Video: Dormer Essentials

Put on those climbing shoes, we’re going to take a tour of dormers. Hi. This is Nathan Harrison for First let’s define a dormer. A dormer is a window or vent set vertically in a protrusion from a sloping roof. So, an important fact of a dormer is that roof exists below it. Therefore, this is not a dormer. Nor is this. I would call this a wing or leg of the roof.

Dormers are loved for the charm they add to a home, much like the charm of a built-in cabinet on the interior of a home. And, like a built-in, a dormer has that element of concealment, of cradling, and unexpectedness to it. They add expense, but they add interest and a way to light and ventilate the attic. Dormers will be around for the foreseeable future.

There are nearly as many types of dormers as there are types of roofs. And this is because, in a very real sense, a dormer is a house unto itself. Here is shed dormer.

This is a hip dormer.

These are gabled dormers, known more commonly as doghouse dormers.

And, in a play on the gabled dormer, a disapproving neighbor labeled this a garbled dormer. Maybe you can find a few of those in your neighborhood. But wait, there’s no roof below the dormer, so it’s really not a dormer at all.

Continuing now with real dormers…here is a barrel dormer….

A flat-topped gambrel dormer, which here is part of a larger gambrel roof.

How about this bay dormer that add the additional concept of the cantilever which can be a facet of any dormer. Cantilever simply means that it has a small overhang instead of simply running straight down into the roof.

If you like your neighbors to feel that you’re always spying on them, you could add the eyebrow dormer.

The limits of dormers are just about the same as the limits of your imagination.

A small dormer can possibly be added to an existing house with very minor hassle, and this is because, whereas a large dormer is going to need to have major structural elements to allow the load of the roof to be transferred around the cavity, and therefore creating interior space, a small dormer can simply be placed onto the roof.

Now, the hole is here for a very important reason. Even if you choose to have a faux dormer that does not include a vent, it is very important that the dormer be ventilated and be able to share air with the attic. Otherwise heat will build up inside the dormer and cause the materials to degrade very rapidly over time.

So, whether you have a vent in your faux dormer or a window, you’ll need to cut an access hole into your attic to allow it to share air with your attic.

You’ve got to admit it: these dormers are just plain cool.