The bonnet roof, also called a belcote roof, kicked-eaves roof, modified hip or modified gable roof is similar to the mansard roof in that it has looks like a roof on top of a roof. The difference is that where mansard roofs have steeply sloped sides, bonnet roofs have low slopes and where mansards have low slopes, bonnet roofs have steep slopes.
The overall look resembles a bonnet, where the lower part provides shade for the sides of the home and the porch (if there is one).
The history of the bonnet roof goes back to the 1700s. German and Polish people built their greenhouses with bonnet style roofs because they would protect plants from bad weather and focus the sun’s rays where they were needed. Also in the 1700s, the bonnet roof became popular because of the Creole architectural influence that shaped the Mississippi River area. Those Creoles loved the bonnet roof!
In areas where high winds and hurricanes are the norm, bonnet roofs are a better option than a gable roof because they are less likely to get damaged or torn off.
Their low-sloped lower sides also offer protection from the sun, keeping the house and porch area cooler in hot weather.
The unique look of the bonnet roof is somewhat of a turnoff to modern builders. It simply looks dated and, unless you’re going for a 17th century vibe, you’re more likely choose a different style of roof for your home, business, greenhouse, cottage, etc.
It’s also more complex to design and build a bonnet roof, so added materials and expenses can make other roof styles more appealing.
For maintenance and repairs, you’ll need to pay special attention to the valleys where the slopes meet. Where there are valleys, there are opportunities for snow and water to accumulate.
Roofing Materials to Use
Hundreds of years have passed since this style of roof was in vogue. When the bonnet was in its heydey, the traditional roofing material was wood. We’ve come a long way in roofing material technology since then, so what you choose to cover your roof with is a matter of taste and budget. Most residential homes are covered with asphalt shingles.
Edmonton seems to be particularly fond of wood shakes as well, and those are both fine choices. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, consider going for a metal roof, which can last the lifetime of the building.
Despite their long history, bonnet roofs aren’t yet a thing of the past. Ranch houses, mountain retreats, cottages, and, yes, even modern homes still feature the bonnet roof. It looks cozy and inviting. There’s nothing pretentious about it. It’s not too drastic, it’s not too daring. It could be just right for you!