29 Aug

The difference between gables and hip rafters in glazed architecture

Bringing classic lines and bold shapes to your property’s roofline, gables and hip rafters can say a lot about the architectural style of your home. We explore the differences between gables and hip rafters, and provide some insight on why a designer or architect might specify these types of roofs…

Since the Greeks first started making triangular pediment gables the crowning glory of their temples, designers and architects have developed and adapted this style throughout the ages for both practical and decorative purposes. Commanding presence and capturing a sense of space and height, gables can be found in architecture across many eras, from the Romans to the High Renaissance and Baroque periods. 

Gables are a side or front wall of a property with a triangular shape at the top, created by a sloping pitched roof. 

Extending from the eaves up to the ridge, a gable’s proportions and detailing will be dependent on the style and shape of the roof and the building itself. They can create a dramatic focal point or have a simple aesthetic, depending on the look that the architect wants to achieve. 

A garden room gable with simple lines and clear glazing

A garden room gable with simple lines and clear glazing

A hip rafter, on the other hand, is a key structural element found in hip roofs and roof lanterns.  They are usually fitted between the corners of the house, up to the roof’s ridge.

From the inside, they look very similar to the other structural elements of a roof lantern. However, they can create a very similar angle to that of a triangular gable, resulting in the same triangular aesthetic. 

An internal view of a timber roof lantern’s hip rafter

Internal close-up view of a timber roof lantern’s hip rafter

Internal view of a beautiful orangery with a rectangular roof lantern

Internal view of a beautiful orangery with a rectangular roof lantern

Hip rafters and roof lanterns

Here at Westbury, our beautiful timber roof lanterns are known for their clean lines and perfectly symmetrical composition, and with such a delicate balance of common rafters, jack rafters, and hip rafters, they can create an incredible architectural impact. These stunning architectural features have been used in a variety of famous and iconic buildings, from cathedrals to hotels and modern-day shopping centres – as well as people’s homes. 

Internal view of an orangery with an elegant roof lantern

Internal view of an orangery with an elegant roof lantern

Modern-day roof lanterns will be installed on a flat roof and their shape will give any garden room or orangery extension additional height, creating a sense of space while brightening up the interiors and letting plenty of sunlight stream in. 

External view of an orangery, clearly showing the rectangular shape created by the roof lantern’s hip rafters.

External view of an orangery, clearly showing the rectangular shape created by the roof lantern’s hip rafters. 

A well-designed roof lantern will be crafted into a size and pitch that suits the architecture of your property. Yes, you will want your roof lantern to reflect your personal tastes to an extent, but the design should be kept in proportion with the shape and size of the room and the rest of the property. The structure should look balanced and in keeping with the rest of the house. 

This large, square roof lantern has steeply angled hip rafters which creates a higher ceiling

This large, square roof lantern has steeply angled hip rafters which creates a higher ceiling

As an example, a square lounge will lend itself well to a square, contemporary-looking roof lantern with a softer-angled pitch. An open-plan kitchen and dining room will work well with a double roof lantern with steeper hip rafters, which will help to highlight distinct zones or focal points of the room. 

Double roof lanterns with decorative cartwheel glazing design

Double roof lanterns with decorative cartwheel glazing design

Gables and garden rooms

Thatch was the only way to create a roof for the majority of the population until the late 1800’s. Rushes, heather or straw would used as the main roofing material as it was a low-cost and easily accessible resource that was waterproof and insulating if packed in tightly enough. Instead of flat roofs, they built their homes with ‘pitched’ roofs, with two sides joining together at the top to create an angle so rainwater would simply run off the straw instead of collecting and seeping through. The thatch would still need replacing from time to time, but it was a popular option and most homes had this roof shape, which is where gables originated from.

Today, gables are a very popular type of roof, and are often found in timber garden rooms with their high rooflines and glazing that spans into the apex. Large vertical panes of glass create beautiful gables that help to flood the room below with natural light and emphasise the vaulted ceiling. 

Internal view of a magnificent glazed gable, with expansive views of the garden

Internal view of a magnificent glazed gable, with expansive views of the garden

Just like roof lanterns, a garden room should be designed with a gable that is sympathetic to the architecture of your house. A bespoke extension should be stylish and functional, and with the right size and proportions, a gable can create a striking feature. 

Coloured glass with an ornate pattern draws the eye and adds interest

Coloured glass with an ornate pattern draws the eye and adds interest

Dutch gables

It’s been suggested that this decorative style of gable was brought to our shoes with the arrival of protestant immigrants from the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, and can be a common sight in architecture around Kent in particular. The will have a symmetrical design consisting of one or more curves.

The spectacular Dutch gable at Belle Vue Park sits between two glazed conservatories, designed and built by Westbury Garden Rooms

The spectacular Dutch gable at Belle Vue Park sits between two glazed conservatories, designed and built by Westbury Garden Rooms

Adapting gable styles to suit the property

This property was better suited to a garden room with two gables, resulting in a lower roof line that leaves plenty of room for the windows on the 1st floor of the property

This property was better suited to a garden room with two gables, resulting in a lower roof line that leaves plenty of room for the windows on the 1st floor of the property

Modern and contemporary: the gable at the Westbury Garden Room has a gentle incline which can accommodate for the sleek but heavy roofing material

Modern and contemporary: the gable at the Westbury Garden Room office has a gentle incline which can accommodate for the sleek but heavy roofing material

Pitch roof dormer windows

Dormers are usually added to help a window fit into a sloped roof while effectively creating additional space and headroom inside, like this beautiful box sash window from our sister site, Westbury Windows and Joinery. The small central dormer perfectly reflects the larger gable at the end of this Tudor-style house, which sticks out in a jetty style which was typical of the time period. 

A gable and a pitch roof dormer window on the first floor of a period property

A gable and a pitch roof dormer window on the first floor of a period property

Catslide dormer windows

Catslide dormers are only possible when the height of the roof can accommodate them. They are ideal for when a lower, slimmer profile is better suited to the property and a pitch roof dormer will look too bulky. 

A property with two catslide dormers on the right, alongside two pitch roof dormers on the left

A property with two catslide dormers on the right, alongside two pitch roof dormers on the left

Ultimately, whether your glazed extension features gables or roof lanterns with hip rafters, the designs should always be developed with the property itself in mind, enabling the resulting architectural shapes to blend in with the rest of the building.