A major part of your tiny house build should focus on roofing, as your roof might be the most important building block of your home, protecting you from harsh weather and keeping your home insulated. Constructing the roof of your tiny house will depend on two things: the structural design and the materials you use to build the roof with. With these two components, you can explore your creativity and figure out what kind of roof would be perfect for you.
So what are the choices available for building a tiny house roof? Depending on the style of roof you have in mind (shed, saltbox, gable, flat, arched, or gambrel), you can choose among steel metal roofing, asphalt shingles, or ceramic tiles to build the roof of your tiny home.
Common Roof Styles For a Tiny House Roof
There are several roof styles suitable for your tiny house. Although some designs are purely for aesthetic purposes, others can provide actual benefits for your tiny home such as better access to natural lighting. You should also think about how much headroom you want for your loft bedroom and how much pitch you will need.
The pitch is the angle or slope at which your roof sits relative to the floor or ground. A flat roof would have no pitch while a gable roof would have a large pitch. The pitch is important because it determines how quickly snow and rainwater will run off your home. The less time water sits on the roof, the better you can prevent any leaks.
Here are some of the most common roof styles you would see on a tiny house:
|Shed Roof or Lean-To||A shed roof is a single-sloped roof surface that isn’t attached to another roof surface.||Great for a loft area, since the peak of the roof is at the maximum height of your structure; |
Can easily harvest rainwater
|Difficult to get rid of snow; |
Requires a metal roof and a heavy pitch
|Saltbox Roof||A saltbox roof is quite similar to a shed roof but is unique by having two sides with an off-center peak. Usually, saltbox roofs have a small side with a low slope and a larger side with an even lower slope.||Good water run-off;|
Allows you the option to add a skylight instead of another window
|Off-peak center may cause weight to be unevenly distributed;Requires fortified end walls and structural reinforcements|
|Gambrel or Barn Style Roof||A gambrel roof is what you commonly see as a typical barn roof. It has two symmetrical sides and each side has two more slopes, one shallower and one steeper.||Strong, sound structure; |
Can hold a loft with much more headroom
|Difficult for beginners;|
Must be reinforced at each joint to maximize strength;
Takes the most materials to create
|Gable Roof||The gable roof is the most common roof style for tiny houses and traditional homes alike. It has two connected roof sides that slope in opposite directions.||Weather-resistant roof style;|
Simple to build
|Cannot efficiently maximize space, especially if you’re planning on having a loft bedroom.|
Requires structural reinforcements for snowy climates, which may consume more headroom
|Flat Roof||As the name suggests, a flat roof is a completely flat surface with no pitch.||Aesthetically pleasing for its clean, symmetrical lines.||May not withstand water, snow, and other debris in the long run.|
|Arched or Round Roof||An arched or round roof is a unique design, commonly seen on a caravan wagon.||Strong and sturdy; |
Can distribute weight evenly
|Complicated construction project; |
Not suitable for first-time DIY builders
Best Roofing Materials for a Tiny House
There are a lot of roofing materials available on the market today but not all of them are suitable for tiny houses, especially those on wheels. Some materials are too heavy and cannot be supported by the structure of a tiny house while others have a short lifespan in rainy or snowy climates.
The best common roofing materials are asphalt shingles, metal roofing panels, and ceramic tiles.
Metal roofing panels
Average cost: $75 - $350 per square (100 square feet) of steel roofing; $150 - $350 per square of galvanized steel
Metal roofing panels are great for tiny houses because they are extremely lightweight and durable. Even if your tiny house on wheels is constantly exposed to the elements, metal can resist wind, water, snow, fire, mold, mildew, and bugs. A metal roof is easy to install and can last several decades when well-taken care of.
While there are many metal roof options including copper and aluminum, steel roofing panels are the most popular because they are inexpensive. Steel roofing panels are strong; they can resist rust and withstand impact caused by hail or other debris types. Galvanized steel is ideal for its zinc-coating, making the steel resistant to corrosion. Although it can be more expensive than galvalume steel, galvanized steel is more durable and energy-efficient.
Average cost: $100 - $150 per square of asphalt or composition shingles
Shingles can come in different materials but asphalt is one of the most effective for its moderate protection and reasonable price point. Asphalt shingles can be quickly installed in a couple of days and is popular for its wide range of colors. Composition shingles can even achieve the tile look without the additional weight and can withstand harsh weather.
If you’re looking into purchasing asphalt shingles for your tiny house roof, do remember that they are fit for areas shifting between extreme heat and freezing temperatures as the shingles could crack. Asphalt shingles are also not the most environmentally friendly option as they are not recyclable and waste a lot of energy to produce.
Average cost: $2 - $10 per square foot of ceramic roof tile materials
Putting ceramic tiles made of concrete, clay, slate, or terracotta on your tiny house roof can achieve a distinctive look. Additionally, ceramic tiles are incredibly long-lasting in the right climate and can survive external fires, hail, and high winds. Once you install the tiles, you probably won’t have to worry about maintaining your roof for leaks, rotting, or insect damage.
However, ceramic tiles can be expensive, heavy, and difficult to install. They are best for tiny houses built on a foundation because of their weight. Although they are durable, the tiles can be broken if they suffer a heavy impact like a falling tree branch. Ceramic tiles are also suitable only for roofs with a sharp slope.
Creative Alternatives for Tiny House Roofing
If you are comfortable with thinking outside the box, you may want to try your hand at building a less-than-conventional tiny house roof:
- Solar shingle roof: Rooftop solar panels are always useful as an additional source of energy for tiny houses but some tiny home owners can’t afford to have them because they bear a lot of additional weight. Instead of using a conventional solar panel, why not opt to try solar shingles? Modern solar shingles are made with sturdy materials like tempered glass so they can be installed and perform like a normal shingle would -- except they create electricity for you.
- “Living” roof: A living roof is kind of like having a mini garden space atop your tiny house. It can provide you extra food if you grow edibles and can utilize rainwater well. A living roof can even add to your tiny house’s insulation. However, you need to provide a structure strong enough to support the additional weight and do the work needed for drainage and waterproofing.
Create a Strong Roof For Your Tiny Home
The roof of your tiny house will keep you safe and dry in any weather so be sure to choose the construction style and materials with care. Remember, the tiny house philosophy is all about functionality. As long as it’s sturdy enough to withstand the elements, your tiny home’s roof achieves its purpose.
Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).
This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.