Roof form: original details

Bungalows often had combination hip and gable, or multi-gable roof forms.

The roof was one of the main features that distinguished the bungalow from the villa or the transitional villa.

Key features include relatively low pitch (typically between 15˚ and 25˚),  hip roofs with one or more gables, and contrasting cladding and other decorative features on the gables.

Hip and gable forms

Although hipped roofs were seen on bungalows, gabled roofs were common, as was a combination of hip and gable.

Typically a single span gable was used, either facing the street or perpendicular to it. Multi-gable roof forms were common, with one or more gabled roofs running perpendicular to the main gable.

Bungalows can be defined according to their roofs, according to Jeremy Ashford’s book The Bungalow in New Zealand. California bungalows (Figure 1) had front-facing gables. This allowed for more decoration and so was more dramatic than the other styles. Craftsman bungalows (Figure 2) had side gables extending over the porch. English, Indian and Australian bungalows (Figure 3) had hipped roofs, ith the eaves creating a continuous, horizontal line around the roof.

Gables often had contrasting claddings such as shingles, fibre-cement and battens, or stucco and battens.

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Eaves and rafters

A typical feature of bungalows is their exposed eaves with expressed rafters. 

Eaves typically overhung the walls by between 1’6”–2’0” (450–600 mm).

The 4 x 2” (100 x 50 mm) roof rafters were continued beyond the exterior face of the wall and lined on their top sides with 4 x ¾” (100 x 20 mm) TG&V boards (Figures 4 and 5).

A 4” x 1” (100 x 25 mm) fascia board was sometimes fixed along the rafter ends to provide gutter support, but sometimes there was no fascia board and gutters were fixed directly to the rafter ends.

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Barge boards

Bungalows typically had protruding barge boards, with a range of decorative designs cut into the ends. These extended beyond the gutter by up to 1’0” (300 mm) and were typically made from 8 x 1” (200 x 25 mm) timber. 

Occasionally they were structural too.  End designs were varied and aimed to exaggerate the barge length even further (Figure 5).

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Gable decoration

Gables were typically wide – a feature emphasised by the lower roof pitch – and they contributed much of the decoration of the bungalow, which did not have the scroll work, finials and so on that were typical of the bay villa.

The cladding to the triangular section of wall of the gable was generally different from the rest of the wall. 


Frequently, gables were bell-cast or curved out at the bottom of the gable and finished with dentils or corbels at the base of the bell-casting to look like supports to the gable (Figure 7).

Examples include: 

  • timber shingles in a bell-cast profile with dentils above weatherboard cladding
  • bevel-back weatherboards in a bell-cast profile with dentils above stucco cladding
  • asbestos-cement sheets with battened joints above weatherboard or stucco cladding
  • stucco above brick or timber construction.

The dentils could be spaced evenly across the gable, either individually or arranged in pairs or threes. The bell-casting had a practical as well as a decorative aspect in that it provided some additional weather protection by diverting rainwater away from the face of the building (and more significantly, window heads).

Gable windows and vents

Gables also frequently had other decorative accessories such as a window or, more commonly, a louvred ventilation grille. These could be in a variety of shapes such as rectangular, diamond-shaped or round. They are less common in South Island bungalows.

Although these probably originated from the practical function of reducing heat build-up in the roof space in hotter climates such as California and Australia, in New Zealand they were likely to be merely decorative. 

They can be seen in a range of sizes and shapes including circular, semi-circular, diamond-shaped or rectangular openings (Figures 8-13).

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Porch and bay window roofs

Porch roofs were generally under the main house roof but they were sometimes off-set. This contrasted with the villa veranda, which usually had a separate roof. 

Bay or bow windows and porches sometimes had flat roofs, finished with flat sheet galvanised iron.

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Dormer windows were sometimes incorporated into bungalow roofs. These generally only provided light and ventilation to the attic or roof space, as bungalows were typically single-storeyed. Dormer roof shapes included gabled, hipped or sloping ‘shed’ roofs.