Tips For Identifying A Second Empire Victorian – And How To Choose The Best Roofing Material For The Home

Knowing the name of your home style can help you find out architectural details that can come in handy when undergoing a roofing repair or roof restoration project. There are a number of different Victorian home styles that range widely in ornamentation and roof shape. Second Empire Victorians are one of the easier styles to identify once you know the details.

What are some tips for identifying a Second Empire Victorian – and how can you and your roofing contractor choose the best material for your home?

Second Empire Victorian Identification

Second Empire Victorians have the asymmetrical layout common of Victorians but pump up the level of ornamentation. Details can include wrought iron railings, balustrades, and towers along either or both sides of the house. But the easiest way to diagnose a Second Empire home is to look for the telltale mansard roof.

A mansard roof looks like a hat pulled down over the top of the house. Four nearly vertical roof sides stick down over the sides of the house while the upper roof is fairly flat and out of sight. This distinctive, highly visible roof shape can help make you decide on the best roofing material – or best materials.

Best Side Roofing: Wood or Slate

Mansard roofs can actually incorporate two different roofing materials with one on the side, visible roof while the other is on the top, flatter roof. For the side roofs, you want to choose a material that is attractive and appropriate for the ornate look of a Second Empire home. Wood and slate can both prove to be good options.

Wood shakes and shingles often come from cedar trees and come cut thicker and rougher or thinner and smoother, respectively. Shaped shakes can look gorgeous on the sides of a mansard roof and can give the Second Empire a fairytale or cottage charm. Wood does require a bit more maintenance since the material can suffer weather or insect damage over time.

Slate tiles are durable, elegant, and able to arrange in a brick-like pattern that can ramp up the elegance of your mansard roof. The stone tiles only come in the natural colors but can be installed in a brick-like pattern, which can add some more visual interest to the roof sides. Slate requires less maintenance than wood but also comes with a higher price tag.

Best Upper Roofing: Asphalt or Metal

The upper, nearly flat roof needs some assistance with drainage and waterproofing. You don't want to use thick wood shingles up there since the shingles will trap the water. You don't want to use slate because it would cost a lot for a roof you can't see. The better choices for the flat roof are asphalt and metal.

Asphalt is the better choice only if you need to keep costs low. The composite shingles do install fairly flat and tight, which offers some help on drainage and waterproofing. But asphalt isn't as good as metal in either regard.

Standing seam metal roofing snaps together to form a series of watertight peaks and valleys that also act as a gutter system for the draining water. Metal roofing does come in a number of colors and styles but remember that no one will see this roof and you don't need to spend money on a bunch of visual upgrades.