Most prefab container homes have only a flat roof.  For those that like the sleek, modern look, it is not a concern.  Not roofing your home will initially save you money.  However, hot air does rise, so you may be losing heat through the roof.  This may be an issue if you live in a very snowy location. 

Whether you decide to add a roof or not is completely up to style, cost, and function.  Some feel that in the long run, roofing and insulating will save more money by keeping the heat in the home.

Roof Or No Roof?

There are also some benefits besides saving energy that comes with a roof, such as:

  • Overhang keeps rain off the windows
  • Eliminates the need for a drip bar above the windows
  • Overhang can be built out to provide shade

If you are thinking about adding on a roof to your container home, there are prefab roof kits that you can purchase online or locally.  You can hire a framing subcontractor to build one for you using traditional building materials, or as a DIY.  Hiring a professional is always good since they would know building code requirements and whether permits are needed.

Roof Kits

There are companies online, and possibly in your local area as well, that sell roof kits.  They are typically made from corrugated steel and are also structurally engineered to withstand various applications and load-bearing capability.

These kits can be purchased for a couple of thousands of dollars and are pretty comparable to building a gabled roof.  Typically, these kits can be installed in a day with two people assembling the product.

If you can’t find a roof kit that works for your application, then the next option would be to construct a roof.

Structural Engineering

Before beginning work on your roof, it is vital that you work with a structural engineer.   One of the most important reasons is that they will calculate the load bearing requirements of your roof depending on the needs for your area.

Areas that are prone to high winds will need to have roofs engineered with additional bracing in the trusses.  Warmer climates will most likely not need such a strong structural capability but will use more insulation perks

No matter what type of roof you choose, it will need to have adequate ventilation.


Most homes are a little cookie cutter to one another, but roof loads can vary quite a bit from region to region.  A structural engineer will calculate the dead, live and transient load of your roof and make the right customizations.

Gabled Roof

When most people think or imagine roofs, a gabled roof is what usually comes to mind, as it’s the most common roof style used in a traditional home.

Gabled roofs are triangular in shape which has the advantage of dealing with snow loads and water drainage to eliminate leaks in the roof.

Another benefit of a gabled roof is that it provides more ceiling space that you can use as storage, or for other uses.  As space is already limited in container homes, extra storage is always a bonus.

How To Install a Gabled Roof

The first step in building a gabled roof is to weld right angled steel plates around the perimeter of the container.  You may need to hire a welder to perform this step for you. 

The next thing to do will be to attach a wooden beam to the steel plate on each side of the container home.  You will then screw, or nail, the trusses to the wooden beams.  Adding purlins (purlin refers to roof framing and are pieces that span parallel to the building eave and support the roof decking or sheeting) across the trusses is the next step. 

After your trusses are set, the next step is to add sheeting to cover the trusses.  Your engineer will most likely recommend what type of material to use based on your specific needs.

Once the trusses are covered you can then move on to some vital projects that need to happen before adding the final covering, whether asphalt shingles, shake shingles, etc.

There are a couple of steps to provide proper ventilation for your roof.  On the gable ends, you will cut in a vent, one on each end, to provide you with a cross breeze to cool the roof in warm weather. 

Trusses will overhang your container, and they are designed that way.  You will then need to attach the fascia and soffit underneath the trusses.  When installing the soffit board, you should leave about an inch gap in the middle of it to allow air to flow in and out of the roof.

Shed Roof

A shed roof is a sloped roof.  This roof is much cheaper and easier to build.  It’s possible to have a shed roof built and finished in a few days, versus a week or two for a gabled roof.  Another benefit is that the sloped roof is perfect for installing solar panels.

How To Install a Sloped Roof

The construction of a sloped roof is similar to building a gabled roof.  You will need to weld right angle steel plates around the exterior of the container home.

Then add the wooden beam to the steel plates. You will then attach the trusses to the wooden beam.  Attach the purlins to make the trusses structurally sound. 

You will then need bracing in the trusses to protect against the wind and other elements.  

Your structural engineer will have provided the exact dimensions and specifics for your container home.  The next step is to cover your trusses in sheeting per the specifications of your engineer. Before adding the shingles, or whichever final material you’ve chosen to cover your roof, make sure to cut in the proper ventilation for your home.

The Bottom Line

Container homes have a unique, modern look with their flat roofs.  However, if you prefer the more traditional look or if you are looking for additional storage, then make sure to research your options. Check out the roof kits available.  However, make sure to still find a structural engineer who can help you choose the right roof that meets all your needs - cost, style and function!

About the Author Gail K.

Gail is an avid outdoor enthusiast who currently lives in her own Tiny Home travelling across the U.S. She stays month to month in random states, parking her Tiny Home on campground friendly locations and picks up Wi-Fi to contribute to our blog weekly!

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