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What is a Hip & Valley Roof?

Photo collage of different types of Hip & Valley Roof.

So, you may not be able to figure out what a drill press does just from the name or reason your way to discovering the function behind a bradawl. But some things are named for exactly what they are, like a screwdriver. This is the case with the hip and valley roof.

Put simply, this is a roof that has both hips and valleys. But what, exactly, does that really mean? What does it do and why does it matter?

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When a roof is hipped, it doesn’t mean it’s good at carrying a laundry basket. What this means in roofing talk is that the design slopes down on all four sides. By strict definition, the “hip” of a hipped roof is that point where two sloping sides meet.

The degree of the angle where two sloping sides of a hipped roof meet is known as the hip bevel. A roof that has hips and valleys has more than one section where four sloping sides meet, but these sections are joined to other hipped roof areas. What are they separated by?

Of course: valleys! You’ll see a hip and valley roof design in most newer homes that are built in contemporary styles. It’s still a popular look, though this roof design has been around for many decades.

It sounds simple when you’re reading about it or picturing it in your head. However, actually building a hip and valley roof is a pretty complicated undertaking that requires hip and valley rafters, extensive framing, and expert roofing skills.

Building a Hip and Valley Roof

A red brick home with a dark brown hip and valley roof.

A hip and valley roof must be supported by hip and valley rafters. These rafters are load-bearing and paced at angles, usually 45 degrees. The rafters meet at a common ridge and end at common rafters on each side.

The rafters have to be installed precisely to bear the weight of a hip and valley roof. They also have to perfect match all those hips and valleys and follow the lines of the roof perfectly in order to bear the weight of the roof. If this all sounds complicated, that’s because it is.

The hip and valley roof design is pretty complicated and involved, and this is why it requires an expert to build it properly. Every measurement and every angle of the framing has to be absolutely perfect, which is why you need to have a professional roofer with experience in this particular design to install a hip and valley roof. This is not a project that you want to attempt to DIY.

Think about it. If you’re even one centimeter off of your measurements, you could end up with a roof that isn’t structurally sound. That means it is potentially fatally dangerous.

When you think about it in those terms, it’s definitely worth the price of having a professional roofing company install the framing for your hip and valley roof. Because extensive framing is needed to support this roof design and because there are so many different angles and peaks and dips, hip and valley is one of the more expensive roof designs. It takes a lot of labor and a lot of materials to create this roof design.

You also need to hire a very experienced roofing company to take on this task, which is going to cost you a little bit more. However, because so much time and labor go into the construction of this type of roof, it is a very long-lasting roof type in most cases. Hip and valley roof designs are built to last, which means you should be able to have this roof for a lifetime as long as it’s maintained with minor repairs and attention.

Advantages and Disadvantages

A close look at a modern asphalt hip and valley roof.

The hip and valley roof is one of the most popular designs out there, so much so that it has become one of the hallmarks of today’s home designs. You can see these roof types everywhere in newer subdivisions. The main advantage of having this style of roof is pretty obvious: it looks great.

A roof that has many dips and peaks is far more visually interesting than a roof that maintains a single shape to cover the whole of the house. The roof ends up becoming a big architectural feature of the house and not just a necessary topper to complete the construction. However, there are disadvantages to every single option and the hip and valley roof isn’t immune to that.

Everywhere there is a valley, there is a possibility that rain, snow, and debris will pile up. Everywhere that two hipped areas of the roof are joined, you end up with a crevice and this can easily become a nightmare if something gets caught up there. A few very heavy snowfalls could put a whole lot of weight on that valley and will ultimately melt, creating a lot of water.

This may turn into leaks or damage to the roof. You need to make sure your roof has an excellent drainage system so that water and snow can melt off and get carried away from your roof, where it can’t do any damage. Check frequently for blockages that can prevent the water from draining effectively.

Otherwise, water could pool up and lead to major roof damage. Also, remember that any roof that has multiple dips and valleys has multiple points where things could go wrong. There’s more that could go wrong because you have more potentially weak areas of the roof.

Preventing debris from getting trapped isn’t so easy. There is no convenient drainage system for tree limbs and fall leaves that may get trapped in the valleys of your hip and valley roof. For this, you’ll need a ladder and the proper safety gear to clean off all the crap that your roof shouldn’t have on top of it.

One big advantage of a hip and valley roof is wind resistance. Because they’re framed inside to be load-bearing and because the design has a shape that’s a bit like several pyramids put together, hip and valley roof designs are pretty resistant to wind damage. The sloping sides give the roof a more aerodynamic design, compared to other options.

Should your home be topped with hops and valleys in this classic, stylish roof design? There are ups and downs to every roof design but the hip and valley definitely have a few more ups (hops) and it does downs (valleys).

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