Saltbox Roof: What It is and Examples

A saltbox roof is an asymmetrical gable-style roof. The front side is usually short with a slight slope, while the back side is long.

Saltbox RoofView in gallery

Saltbox roofs have a distinctive look and are ideal for areas with lots of rain. Builders have added this simple style of roof to homes for centuries.

If you’re considering a house with a saltbox roof, here’s what you need to know.

What is a Saltbox Roof?

What is a Saltbox RoofView in gallery

Saltbox roofs are similar to gable roofs. Instead of being symmetrical, one side of the saltbox roof is much longer than the other. The long side typically extends to the first floor of two and three-story homes.

A common feature of saltbox roofs is having a brick chimney coming out of the middle.

Homebuilders started using this roof style in Colonial America during the 17th century. Saltbox roofs are most prevalent in New England, but you can find them in homes across the country.

How Did Saltbox Roofs Receive Their Name?

Saltbox homes received their name due to the close resemblance of the boxes people kept their salt in during the time. These boxes were wooden with an off-center lid that opened on the shorter side.

What Kind of Houses Have Saltbox Roofs?

Saltbox roofs are synonymous with colonial-style houses. In the US, builders began using them as early as the 17th century. Aside from colonial homes, you’ll also see saltbox roofs on older farmhouses and cabins. 

Since these roofs are ideal for areas with heavy rainfall, you might also see them on sheds, barns, and garages.

The Pros and Cons of a Saltbox Roof

Saltbox roofs have a distinct set of pros and cons. 

The pros of saltbox roofs:

  • Ideal for Northern Climates – Since no part of a saltbox roof is flat, they’re ideal for regions that experience heavy snowfall. The roof’s slope directs the snow to the ground rather than promoting build-up.
  • Ideal for Rainy Climates – Saltbox roofs are sloped, with no flat spaces, helping direct rainfall to the gutters.
  • Easy to Maintain – These roofs are a simple design that’s easy to maintain.
  • Can Use Any Roof Material – You can use any roof material on a saltbox home.
  • Excellent Wind Resistance – Saltbox roofs stand up to high winds better than a standard gable roof.

The cons of saltbox roofs:

  • Angled Interior Walls – The biggest downside to saltbox homes is the angle they create on interior walls – especially on the top floors.
  • Aesthetics – Saltbox roofs work well for older and colonial homes but aren’t as big of a fit for modern houses.

Saltbox Roof Examples

Saltbox roofs are nothing new – they’ve been adorning homes since the 1600s. Here are some examples if you’re interested in building or buying a house with a saltbox roof.

Traditional Colonial Style Home with Saltbox Roof

Traditional Colonial Style Home with Saltbox RoofView in gallery
Classic Colonial Homes, Inc.

Colonial-style homes were the first to get saltbox roofs. In this picture, the saltbox roof gives this home a timeless look.

The additions and garage have a standard gable roof, which works well for the overall look of this property.

Modern Saltbox Roof

Modern Saltbox RoofView in gallery
Ryan Young, AIA

While it’s not common to see saltbox roofs on modern houses, you can do it with a twist.

The designer puts a spin on a saltbox roof on this home to make it contemporary. The result is a trendy house with an asymmetrical roof on the structure and a gable roof over the entry.

Old Farmhouse with a Saltbox Roof

Old Farmhouse with a Saltbox RoofView in gallery

It’s not uncommon to find old farmhouses with saltbox-style roofs. Many people associate saltbox-style homes with simple living and farmhouses.

This old wood-sided home looks quaint with its asymmetrical roof and surrounding outbuildings.

Saltbox Barn Home with Metal Roof

Saltbox Barn Home with Metal RoofView in gallery
Barn Livin’ LLC

If you’re wondering if you can use metal on a saltbox roof, you can. This barn home has a metal saltbox roof with a long front and short backside. 

The roof on this home is another example of a modern way to incorporate saltbox style.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What is a saltbox shed?

A saltbox shed is a shed with a saltbox roof. The roof comes to a point, and on one side, typically the front, the roof is short. The other side is long with a lower slope, ideal for areas with heavy wind, rain, or snowfall.

What kind of materials can you use on a saltbox roof?

The most popular material for a saltbox roof is shingles, but you can use anything you’d like. For example, you can use metal, asphalt, cedar shake, or fiber cement on your saltbox roof.

What is a saltbox garage?

A saltbox garage is any garage with a saltbox roof. These are asymmetrical gable-style roofs. They have one short side and one long, lower-sloped side. 

Saltbox roofs are great for areas with extreme climates. Home builders have used these roofs since the 1600s. They get their name from their resemblance to old wooden salt containers.

Final Thoughts

Saltbox roofs are classic. They’ve been around since the 1600s and are prevalent on colonial-style homes. While not in use as much today, saltbox-style roofs are still an ideal choice for homes in northern climates.

Saltbox roofs protect your home from heavy rainfall, snow, and high winds. The biggest downside is that they create sloped interior walls, taking away space on the top floors.