Saltbox Roof Guide

Jul 15, 2021 | Roofing

Are you debating replacing the roof of your home? Well, the good news is that adding a new roof to your home increases its resale value by over 100 percent.

Experts recommend you should replace your roof anywhere between every 15 and 50 years, depending on the style and materials it’s made of. So whether you plan to sell your house now or are renovating your forever home, new roofing is always a necessary but worthwhile investment.

Below, we discuss the distinguishing features, benefits, and downsides of a saltbox roof. If you’re lucky enough to live in a historical or historically inspired home, read on!


What Is a Saltbox Roof?

Building saltbox roofs has long been part of America’s residential roofing history. Technically any wood-frame building with a saltbox roof can be called a saltbox. But the style has its roots in New England, starting as far back as the 1600s.

A saltbox roof features two unevenly distanced sloped sides that meet at a point above a building. This type of roof is always asymmetrical, meaning one side of the roof is longer than the other. Saltbox roofs often feature a chimney above the back floor, though you don’t see this addition as much on contemporary homes.

In Colonial America, it was common for people to store salt in a small wooden box with an off-center lid. You could open the short side to take out the salt. This utilitarian condiment holder lent the name “saltbox” to houses that resembled it.


Saltbox Roof History

Architectural historians believe the first saltbox roofs were a variation of the Colonial and Cape Cod-style housing popular in America before the 17th century. They were favored because heavy snow and rain quickly slipped off the steeply sloped peaks. It was also easy to climb onto a saltbox roof to do maintenance.

There’s also a tall tale that says these distinctive roofs were born from tax evasion. Queen Anne, once the queen of the American Colonies and England, legislated a tax on double-storied buildings. The saltbox style, with its one-and-a-half floors, allowed homeowners to avoid paying this tax.

It wasn’t until the 1800s that the saltbox style moved out of New England, gaining popularity across the United States.


Pros of a Saltbox Roof

The benefits of saltbox roofs are numerous: there’s a reason why they’re still around after two centuries. They’re proven by a test of time as durable, practical, and aesthetically pleasing.


Naturally Waterproof

Prolonged moisture is the enemy of a roof. From damp and mildew build-ups to actual leaking, snow, and rain damage will shorten the life of your roof.

The saltbox roof’s sharply sloped sides mean it’s highly resistant to extreme weather. There are few places for fallen leaves, rain, and snow to collect, and if it does, it’s easy to climb up and scrape it off. As such, this style is ideally suited to parts of the US with long, cold, and damp winters.

Wind also whips off the steep angles of a saltbox roof, meaning it’s less prone to lifting or other gale-related damage.


Good for Sloped Sites

Because of how a roofing professional assembles saltbox roof parts, they’re the perfect solution for homes on hilly properties. In this case, the driveway can flow down the incline to the garage. The asymmetrical slope of the saltbox roof–with one steep and one gentle side–creates the perfect angles to accommodate a walkout basement.

Not only can this make the placement of the home seem more natural in the surrounding landscape, but it also looks more visually appealing.


Cons of a Saltbox Roof

The saltbox roof design is historically exciting and weather resistant, but it has some negatives as well. Compared with contemporary roof designs, it offers less space and is more challenging to build.


Smaller Sized Rooms

While the distinctive slope of a saltbox roof looks quaint, those angles come with some sacrifices—namely, the size of the rooms.

Inside the home, rooms often have angled ceilings, so ceiling height is compromised, as well as, in many cases, floor space. This is not a roof design that adds square footage to a home.

While some people might feel cramped inside the smaller rooms this roof type tends to create, others like the coziness.


Less Attic Space

In the 1800s, people preferred a saltbox home because it offered a lot more storage space than other house styles of the time. You could stow away all manner of things in the triangular attic, located in the top front of the home.

Today, however, other roofing styles lend themselves better to increased storage space than the saltbox, whether more extensive attics or bigger rooms. And with one in four Americans outgrowing their homes in a few years, homeowners are looking for space.

However, if you’re looking for a home with character, you could consider converting that triangular saltbox roof attic into a quirky playroom, art loft, or guest bedroom instead.


Complicated Structure to Build

Saltbox roof installation isn’t a job for the passionate DIYer unless you have significant building experience. The gable roofing system is complex, and saltboxes are usually topped with wood shakes or asphalt shingles.

Not only are the materials expensive, but the time and labor that goes into putting this type of roof together can be costly. Make sure the roofing contractor you decide to work with has saltbox roof experience.


Saltbox Roof: Leave It to the Professionals

As you can see, there are more benefits and downsides to a saltbox roof. They’re not only an efficient traditional design, but they look beautiful on the right home and in the correct setting. Plus, a new roof will only ever increase the value of your home.

Just be sure to do your homework on techniques, materials, and service providers in your area.

If you’re located in Idaho and Oregon and have a roof that’s looking a little tired, it’s time to consult with the professionals. Contact Signature Roofing today for a free estimate on residential roofing in a range of styles.