A parapet roof is an expansion or addition of a wall at the roofline. While most notable for medieval castles and temples, you can also find this roof style on residential homes.
What is a Parapet Roof?
Parapet comes from the Italian word ‘parapetto,’ which means to cover or defend. A parapet roof features a wall or barrier that extends past the roof, acting as a type of railing.
Parapet roofs originated in ancient times as a method of defense. Military members would stand behind the walls, using them to shield themselves from invaders. Today, the purpose of parapet roofs is to create safety rails, house equipment, serve as decor, or protect roofing materials from high winds.
Types of Parapet Roofs
Today’s parapet roofs are much different than those in medieval times. Still, they’re not uncommon, and there’s more than one type.
- Plain – A plain parapet roof is a solid wall most often used to create privacy on the rooftops of residential apartments and condo buildings. Concrete is a top material choice for plain parapets, and this style is not decorative.
- Embattled – Embattled Parapets originated in ancient times and feature high and low sections of walls. The staggering of walls gave military members a gap to shoot weapons and higher spans of walls to take cover. Medieval castles and ancient buildings often boasted embattled parapet roofs.
- Paneled – Panelled parapets are solid but feature a decorative design on the exterior.
- Perforated – Perforated parapets feature a wall above the roofline with a design pattern featuring perforations or openings.
Can You Add a Parapet to a Sloped Roof?
While parapets are most popular for flat roofs, you can add them to sloped roofs. But since you can’t store equipment or lounge on a steep-sloped roof, the main benefit is aesthetics. Some modern or minimalist-style architects will camouflage a gable roof by adding a parapet and creating the illusion of a flat roof.
The Pros and Cons of a Parapet Roof
If you’re considering adding a parapet to your home, here’s a rundown of the pros and cons.
- It can add decorative detail to a home.
- A parapet can make a gable roof appear to be a flat roof, ideal for modern-style architecture.
- If you have a flat roof, a parapet can work as a railing, making your rooftop space safer or giving you a space to conceal outdoor equipment.
- A well-constructed parapet can help shield a roof from wind damage.
- Parapet roofs can be expensive, and most roofers aren’t familiar with this design.
- There’s an increased chance of leaks where the parapet meets the wall and edge of the roof.
- Adding a parapet to a sloped roof doesn’t create usable space.
Examples of Parapet Roofs
Here’s a look at the types and examples of parapet roofs.
Flat Roof with Parapets
In modern times, flat roofs are the most common type to boast parapets. These extending walls define lounging space and rooftop decks. Featured in this picture is an example of a plain parapet and a perforated modern parapet roof design.
Example of Perforated Parapet
Perforated parapets feature openings in their design, which you can see over the patio roof of this Dutch colonial home. The parapet wall adds to the traditional look of the house but also functions as a safety railing.
Embattled Parapet Roof on a Castle
Original styles looked like this example of an embattled parapet roof on a castle. The early version of a parapet offered military members protection against attacks but also gave them a spot to fire weapons or have a high vantage point.