A gabled roof is a type of sloped roof in which the two halves of the roof meet to form a peak which tops triangular sections of wall on either end of the home; technically, it is these triangular sections that are known as gables, with the roof being designed around the gables. This is in contrast with a hipped roof, which resembles a simple pyramid plopped onto the top of a house. Gabled roofs are extremely common, and they come in an assortment of styles. The gabled roof design is very easy to execute in a simple form, and it creates more room in the upper story of a house than a hipped roof.
When a house has a side gabled roof, it means that the gables are on either side of the house, so when the house is viewed front-on, people see the slope of the roof rising up to the peak of the roofline. If one were to walk around a side gabled home, it would be possible to see the gable. A front-gabled roof is designed with the gable in the front of the house.
In contrast with these simple designs, it is also possible to see a cross gabled roof, in which the floor plan of the home is irregular, necessitating some creative tricks with the roof design. For example, an L-shaped home might have gables at the ends of the L. Dormers, projections which rise from the roof to create more light and space, are also considered cross-gables, because their roofline is typically perpendicular to that of the rest of the home.
Depending on where one lives, a gable roof can be an advantage, or a liability. In regions which are prone to high winds, the gables can act like sails to trap heavy winds, and the roof may potentially peel open like a tin can because the eaves over the gable are subjected to too much force. On the other hand, the pitch of a gable roof is often very steep, which means that snow is less likely to settle on the roof, reducing the risk of a cave-in.
The other major advantage to a gable roof is that such roofs can be used to subvert building restrictions. In some communities, for example, full three story homes are banned to retain a more rustic feel. By using a gable roof, builders can create a partial third story which may be quite roomy, especially if it designed with dormers, thereby generating more usable space in a home.