Reasons To Add Dormers When Remodeling a Home

Learn Why Adding Dormers During A Remodel is a Good Idea

If you live in a home that is less than two full stories high, like a Cape Cod, or Craftsman style home, any rooms tucked under the roof may contain some less usable floor space. While the style of the house may be charming, much of the second-floor space may not be usable.

If you're looking for ways to increase usable space, consider adding dormers to your home. Typically, adding a small dormer can increase usable space, bring extra light into your home, and add an interesting design detail to your home's exterior improving curb appeal.

While you could raise the entire roof, it's a massive project with a high cost that is disruptive to your household. Dormers offer a more affordable solution that can add the square footage, and headroom you seek. A dormer raises a portion of the room, increasing headroom, and opening up a previously awkward or unusable space. While adding roof windows and skylights can brighten the space, they do not increase the usable space like a dormer.

Let's explore the different styles of dormers, look at approximate costs, and the benefits they add to your home's living space and look.

An Affordable Solution: Dormers

Adding one or more dormers in an area of your home where you need additional headroom, space and light is an affordable solution. A dormer is a projection built into your existing roof that raises a portion of your roof line. Some of the considerations of adding a dormer are the same as raising the roof. You'll need to work with your contractor to carefully schedule and plan your project. It will need to be done at a convenient time (adding a dormer in the dead of winter might not be the best idea). You'll need to clear out the space and seal up the area to keep dust and dirt from the rest of the house.

That being said, dormers are a good solution, and as an added bonus, there are several different variations for you to choose from. Your choice of dormer style can enhance your homes exterior appearance, add the space you need, and improve your living space. Here are the three basic types of dormers, along with some variations for you to consider.

The Gable

When you look at the side roof line of a home, the triangle formed from the eaves to the peak is called a gable. A gable dormer mimics this shape – a triangle starting at the eaves, but it's on the front, or back side of the roof is narrower than the end gable, and does not go as far as the peak. Sometimes a gable dormer will start above the eaves with a short stretch of roof below. One “variation” of this design is the doghouse dormer.

A gable is an affordable option if you're considering adding a dormer to your home. Often this style can be incorporated into the design of your home for $10,000 or less.

Gable Variation: The Doghouse

The doghouse is a variation on the gable, but it has sidewalls which make it resemble a doghouse on your roofline. Because the roof of a gamble dormer follows the roof of the house to the eaves, it creates another set of sloping walls in the interior space. A doghouse avoids this problem with the inclusion of side walls. This creates an interior alcove type space with full headroom between the side walls.

The way a doghouse attaches to the roof is slightly different and a bit more complicated as it includes both a peaked roof and side walls. As a result, the construction of a plain gable dormer is a little easier and less costly. You can expect to pay $15,000 or more for a doghouse dormer.

The Shed Dormers

The second basic type of dormer is the Shed. It resembles a lean-to type shed rising from your roof. The shed does not have a peak but has a flatter slope reaching the eaves at a point that is about the height of the ceiling inside. The shed dormer might start at the peak of the house or a little below and may end at the eaves or a little above. It has sidewalls along the full width and can increase interior space significantly.

A shed dormer can span the entire width of your home or just a single room. It provides plenty of extra headroom, and floor space along with a wall of windows to let in natural light. Because it is one single expanse of roof, it's typically easier to construct than a gable or doghouse.

While it's easier to construct, it also carries a higher price tag. To add a shed dormer often requires an architect to design the dormer (unless you're working with a design-build firm!) and construction costs can range from $20,000 to over $100,000 depending on the materials, size and finishes chosen.

The Eyebrow Dormer

The third dormer type is a combination of all of these in a way. The eyebrow dormer looks like an eye peeking through the roof. It's an interesting architectural element that can work with a variety of home styles from Victorian to modern. They are different than gable or doghouse dormers in that the roofline is curved. Because of this fact, an eyebrow dormer is a “softer” way to get extra space from your attic. They are less massive looking than a shed dormer. The interior space created is less of a room and more of an alcove.

A small, single-window eyebrow dormer runs in the $5000 range, a larger one with multiple windows can easily cost $30,000 or more.

The style you ultimately choose will depend on several factors including budget, space requirements and style of your home. Whichever type you choose, the extra headroom, additional natural light that a dormer offers will result in a significant home improvement that will add to your home's comfort and style!


Forward Design Build is a residential design-build firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan that is known for its commitment to craftsmanship and communication. We are committed to improving our neighbors quality of life with inspired design and creative remodeling. Our homes are highly functional, exquisitely beautiful, and remarkably comfortable. Contact us to speak with an expert about your new home or remodeling project.