Here’s our types of dormers guide including what they are, benefits, different designs, classes of houses that use a dormer, cost and if they add resale value to a home.
There are certain details about your home that might just not sit right. Maybe your roof looks a little too bland or you just want to add a little more space inside your home as you get closer to the roof, a dormer can be a great choice.
These popular design features are often talked about, although you might not have an expert view of what to look for.
That’s why, in this guide, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about different types of dormers and what they can offer.
What is a Dormer?
A dormer is a type of structure that you see on a pitched roof that extends beyond the standard house roof design. Dormers often contain a window and project out from the slope of the roof.
For instance, you might have seen or know of a house that has a standard pitched roof but has some windows that extend out from the roof design. These are dormer windows.
Of course, that’s only an example and not all dormers are dormer windows. Some might suit other purposes such as purely aesthetic designs or are used to extend loft space.
All a dormer technically requires is a design feature on a pitched roof that sticks out significantly from the roof’s pitch.
Benefits of Dormers
Now that we understand what a dormer is, why would you want one? There are actually a few reasons that you might want to add a dormer to your home other than just the sheer aesthetic appeal either.
For one, a window dormer can help open up a space to create better lighting. Alternatively, dormers can also create more space because they allow you to extend beyond the sloped ceiling that a pitched roof can create.
This is particularly handy if you have loft space that you want to maximize.
Different Types of Dormers
Here we share the various types of dormers and the style of houses they are often found on.
Gabled dormers are one of the most common types of dormers that you might see often since it is the most common design. The design features a dormer with a pitch of its own, coming up to a point over the center of the dormer or window, in the case of a window dormer.
Gabled dormers are often cited for their versatility since they fit in a variety of different architecture types.
They’re particularly common on houses ranging in design from Gothic Revival to Colonial Revival and even options like Tudor or Queen Anne Victorian as well as Tudor and Craftsman homes.
If a gabled dormer is aesthetically pleasing to you but doesn’t quite work for what you need, you might want to consider a similar style. An alternative that’s still close to the gabled dormer style is a flared gable dormer.
These dormers take the same general idea as a gabled dormer in coming to a drastic peak.
However, flared gable dormers often cut out farther and accommodate more than just a small addition. A flared gable might shade a row of windows or even make room for another addition.
Since these are wider, you will need more support for the dormer. For flared gable dormers, this usually comes in the form of corbels to hold up the overhang.
Arched top dormers come from France originally. They came about with the Second Empire-style homes that reached their peak in the last 1800s around 1885.
Later, the style was adopted by Americans who saw the style of French architecture. They later saw a revival in popularity again from about 1915 to 1945 during the height of the French Eclectic style.
The name for this type of dormer is pretty straightforward too. As the name suggests, the dormer arches. The arch sits at the top of the dormer – above the window, in the case of a window dormer – and arches upward.
A shed dormer is so named because it looks a lot like the type of window or dormer you’d usually see on a shed. Generally, though, the style works well for any roof that slopes forward as many shed rooves tend to do.
Instead of sticking out of the roof, a shed dormer almost looks like it popped up out of the roof like an old model car’s pop-up headlights.
Like many others, these are most often installed as window dormers. These are most often seen in Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial, and Craftsman houses.
Steep Roof Shed
We just took a look at a shed dormer. However, that shouldn’t be confused with another, similarly-named dormer model, the steep roof shed dormer.
These are best-suited for a mansard roof. If you aren’t familiar with this style, it’s a type of roof that’s pitched dramatically on the sides but flat on the top. To accommodate this, a steep roof shed dormer doesn’t stick out quite as much like many other designs.
It sits almost flat against the roof, usually added to create a little bit more space or add a window to let more natural light in. You can even use them to help create a usable type of attic if you need it.
A hip roof is a bit different from a gabled roof in how it’s designed. Instead of having a pitch that slopes on either side, a hip roof is four-sided and comes to its highest point in one location, usually over the center of the house.
Naturally, if you have a hip roof, you’ll want to consider a dormer that suits it just like if you have a gable roof or a mansard roof.
To work with this type of roof, hipped dormers have the same style of roofing over the top of the dormer. In other words, the dormer will have a hipped roof of its very own to keep some continuity in the design.
There’s another way to mix up the look of your dormers without just considering variations in the shape of the pitch or arch on the dormer.
You can get creative with the way that your dormer protrudes from the house. As we’ve seen, many iterations of the design face directly outward.
A pyramidal dormer is a little different in that the “front” of the dormer comes to a 45-degree angle. Because of this, if you were to have a windowed pyramidal dormer, you would have the advantage of a window facing in each direction out from this peak, giving you a wider view.
Any eyebrow dormer has a bit more of a unique design than a simple arched dormer, for example. They almost look like eyebrows but not quite, hence the name.
These dormers are often wider and feature a main arch ending in a short, straight overhang on either side of the dormer. The end result is an arch that flattens out as you reach the end of either side of the dormer.
These types of dormers are often seen on homes on the east coast of the United States, usually close to the seaside. They’re usually paired with a roofing style that curves the shingles around eaves.
When it comes to pedimented dormers, you’re looking at another design that looks fairly close to the most popular option of a gabled dormer. However, there are a few key differences that set these two styles apart, of course.
Pedimented dormers are named after the term “pediment.” That term refers to the triangular section of the wall that you might see above columns but below the roof like you might see on the front of an Ancient Greek or Roman temple.
As for the dormer, you get the triangular pitch and these are often windowed dormers to mimic the look of columns on either side of the window.
So far, we’ve mostly talked about how dormers work with roofing. Yet, that isn’t the only option you have. If you want a dormer installed, you can turn to a wall dormer if you don’t want to focus on just your roof.
Wall dormers, as their name suggests, protrude out from a wall rather than a roof. However, they aren’t limited to a single appearance. You can have almost any type of dormer reworked as a wall dormer.
As for the inclusion of wall dormers as a style, they’re most often seen on Mission, Romanesque, and Gothic Revival homes.
We often discuss dormers as a way to add a feature that sticks out from your roof. On the other hand, you can opt for a recessed dormer too.
Still, you might wonder exactly what that means. What makes a dormer recessed or, to use another commonly-used term, an inset dormer?
To create a recessed dormer, the walls of the dormer are set deeper into the roof rather than sticking out from it. The result is the space of the dormer coming inward toward the house and an overhang protruding over it.
This style of dormer is great if you want to have some deep-set windows on your upper floor.
If you like the look of a dormer but aren’t really concerned with any of the other benefits such as adding additional space inside of your home, you could always opt for a blind dormer.
These are a little different from the other types of dormers that we’ve looked at so far. To give you a better idea of what to expect from this dormer, it’s known as a false dormer.
These dormers are completely external and they won’t provide you the spare space or increased natural light that many dormers do. However, it will give your home an aesthetic boost.
As we’ve said before, you can change up how your dormers look by changing their shape. This includes not only looking at the pitch or shape of the peak of a dormer but the way they fit into the roof or the shape that the overall dormer adds to the house.
A polygonal dormer features quite a few different sides, often looking like half an octagon protruding from the room.
Much like pyramidal dormers, this shape allows you to install multiple windows for a windowed dormer that gives you plenty of angles to look out of and works to let more natural light in throughout the day.
What Types of Houses Have Dormers?
Certain design features are more common in specific styles of homes. It’s the nature of fitting dormers into the house design schemes they’re most commonly suited to and when certain trends coincided with one another.
In this case, if you want to look out for homes that already have dormers, you’ll want to stick to a few types of houses.
This includes Stick Style, Chateausque, Second Empire, American Foursquare, Colonial, and Neo-Colonial homes. While it isn’t a guarantee, these are the design styles most likely to feature dormers.
What is the Average Cost of a Dormer?
There’s more to deciding on a renovation than aesthetic and practical appeal. Another practical matter to consider is the budget you’ll need for a certain project. So, what will the installation of a dormer cost?
The range that a dormer can fall in is quite wide, including costs as low as $2,500 or as high as $20,000. This depends on several factors, including what type of dormer you want and how intensive it is to install.
There’s also the cost of labor and the space the dormer will take up. You can expect a broken-down cost of about $115 per square foot on average.
Does Adding a Dormer Add Value to the Home?
The good thing about investing in many home improvement projects is that there is a return of investment later on when you sell the house.
This is because some investments actually add to the value of your home just like something like extensive damage could reduce the sale value of your home.
As for dormers, they actually can help add some value to your home. Furthermore, they’re an addition to the home that you can see from the outside, meaning that you can use dormers to add to your curb appeal as well.
Dormers can improve the look of your home and its resale value. It is estimated that dormers provide a return on investment of 65% to 70% of the recouped value. This amount can increase if the dormer is a loft conversion that increases the square footage of the home.
See more related content in our article about the different roof types on this page.