Gable Window Vs. Dormer Window: What’s The Difference?

There are so many terms being thrown around on HGTV, The Magnolia Network, and by realtors, that it’s hard to keep them all straight. We have gable windows, dormer windows, egress windows, and so many more strange terms. 

We’ve explained the difference between bay windows and bow windows before, but now it’s time to get even more complicated. Gable windows vs. dormer windows. What are they are how are they different? 

What Is A Gable Window?

Gable Window Vs. Dormer Window
Image from oldhouseonline

A gable window sits at the end of a pitched roof on the side of the house. They have a flat surface and allow natural light to flow through the room. Gable windows aren’t placed on sloping roofs nor are they protruding from the house. 

Gable windows often look just like any other type of window. They are simply placed on the end of a house. If they were placed on a roof like dormers are, they would then be called skylights because they would still be flat.

What Is A Dormer Window?

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Image from Marcus Gleysteen Architects

A dormer window is different than a gable window. A dormer window is a window that sits away from the house, usually having three sides. There are a lot of different types of dormers, most of which we’ll talk about later.

The most common type of dormer is a gabled dormer. This is where the confusion sets in. Let’s talk more about what a gabled dormer is to clear up any further confusion on the difference between a dormer and a gabled window. 

What Is A Gabled Dormer?

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Picture from Ryan Street & Associates

You see, a gabled dormer is simply a standard dormer with a gabled roof. There are two roof panels and three wall panels. They are called gabled dormers because they are in fact, gabled. Which is a word people don’t always understand. 

The word “gabled” means, “constructed with a single slope on each side of the ridge supported at the end by a gable or vertical triangular portion of an end wall.” That said, it can also describe a window at the end of a house.

Thus, a “gable window” also called gabled window. 

What’s The Difference Between A Gable Window And A Dormer Window?

Now that we’ve outlined what a gable window is and what a dormer window is, it’s easier to notice the differences between them. Some people, even companies, will use the words interchangeably, but they are different windows. 

A gable window is a flat window on the flat end of the house. A dormer window is a protruding window coming out of the roof of the house. There aren’t many different types of gable windows, but there are a lot of dormer windows.

Types Of Dormer Windows

There are many different types of dormers. We’ve covered them all before, but it’s always nice to go over them as often as possible so we can memorize the different kinds. It may come in handy later! 

Gable Dormer

We’ve talked about this one. A gable dormer has a pitched triangular roof that extends from the original roof. It also has three walls, the front usually having a window installed in it. This is similar to a doghouse dormer. 

Hip Roof Dormer

A hipped roof dormer has a roof slope on three sides, rather than two like a standard gabled dormer. The slope in front is built on to protect the window from the rain. This is preferred in areas that get a lot of hail. 

Related: Accordion Windows – For When You Want To Get In Touch With Nature

Bonnet Dormer

A bonnet dormer has a curved roof and two walls coming down each side. The soft arch makes the roof look like a bonnet that fits snuggly over the window. The ends don’t curve to meet the roof but leave room for additional walls. 

Nantucket Dormer

A Nantucket dormer is actually two dormers connected by a middle dormer. The two main dormers are gable dormers on most occasions that are connected by a bridging dormer in the center. If you only get one dormer, this is a good option.

Lucarne Dormer

Think gothic architecture with this one. These steep dormers are seen in cathedrals and chapels. They are tall and point, looking very much like they should belong in a castle. They are very rare in modern architecture. 

Flat Dormer

Flat roof dormers have flat roofs. It’s as simple as that. There are no slopes, just a flat roof. There are pros and cons to flat roofs of any kind. Here is what you need to know about flat roofs and the safety concerns involved. 

Shed Dormer

Image from kevin akey -azd associates

A shed dormer is the type of dormer you’d normally see on sheds. They look like flat dormers only the roof is slightly sloped. This is to prevent a buildup of snow or rain. They are often seen on lodges and cabins. 

Wall Dormer

A wall dormer doesn’t protrude from the wall like other dormers but is a continuation of it. There are two walls on the side and a roof. But the front of the dormer is level with the wall on the front of the house. 

Flared Gable Dormer

A flared gable dormer is just like a regular gable dormer. The only difference is that a flared gable dormer flares out at the ends of the roof. This makes it look like a spinning skirt or molded clay pinched at the ends.

Pedimented Dormer

A pedimented dormer is different than other dormers because it is supported by pillars rather than the roof or another wall. It extends beyond the roof like a deck or a balcony might. 

Pyramidal Dormer

Picture credit Fryday & Doyne

Pyramidal dormers are very unique. They are like a hipped roof dormer but they have a polygonal shape that looks like a pyramid on top. This gives you more room to interpret it into your design style. 

Link Dormer

A link dormer doesn’t usually have a window. Instead, it’s more about the roof aspect of the dormer that surrounds a chimney or other structure. It is used to connect other structures rather than stand-alone. 

Recessed Dormer

A recessed dormer is a “recessed dormer” of course. This dormer is concave instead of convex. It pulled back into the house and often leaves floor space outside on a deck rather than inside like other dormers. 

Related: Floor To Ceiling Windows: A New Way To Define Your Home

Blind Dormer

A blind dormer isn’t even a real dormer at all. It’s a cheap way to add curb appeal to your house. But it isn’t a functioning dormer, it’s simply a “dormer” added to the exterior of a house to look fancy. 

Eyebrow Dormer

Image from Polhemus Savery DaSilva

Eyebrow dormers are narrow dormers that curve down and look like eyes peeking out from beneath the roof. There are legends that houses with eyebrow dormers are actually alive like the house on Monster House. 

Reasons For Dormers And Gable Windows

There are a lot of reasons for dormers and gable windows. Some reasons only apply to one while some apply to both.

Natural Light – Both

Both dormers and gable windows offer natural light, as all windows do. Dormers offer light from the sides of the house while gable windows offer light coming from the end of the house. If you have both, you can have light all day long.

Resale Value – Both

The more windows you have in general, the more you can sell your house. But when you add special windows like dormer windows or gable windows, you can add even more profit to what you put into adding them. 

Extra Space – Dormer Windows

Gable windows don’t protrude from the house so they don’t offer any additional floor space. But dormer windows do add at least a few square foot, sometimes enough space to add a bed or window seat.

Ventilation – Both

Both types of windows offer ventilation. More often than not, both dormer windows and gable windows open. If you want to know more about different types of windows that you can use, check out this article on window width.

Attic Windows – Both

Since both windows can be put high on a house, they can both be used in attics. In fact, having both is favorable, but if you have to choose only one then dormer windows are better because they do offer more space.

Security – Dormer Windows

Although you can exit through a gable window during a fire or emergency, you won’t have anything to climb on in most cases. But with a dormer window, you can climb out onto the roof, which is a great way to escape.

Curb Appeal – Both

Both dormer windows and gable windows look amazing from the curb. You can add either of them to make your house look more attractive. Doing something like eyebrow windows can really make a place look special. 

Symmetry – Gable Window

Dormer windows can add symmetry, but not in the same way that gable windows do. With gable windows, the slope of the windows matches the slope of the roof. This makes for a truly aesthetically pleasing combo. 

Should I Get Gable Windows Or Dormer Windows?

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Image from Dennis Mayer – Photographer

This all depends on what you’re looking for. If you can afford both, then there’s really no cons to doing so. But if you have to choose between the two, then there are a few things to consider before committing to a choice.

Gable windows are perfect if the end of your house is your feature side. If this is where the front door is or if this is where you have clerestory windows. Because gable windows can be clerestory windows too.

But if the side of your house is facing the road and you want it to stand out, then dormer windows should be your choice. They are expensive because you probably need to add more than one to balance things out.

However, windows always make a big statement are almost always worth the investment. So choose wisely, but don’t look back! Both gable windows and dormer windows can bring a house from an 8 to a 10!