Things to Consider When You Hate Your Home’s Roofline and Want to Switch It Up

changing a roofline

Do you wish your home had a different roofline? Perhaps you’ve looked at the roof from the road, and thoughts were all about curb appeal. Or, you looked up at the low flat ceiling from inside, wishing there was some way to make the room seem larger, brighter or more inviting. Or perhaps you were on the roof itself thinking, “Man, this would be a great place for a nice outdoor living space like a deck or covered balcony.”

Roof design changes can have any number of motivations behind them, but they always lead to the same set of questions: Is it possible? How much will it cost? How long will it take? What will it look like? What kind of help do I need? These are all good questions. Let’s see if we can shed some light on them.

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Is It Possible to Change the Roofline?

We already know, of course, that any remodeling idea is possible somehow. The real question is usually “is it feasible?” Possibility is a question of “does the technology exist?” whereas feasibility is a question of “is my idea just totally out in left field?”

When it comes to roof design changes, the answer is usually a combination of engineering and financial considerations. From an engineering perspective, roof design changes can usually be accomplished without a total rebuild, but some roof structures are harder to modify than others. That’s where the financial piece comes in. How much room is in your budget to do this work? How much room is in the house itself for the investment? It’s never a great idea to put more money into a house than you could ever recover on resale and roof design modifications often lean in that direction.

How Much Will a Roofline Change Cost?

What kind of modification are you considering?

Adding a Dormer: $$

Dormers are great ways to increase the size of an attic room or bring some light into an existing space. Often, dormers can be added to existing roof designs without too much major reconstruction and the cost can be manageable. It varies so much from house to house that it’s impossible to throw out real numbers, but let’s just say this might be a two-dollar-sign kind of project.

Raising Interior Ceilings: $$$$

In every real estate market there are oodles of homes with flat ceilings at 8 feet or less. My in-laws live in a home with 7-foot, 6-inch ceilings and have been happily content with that for over 40 years. Yet “raising these ceilings” is one of the most common requests fixer-upper buyers make. Buyers today want more open and airy spaces and high ceilings are very popular. But when it comes to making all of the structural changes required to raise the ceilings in a flat ceiling home, the costs get very high very quickly. This is a four-dollar-sign project for sure. It might be worth asking if a dormer would help.

Adding Visual Interest and Curb Appeal to a Boring Roof: $

If you feel that your roofline is ugly or boring, maybe you’re in luck. Boring roof lines are usually simple roof lines. Imagine a simple house that has a single ridge running lengthwise and two plain slopes of shingles on the roof. That house can be improved easily by adding some cosmetic structure to the roof. Maybe a “dummy” kind of dormer that isn’t actually open below, or bumping out a small porch roof over an outdoor living space. In the world of roof design changes, this is a simple and one-dollar-sign kind of project.

What Kind of Help Will I Need?

I skipped a couple of my questions here: How long will it take? What will it look like?

The reason is that roof design changes really are firmly in the realm of “requires professional assistance.” If you know exactly what you want and it’s simple, you might just talk directly to a roofing contractor or a general contractor. If you’ve got more complex ideas or aren’t yet sure what you really want, you’ll need the help of a design professional. An architect or a design-build remodeler is probably your best bet.

These pros will be able to help you understand all of the ramifications of the various options and help you know the next step. Does the work require a permit? Most likely. Will you need a structural engineer? Again, the answer is probably yes and a design professional will help you through those steps.

All things considered, my advice is to follow the thread of that idea you have and find out more. Changing a roofline can be a challenging project, but it can also be immensely rewarding and well worth the effort.