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What Is A Saltbox Roof? (Pros & Cons With Cost)

Posted on : June 20, 2024

What Is A Saltbox Roof? (Pros & Cons With Cost)

Saltbox roofs have been popular for both commercial and residential buildings since the colonial era. The name "saltbox" comes from the roof's distinctive asymmetrical shape, resembling the wooden boxes used to store salt during the 1800s. Like any roofing style, saltbox roofs have their own pros and cons. 

At McClellands Contracting and Roofing, we provide honest roofing advice to homeowners. Today, we will answer the question, “What is a saltbox roof?” and cover all the key points you need to know.

What Is The Exact Design Of Saltbox Roofs?

A saltbox roof offers a distinctive and unique design for your building. Its asymmetrical shape, featuring a long, sloping rear roofline and a shorter front roofline, creates a two-part roof structure with different pitches.

The rear section of a saltbox roof has a steeper pitch, typically ranging from 9/12 to 12/12, designed to effectively shed snow and rain. In contrast, the front section has a lower pitch, around 4/12 to 6/12, providing a more gradual slope for aesthetic purposes.

Saltbox roofs are often constructed using traditional materials like wood shakes or shingles, but modern variations are available in metal, slate, or composite materials. Saltbox roofs with dormers are also a common design feature, adding visual interest and extra living space.

Why Are Saltbox Roofs Still A Popular Choice?

These roofs have not lost popularity over the years, and their benefits show why.

Saltbox Roof

#1 Prevents Snow Settling

The slanted design lets snow easily slide off rather than accumulating on the roof. This prevents excessive weight buildup that could damage the roof structure. Less snow means less hassle in clearing it off, too.

#2 Can Withstand Strong Winds  

The aerodynamic shape allows winds to flow smoothly over the saltbox roof. This makes it more resistant to uplift forces compared to gable roofs. 

#3 Easy To Maintain

With a simple two-plane design, saltbox roofs have fewer angles and joints. This translates to fewer potential leak spots that need inspection and repair over time and makes overall maintenance more straightforward.  

#4 Offer A Classic & Appealing Look To Your Home

Saltbox roofs provide a charming, traditional aesthetic reminiscent of historic architecture. The asymmetrical profile lends a visually interesting appearance many homeowners find desirable.

What are the Challenges of Saltbox Roofs?

While saltbox roofs offer numerous benefits, they also have certain limitations. Understanding these limitations is important before making a final decision. 

#1 Complex To Construct

The asymmetrical design and varying roof pitches make saltbox roofs more complex to frame and construct compared to traditional gable or hip roofs, potentially increasing labor costs. Make sure to hire a professional and experienced roof contractor in your area who has relevant experience in saltbox roof installation. 

#2 Reduced Attic Space

One potential downside of saltbox roofs is the reduced attic space compared to other roof styles. The long, slanted slope on one side limits the full-height ceiling area in the attic. While providing extra headroom, that angled roof line cuts into the overall square footage upstairs. So, saltbox attic spaces tend to be smaller, with less room for storage or finishing.

How Much Does It Cost To Install A Saltbox Roof?

Install A Saltbox Roof

Installing a saltbox roof can be a significant investment for homeowners. On average, you can expect to spend anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 for the materials and labor. 

The total cost depends on several key factors. The size of your roof is the biggest one - smaller roofs will be on the lower end of the scale, while large roofs with more square footage get more expensive. 

The roof materials you select also impact the bottom line. Asphalt shingles are the most affordable, while higher-end options like slate, metal, or cedar shakes raise the price.  Additional roof features like skylights, chimneys, and dormers add complexity and cost, too.

How To Maintain and Repair Saltbox Roofs

Modern saltbox roofs don’t require much upkeep. However, proper maintenance and timely repairs are important for ensuring their longevity and performance.

  • Pay close attention to areas where the roof planes intersect, as well as around dormers, chimneys, and other penetrations. Look for visible signs of damage, such as leaks, missing or cracked shingles, or sagging areas of the roof.
  • Remove any collected debris, such as leaves, branches, or moss from the roof surface and gutters. Collected debris can lead to water or moisture buildup on your roof. 
  • If you notice any visible signs of leaks, it's important to address them immediately to prevent further damage. 
  • Install roof vents and proper insulation. This prevents moisture buildup that can cause mold and damage the roof.
  • In areas with heavy snowfall, consider installing heat cables or using roof rakes to remove excessive snow buildup and prevent the formation of ice dams.
  • For major repairs or replacements, it's recommended to choose an experienced roofing contractor who has the relevant skills working with saltbox roofs to ensure proper installation.

What Are Some Other Alternatives For Saltbox Roofs?

If you’re looking for other roof styles that are distinctive from normal roofs, here are some alternatives you can go for:

Gambrel Roof

This style has a distinctive two-sided roof with a shallow upper slope and a steeper lower slope. These roofs are a popular choice for Dutch colonial houses and for agricultural buildings like barns. 

Shed Roof

A shed roof has a single plane that slopes downward. This roof style is an alternative to flat roofs, which have a much smaller slope. Shed roofs offer a stand-out look but they might not suit every homeowner’s preference. 

Mansard Roof

Mansard roofs have a flat top and four sloping sides, creating a unique and symmetrical appearance. This style is often used on French-inspired buildings and can add a beautiful and graceful appearance to your home.

Gable Roof with Dormer

Adding a dormer window to a regular gable roof can make it look like a saltbox roof. A gable roof is the common triangle-shaped roof you see on many houses. A dormer is a small structure that sticks out from the roof, usually with its own window. 

You might also like: How Often Should You Replace A Roof?

Call McClellands Contracting And Roofing For Roof Replacement Services In Pittsburgh, PA

If you are looking for a reliable partner to install or replace your home's roof, we are here to assist you. At McClellands Contracting and Roofing, our roofers have years of experience working with all roof styles. We have a dedicated team who will ensure that your new roof not only looks good but also provides optimal functionality.

We understand that a roof replacement is a crucial investment that requires precise installation, as even a small mistake can lead to major problems. We provide trustworthy roofing services and beautiful home remodeling services in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas. To learn more or for a free consultation, call us today at (412) 353-5660.

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