What Is an A-Frame House?

This distinctive house shape isn’t for everyone—here’s what to know if you’re interested in buying or selling an A-frame house.

If you've ever searched for a cabin rental or come across a house or rental listing with a picturesque mountain view, you've likely spotted an A-frame house. Named for their A-shaped appearance, these homes not only serve an aesthetic purpose, but also a practical one—but they're not common (or even popular) in all regions.

If you're on the market for an A-frame house, here's what you should consider when it comes to maintenance and resale potential.

modern a-frame home exterior
Edmund Barr

A-Frame House Features

With their unique shape, A-frame homes have a characteristic exterior—plus a floorplan that's unheard of in colonial, ranch, or split-level homes.

"A-frame homes are shaped like a triangle or the letter A, with four walls beginning at the foundation and meeting at a pointed roof," says Scott Reid, a home exterior expert at Angi. "They're known for their steep roofs, which usually extend to the ground."

In addition to their signature steep roofline, you'll notice lots of windows, typically dotting the entire front of the home.

"This provides great natural light and terrific views," says Laura Bierman, an interior design consultant at YouthfulHome.com, a home services finder. "Floorplans are open and casual."

That pitched roof makes the home ideal for areas with frequent rain and snow.

"The advantage is that the snow doesn't sit on top of the house, it kind of slides down," says Beatrice de Jong, broker and consumer trends expert at Opendoor, a home buying service. "But we see them a lot in places like Palm Springs and where that midcentury style is popular."

Beyond the aesthetic appeal, A-frames can be incredibly practical.

"A-frame homes have a simple form, making them easy to build with a small team of contractors," Reid says. "The A-frame design tends to be more naturally energy-efficient than a traditional house, and stronger, thanks to the structural integrity of the triangle shape."

Maintenance Considerations

Because A-frame homes have so many windows, you'll want to keep an eye on their condition to avoid exorbitant heating and cooling costs. Hot air rises, but it can also be difficult to trap indoors in winter in a home with older windows.

"The high ceilings and glass surfaces make an A-frame more costly to heat," Bierman says.

As such, de Jong suggests replacing windows with double-paned windows if you can afford it, to contain hot and cold air depending on the season.

And while an A-frame's roof is designed to allow precipitation to roll off, there is more roofspace overall to maintain.

"Because A-frame homes tend to have about 20% more exterior surfaces, it can be difficult to fix a few shingles or patch a leak on the roof," Reid says. "Many homeowners have found durable metal roofs easier to maintain. If you need to fix a few shingles or patch a leak, it's best to hire a pro to do the job for you so you don't hurt yourself."

Keep in mind, too, that A-frame homes can be harder to clean inside.

"The high ceilings make it difficult to clean surfaces, fans, lights, and windows," Bierman says.

Bierman also points out that A-frames are usually made of wood, which means a potential for termite infestations. (Fortunately, this threat is easily mitigated with regular pest control visits.)

Resale Potential

Unique A-frame homes aren't for everyone, but the right buyer will have their eyes peeled for these gems. Those buyers likely value the home's unique design and its prized features, such as the vaulted ceilings and abundant natural light afforded by floor-to-ceiling windows.

But there are some concessions to be made when purchasing this home, particularly when it comes to space.

"[A-frames] have less interior space than the typical home because the exterior walls are steeply sloped," Reid says. "This unique architecture also means they generally have less room for storage. If you love interior decorating and hanging photos, you might find the sloping walls challenging. A-frames also leave less headspace, which may be uncomfortable for taller people."

A bigger family might not want to live in a home with minimal storage and a bedroom that opens up to the rest of the house (which is often the case with the top floor of an A-frame: These spaces are typically used as lofted bedrooms), which could limit your resale options.

"The open floor plan usually means that the primary bedroom is on the top floor but open to the rest of the space, so privacy is minimal," Reid says.

And as mentioned previously, heating and cooling bills could deter new buyers.

But don't let these factors prevent you from enjoying an A-frame.

"Their unique architecture and living and wall space can make it harder to sell as a full-time property, but they could be a great investment as a rental property," Reid says. "A-frames can be great as a short-term or long-term vacation rental, but full-time living in one can be difficult."

Reid suggests reaching out to local contractors to gauge the demand for this style of architecture in your area, though Bierman thinks reselling an A-frame should be easy in most areas.

"Few A-frames are being built today, resulting in a lack of inventory," she says. "Their desirability has increased with the growth of today's short-term rental markets. Depending on the property's location and condition, an A-frame shouldn't be hard to sell."

With that in mind, if an A-frame is exactly the place for you (either to live in or to use as a rental property), go forth with the confidence that you're making a solid decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are A-frame houses hard to heat?

    In a sense, yes. Because heat rises, any attempts to heat your A-frame home will likely result in all the heat traveling to to peak of the home (where a loft is often located), leaving the bottom floor feeling chilly. For this reason, many A-frame homes rely on multiple heat sources, such as traditional heat and a fireplace.

  • Are A-frame houses practical?

    A-frame houses are practical for homeowners looking for a charming yet snug home. They typically have a small footprint and are most at home in wilderness environments, where homeowners can embrace natural, laid-back living.

  • Are A-frame houses strong?

    One of the perks of the A-frame home design is its strength. The sloped sides and triangle shape allow it to have superior strength and make it particularly well-suited to harsher climates that experience excessive snow, wind, and rain.

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