homes designed in the Victorian architectural style. 

This design aesthetic remained popular far into the 20th century and is being applied today in both residential and commercial construction.

How to Recognize a Mansard Roof

Even though mansard roofs fundamentally combine elements of gambrel and hip roofs, there are some differences in mansard roof features!

Gambrel Style 

vintage wooden barn with open hayloft and gambrel roof surrounded by lush trees and greenery on a sunny summer day in Montana

A mansard roof must incorporate the gambrel style as one of its key characteristics. The mansard roof and the gambrel roof both have two slopes, and the upper one is always shorter and less steep. 

It’s also important to point out that the gambrel roof is a gable roof. Gables are vertical wall expansions that stretch up to meet the highest ridge of the roof. The absence of gables on a mansard roof makes it distinct from a gambrel roof.

Gambrel roofs are frequently found on barns, garages, and warehouses. Still, they can also be found on mansions and royal homes in the Dutch architectural style.


The incorporation of hips is the second distinguishing component of a mansard roof! 

In general, hip roofs are thought to be more secure and protective than gable roofs. Unlike gable roofs, hip roofs feature slopes on all four edges. 

Traditional hip roofs, unlike mansard roofs, have a horizontal ridge at the top. Moreover, the mansard roof is less suited to severe weather than a conventional hip roof since it can gather puddles of snow and rainwater. 

A mansard roof can be easily distinguished from other hip roof styles thanks to its gambrels and extravagant appearance.


Dormer windows are yet another typical feature of mansard roofs. They’re a type of windows that are found in dormers, which project vertically over a sloped roof’s surface.

Mansard roofs with dormer windows expand the attic story’s interior space relatively cheaply. They can be either functional or aesthetic.

The purpose of functional dormer windows is to open and close, while the purpose of aesthetic ones is to enhance the roof’s aesthetic appeal.

Types of Mansard Roof

There are many styles and designs of mansard roofs. However, they can be broadly divided into two categories: 

  • Mansard roof with steep sides 
  • Mansard roof with double pitch 

Mansard roofs with steep slopes have a sharp edge at the top and offer drainage on all roof edges. The second type is a low-pitched roof, and it offers adequate drainage. 

The type you pick will mostly depend on your region and climate.

Mansard Roof Variations: Pitch, Styles, and Designs 

The mansard roof has undergone several design modifications since it was first designed, changing its appearance and performance. 

Here are the three main types of mansard roofs: 

  • Concave style 
  • Convex style 
  • Straight style 

Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. So, before choosing one, you need to take into account the location you live in and the design of your house.  

Concave Style 

A mansard roof in this style has a steep inclination at the bottom and is concave inside. Concave designs were prominent in the 19th century and are usually found in mansions and buildings. 

However, a crack can form during heavy rain because the mansard-style roof is straight at the top. Before you notice any roof cracks, we advise scheduling roof inspections.

Convex Style 

An S-shaped convex mansard roof and a ball-shaped convex mansard roof have curved outward sides on their lower slope portions. This allows for extra interior space without the need for extra levels.

However, if you build a home with a convex mansard roof, ensure the land is clear of any undesired trees, branches, or vegetation, as they can easily clog the gutter. 

This roof style is usually found on skyscrapers, government buildings, and hotels. 

Straight Style 

Straight mansard roofs have a modest inclination on the upper panel area. This roof type is usually constructed with a dormer window. 

When this modest inclination is practically vertical, as it sometimes is, the dormer window offers additional internal space, adequate ventilation, and good lighting.

The major drawback of a straight mansard roof is that it cannot support the weight of the snow that is accumulating on the roof’s top, which leads to breaks. 

If you opt for this design, we advise more frequent roof inspections.

Materials for Constructing Mansard Roofs

Several materials are used to construct mansard roofs, and the choice of material for your property will mostly depend on the climate in your region.

Before choosing which material to use for your roof, it’s crucial to understand all of the aspects that influence the lifespan of your roof

Mansard roofs can be constructed of: 


Asphalt is a material that is frequently used to build mansard roofs, and its lifespan is typically between 20 and 30 years.

It’s perfect for constructing mansard roofs in regions with heavy snowfall, heavy rain, extreme heat, and extremely sunny regions. 

Ceramic and Clay Tiles 

bricks piled on the roof of a house

Clay or ceramic tiles are ideal for locations with intense sunlight and warm climates. 

Both tiles are good at resisting fire but have so many issues that they occasionally can’t withstand intense frost, fracture, or break. 

Similar to wood material, this type of tile can last up to 50 years and requires little upkeep.


Synthetic roofing shingles are the best option for this type of roof. This material is more environmentally friendly and durable because it is manufactured from recycled resources, including recycled wood, a combination of polymers, and rubber.

Snow, rain, wind, and extremely high or low temperatures do not affect synthetic shingles. They’re one of the more affordable options, and with proper maintenance, they may last between 30 and 50 years.

Natural wood shingles, in contrast, are more expensive and need a lot of maintenance.

Mansard Roof’s Function and Advantages

A mansard roof’s main purpose is to create extra living or storage space below the roof. The mansard roof’s double-sloped shape heightens the upper level, enhancing its usability as a living area. You can easily use this excess space to build additional bedrooms, offices, or even recreational or play areas! 

Mansard roofs are appreciated for both their aesthetic and functional attributes. Any property will have a distinctive appearance because of the innovative design of this roofing system, which also helps it stand out from neighboring homes. It will gain even more personality and a classy look if you opt to add dormer windows to it! 

The mansard roof also improves how heat and light are distributed throughout the building. More light is able to enter the structure thanks to the roof chapels’ design, which also has the added benefit of accelerating the movement of fresh air. 

Lastly, this is a fantastic roofing alternative that saves money. When appropriately constructed and sealed, this roof improves heat dispersion throughout the structure, saving money and reducing heating bills.

Mansard Roof Disadvantages 

Firstly, asking for authorization from public bodies can be challenging. To use a mansard-style roof, you might need to meet different regulations depending on where you live. It’s important to fully understand local rules and regulations before building one.

The construction of a mansard roof is also a difficult operation that takes a lot of time and expertise. Because of all of these factors, a mansard roof’s initial installation and construction costs are considerable, making the attic unsuitable for homeowners on a tight building budget.

This roof structure needs frequent upkeep and repairs because it offers little protection from bad weather, which helps prevent additional damage and structural failure. As a result, mansard roof repair and upkeep expenses are considerably higher.

Lastly, compared to other roof styles, installing this roof takes a lot more time and requires more building supplies and labor than other roof styles.

Final Thoughts 

The mansard roof is unquestionably becoming popular as a roofing option in the twenty-first century. It combines the beauty of the Baroque era with the grace of the Victorian era and modern society.

To add to its stunning appearance, it comes with many advantages! It expands the attic area in your home, increases inside lighting, and safeguards it. 

However, if you decide to construct a mansard roof for your home, be sure to research which designs and types are appropriate for your home’s location, whether straight, concave, or convex! 

If you’re prepared to move forward with your roofing renovation or if you need more information before doing so, our experts at Viking Contractors can make the process as easy as possible!

Schedule roof inspection now!

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