Butterfly roofs have a distinctive design, opposite of a standard gable roof. They feature two sides that slope down and meet in the middle, resembling a “V” or set of butterfly wings.
Butterfly roofs are a mid-century staple but now grace the tops of ultra-modern or minimal architecture. At first sight, it seems these roofs would pose problems, but there are many advantages to this style.
If you’re considering purchasing or building a home with a butterfly roof, here’s what you should know.
What is a Butterfly Roof?
A butterfly roof is the inverted form of a standard gable roof. It has two sides that slope downward from opposite ends and meet in the middle to form a dip or valley. The shape looks like a butterfly in mid-flight.
Even though butterfly roofs can serve the practical purpose of rainwater collection, designers utilize them for aesthetics.
The first modern butterfly roof debuted on a vacation home in Chile in the 1930s. In the 1950s, this roof style soared in popularity for mid-century modern homes.
Designers still use this roof style on ultra-modern and minimal-style houses.
What About Butterfly Roof Drainage?
It’s a common misconception that butterfly roofs encourage water build-up rather than drainage – especially since there’s no place for a gutter system. Instead, the valley of butterfly roofs is angled. Water collects in the middle and redirects toward a downspout or scupper.
In some designs where the valley slope isn’t significant, builders implement roof crickets to encourage proper drainage.
Pros and Cons of Butterfly Roofs
The distinct design of a butterfly roof poses a strong set of pros and cons.
The pros of a butterfly roof:
- Wind resistant – The butterfly roof has an aerodynamic design that withstands extreme winds and performs well in tropical storms.
- Good drainage – The angled V shape of a butterfly roof promotes water drainage.
- Water collection – This is an ideal roof design if you want to collect rainwater for plants or other projects.
- Modern aesthetic – The butterfly roof design coordinates with a modern aesthetic and allows you to place oversized windows in your home.
- Space for solar panels – The inverted shape of a butterfly roof allows plenty of room for solar panels.
The cons of a butterfly roof:
- Expensive – A butterfly roof is more costly to build and install than a standard gable roof.
- Not ideal for snowy climates – This type of roof is not the best choice since it gives snow a place to build.
- Little attic or loft space – The angles of a butterfly roof will take away from potential attic or loft space in your home.
Butterfly Roof Examples
Butterfly roofs often grace the top of modern homes. Here are a few examples.
Trendy Three Story Home with Butterfly Roof
A butterfly roof adds a contemporary touch to this three-story home in Seattle. The mix of concrete, wood, and painted siding gives this home a cozy yet modern feel.
The underside of the butterfly roof covers the porch, providing plenty of shade.
Contemporary White Home with Butterfly Roof
The homeowners went for a monochromatic look, pairing a white butterfly roof with their light-colored home. The clerestory windows make this roof appear to be floating.
The house design has a mid-century look, and the windows allow natural light to flow in.
Minimalist Home with Understated Butterfly Roof
The roof on this home adds a modern look, while the wood provides a natural contrast.
The mix of materials on this home helps it to have a cozier look that blurs the line between modern and rustic.
Wood Home with Multiple Butterfly Roofs
If you want butterfly roofs on a home with multiple levels or additions, here’s a great example of how it can look.
The butterfly roof adds a minimalist look to this wood home surrounded by trees.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
How do you put gutters on a butterfly roof?
You don’t put gutters on a butterfly roof. Instead, rain collects in the roof valley, which is attached to a downspout or scupper. Since the valley is at an angle, it encourages proper drainage.
Can you use a butterfly roof in a snowy climate?
Butterfly roofs are not ideal for snowy climates, but when built correctly, they can work. Since snow will pile in the roof valley, it must be structurally strong enough to bear the weight. The roof also needs a sound drainage system. Consult with an experienced contractor to discuss details.
What type of material for butterfly roofs?
Metal is a common butterfly roof material, but you can use almost any standard roofing material, including asphalt shingles, tiles, or wood shake.
Butterfly roofs have a distinct look that mimics a butterfly’s wings mid-flight. Designers often place this roof style on mid-century modern, minimal, and ultramodern architecture. Despite not having a gutter system, butterfly roofs have good drainage.
The butterfly or “V” roof also poses a couple of disadvantages. Its unique look only fits a small subset of homes. It’s not ideal for snowy climates and reduces attic or loft space.