What is a mansard roof? Would you be able to identify this style if you see one?
You may not know it, but you have probably seen one. If you have ever been to the Louvre in Paris, you have seen a mansard style roof.
This style is also called a French roof, or a curb roof. If a gambrel style roof is a gable roof “broken” into two sections, a mansard roof is a hip roof broken into two sections.
The top section of a mansard style roof has a very low slope.
You often can’t see this part of it from the street; the slope is so low. However, it does slope slightly to a central ridge, coming down on all four sides toward the walls.
But the second section, the lower part, of a mansard style roof has a very steep slope. The slope can almost look vertical.
You will know a mansard roof if it looks like the upper portion of the house is shingled rather than covered in siding. That section is not the house; it’s actually the roof.
The History of the Mansard Roof
The mansard roof style is named after Francois Mansart (1598 – 1666), who was a famous French architect who popularized the style during the Baroque period, which was roughly from 1600 – 1750.
Mansart built chateaus and townhouses designed to be eye-catching. However, he copied the style from its creator, Pierre Lescot (1510 – 1578), who created the Louvre.
When Paris was rebuilt in the late 1800s, during the reign of Napoleon III, the mansard style roof was solidified as the highest fashion, and from there it spread to England, Italy, and into Europe.
Of course, we know it made its way across the Atlantic to Canada and the United States. French Second Empire architecture became very popular in this country just before the Civil War. For a relatively short time, mansard roofs became “all the rage.”
Today, this style of roof is still used in homes and buildings made to look like old French architecture, but it’s also used in a modern way.
Pros of Mansard Style Roof
The bottom portion of a mansard style roof can be flat, or slightly concave or convex, depending on which part of the roof.
Some of the rooflines on very old buildings can be quite ornate and utilize both convex and concave shapes.
Very often, dormer windows are set into the lower portion of the roof, making the attic space very roomy and full of light.
In fact, this was the original thought behind building so many structures with this roofline.
Parisians were taxed for the number of floors under their roof. The “garret” underneath a mansard style roof wasn’t considered a separate story but could be used as living space.
If your house isn’t designed with the attic space already finished, a mansard style roof provides an excellent way to expand without having to build on to your home.
Mansard roofs also support more even heat distribution in your house, which makes it more comfortable.
The mansard roof style can look very elegant and timeless if it is done right. In addition, modern materials make mansard style roofs last longer than they did in times past.
Cons of Mansard Style Roof
If you are trying to build a new house with a mansard roof, you have to know what you are doing to get a permit.
Typically, mansard roofs need to be capped at a certain height to protect your house from structural damage.
Mansard roofs can also be expensive to replace, due to how much longer it takes for the workers and the fact that they need more materials than other roof types.
A new installation of a mansard roof will require a certain degree of specialty. Not every roofer has experience with this kind of design.
Mansard roofs are also not ideal for areas with extreme weather, due to the low slope of the upper part of the roof. The lower the slope, the more easily snow and ice can sit on it and cause damage.
The best thing you can do for a mansard roof is to stay on top of maintenance.
Bringing it Home
If your house is built with a mansard style roof, you are to be congratulated! You have a classy-looking style that is sure to stand out in your neighborhood.
Make sure you get regular inspections and maintenance for your mansard style roof, and there’s no reason it won’t last for many years to come.
If you live in Southeast Michigan and have a mansard roof that needs attention, please give us a call. We would be honored to help!