Photo by Taber Andrew Bain

Update: Adding dormers to your home is not only an attractive, classic design touch but is also an inexpensive and pretty straightforward way to give some extra space to rooms on the second floor. They can also dramatically increase the amount of light these areas receive, which is especially useful for rooms that face away from direct sunlight most of the time. Dormers come in a wide array of styles and it’s important to match them to the type of home you have for a harmonious remodel.

There was a time when almost every two-story house that was built utilized dormers to increase the available living space on the second floor. Some builders continue to use dormers to provide additional light and space to second floor living areas. If you are planning to create living space in your attic, you will almost certainly want to at least consider the value of building dormers to maximize the amount of usable space in your attic.

If you have decided to build dormers, there are a number of very important considerations in terms of style and construction materials. The dormer will change not only the interior configuration of the attic; it will also change the exterior appearance of your home. Adding a dormer that will enhance the external appearance of your house while providing the additional space you need is a matter of good construction and correct style.

The Illustrated Architecture Dictionary from the University of Buffalo identifies nine styles of dormers, as well as the architectural styles for which they are appropriate.

House Style Dormer Style
Prairie Hipped
Shingle Hipped or Eyebrow
Arts and Crafts Gabled or Shed
Colonial Revival Gabled, Shed, Pedimented or Through-the Cornice
Federal Gabled or Pedimented
Georgian Revival Gabled, Pedimented or Through-the-Cornice
Gothic Revival Gabled
Queen Anne Gabled
Stick Gabled
Tudor Revival Gabled
Second Empire Arched or Through-the-Cornice
Beaux Arts Classical Arched, Round or Oval
Richardsonian Romanesque Eyebrow
Neoclassical Through-the-Cornice

A hipped dormer is defined by its particular roof style. It will have a roof with four sloped sides. This style can be found in homes built in a number of styles, including Colonial Revival, Classical Revival, Neoclassical, Italianate, Federal, Greek Revival, Arts and Crafts, Georgian Revival, Renaissance Revival and Prairie styles.

A gable roof is a pitched roof with a gable at each end. The gable is the part of the wall just below the end of the pitched roof that is cut into a triangular shape by the sloping line of the room.

An arched dormer can vary in shape from the horizontal flat arch to a sharply pointed arch. Round arches are particularly suited for Italianate, Italian Renaissance Revival and Richadrsonian Romanesque architecture. Pointed, or Gothic, arches are particularly appropriate in Gothic Revival architecture. .Baskethandle. or elliptical arches are best suited to Italianate and Beaux Arts styles. Tudor arches (flattened Gothic) are appropriate for Tudor Revival and Gothic Revival styles. Finally, Syrian arches are found in the Richardsonian Romanesque and Shingle styles of architecture.

The pedimented dormer is a triangular gable over a portico, door or window. The eyebrow dormer is a low dormer on the slope of the roof that has no sides. The roofing is simply carried over it is a wavy line. A through-the-cornice dormer is a dormer window that projects from a sloping roof at the top of a wall. The window is generally placed in a small gable, and the cornice continues uninterrupted.

Adding a dormer requires several processes. It is ordinarily not the ideal project for a weekend do-it-yourself task. In deciding whether this is a project you can handle yourself, it will be important to consider several impacts of dormer construction. First, you are altering the line of your roof, which will affect the flow of rain water and the position in which the roof will hold the weight of accumulated snow. Essentially, you will be cutting a hone in your roof and inserting a window. This would obviously require a good understanding of roofing and proper sealing of the construction, shingles, windows, etc. Poor construction could result in leaks and water damage inside the home.

There are, however, a number of tasks most people who are fairly skilled can handle, such as adding insulation, hanging drywall, finishing the roofing, installing windows, painting, etc. Depending upon local regulations and building codes, you may need to obtain approval from a local homeowner.s association, city planning council or other group before you build. You may need to obtain building permits from your local government and arrange for inspections. You will also need to check on required materials for construction of the frame.

The first step in building dormers id determining the precise location in the roof and cutting the necessary holes. The next step will be building the dormer frame. This is a complex process that requires a number of precise framing cuts.


Next, the siding and roofing must be installed. Depending upon the style of your home and the materials of which it is built, the siding may be wood, hardy plank, vinyl siding, stone or brick. Installing all components of the roofing . felt paper, flashing, and shingles . and ensuring that everything is properly sealed will be the next step. Then the appropriate windows will be installed.

Finally, the interior work can begin. You will need to install insulation, walls, ceiling and flooring. If you plan to build-in any interior components such as a window seat or a storage area, built-in desk or bookcases, etc., this will be the next step. Then you will be able to paint, wallpaper, lay carpet, etc. and give the room the finishing touches that will make it the functional extra space you need.

The end result of building dormers will be a living space in your home that is lighter, brighter, bigger, and more functional. Whether you do all the work yourself, or engage a professional to build the frame and install the roof, careful work and attention to building codes and details will produce a new room that will enhance your family’s lifestyle.