SST_1805 – Complex Roofs

1805 – Complex Roofs
I often find that the standard Vectorworks roof will not make the roof that I want. If you work on renovation projects, you will find that the standard Vectorworks roof will not be able to draw the final roof that you want, and sometimes you will find that the standard roof will not draw the existing roof because people have added and extended the building over the years.
How can we make Vectorworks do what we want, or is there a way that we can help the standard roof do what we want?

The roof that I will be using can be dealt with in two ways. You can use the standard Vectorworks roof to make most of the roof, or you can use roof faces to make the complete roof. However, there are times where it takes you so long to sort out the standard Vectorworks roof that you may as well have started directly with the Roof Face command. So, it’s important to learn fast ways to make roof faces.
Using the standard Vectorworks roof can be very quick to set up. In this example, it is quicker to make a standard roof than to use roof faces. This is because it takes longer to set up guidelines for the roof faces.


Beginner Topics

Roof Setting Out

One of the main things to look at is how the roof is placed in 3D (the roof bearing height). The Vectorworks dialog box for creating a roof includes the bearing height of the roof, also known as the pitch line.
The bearing height is measured from the Layer Elevation, which means that the Layer Elevation has an important effect on the bearing height. The Layer Elevation is added to the bearing height to give the roof elevation.
Some users set up the layers so that the roof layer sits on top of the wall layer. Since the bearing height of the roof is measured from the Layer Elevation, the roof bearing height should be 0. This is great if you don’t have multiple roof levels. Not so great if you do.
The way that I set up the layers is to have the roof layer at the same elevation as the floor supporting the roof. That way I can easily set the bearing height of multiple roofs to the correct elevation (measured from the floor slab). This makes it so much easier to remember the bearing height of each roof. Instead of trying to mentally calculate the bearing height, I can use the roof editing dialog box.
When you have a two-story house, it can be confusing. I use the same concept as above. The roof layer for each story has the same elevation as the layer supporting the roof (the wall layer).  In this example, Roof-1 has the same elevation as Floor-1. Roof-2 has the same elevation as Floor-2. This makes it easy for me to keep track of the bearing heights of the roofs.
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Standard Vectorworks Roof – Create from Walls

Select all the walls.  Make sure that you have only walls selected. The command that we will be using will not work with other objects.

  • If you are using Vectorworks  Architect, go to the Menu bar.
  • Choose AEC > Create Roof…
  • If you are using Vectorworks  Landmark, go to the Menu bar.
  • Choose Landmark > Architectural > Create Roof…
  • Fill out the dialog box with the required settings.


  • Click on the OK button.

This command will create a hip roof and place it on the layer specified in the Layer field of the dialog box.

Standard Vectorworks Roof – Create from Polygon

As well as using walls to create the roof, you can also use rectangles and polygons.  In this case, I have a polygon that is the same shape as the walls used in the previous example. Creating a roof from a polygon can be useful when you want to change or create part of a roof that does not line up exactly with all of the walls.

  • Select the shape. Ensure that you only have the required shape selected.
  • If you are using Vectorworks  Architect, go to the Menu bar.
  • Choose AEC > Create Roof…
  • If you are using Vectorworks  Landmark, go to the Menu bar.
  • Choose Landmark > Architectural > Create Roof…
  • Fill out the dialog box with the required settings.
  • Click on the OK button.


Standard Vectorworks Roof – Edit Roof Planes

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After creating a standard roof, you can use the selection tool to edit each roof plan. Each roof plane can be eaves, a Dutch gable, or a gable.

  • Go to the Basic Tool palette.
  • Choose the Selection tool.
  • Select the roof.
  • Move your cursor to the blue handle on the face of a roof.
  • The cursor will change from an arrow to a pointing hand. When it does this, click once.


  • This will open the roof editing dialogue box.

This dialogue box can be used to control the selected route face. The standard Vectorworks roof starts out with eaves. This dialogue box allows you to change the bearing height of the roof, the overhang of the eaves (or gable), and the angle of this roof face.

  • You can change this to a gable.


  • Or you can create a Dutch hip.


  • You can edit several roof areas using this technique.


  • If you carry on editing the roof areas, you might reach a point where the roof will fail. Usually, you will see this warning box.


  • Most of the time, continuing to edit the roof will create the required root face. So, the solution is to continue going. In this image, you will notice that I’ve changed the back portion of the roof to be a solid gable even though it started out as a hip roof. By continuing to add gables to the roof planes, Vectorworks will create a single plane roof for you.


Standard Vectorworks Roof – Mono-Pitch Roof

Carrying on with the roof editing idea from the section above can lead this project to create a single mono-pitched roof.

  • Start with a simple roof.


  • Edit each roof plane (except one) to create gables.


  • The last roof plane becomes the controlling plane of the entire roof.


  • As noted above, during this process you might get an error message that tells you that the roof can’t be created. Continue editing the roofs until you have your mono-pitch roof.

Intermediate Topics

Standard Roof Face

The standard Vectorworks roof always creates a hip roof, and as we have seen, we can edit the roof by creating gables. This is not always successful. In these cases, we should be using another form of roof called the Roof Face. The Roof Face allows you to start with any closed shape and use that to create the roof. For simple mono-pitch roofs, and especially for complex mono-pitch roofs, use this technique.

  • Start by drawing the polygon for the required roof shape.
  • Select the polygon.
  • Select the shape. Ensure that you only have the required shape selected.
  • If you are using Vectorworks  Architect, go to the Menu bar.
  • Choose AEC > Roof Face…
  • If you are using Vectorworks  Landmark, go to the Menu bar.
  • Choose Landmark > Architectural > Roof Face…
  • Fill out the dialog box with the required settings. There are three different ways that you can create the roof face:
    • The first method uses a pitch line (pivot line) and angle. The pitch line defines the bearing position for the roof and usually lines up with a face of a wall.
    • The second method uses rise over run instead of the angle.
    • The third method uses second height click. When you don’t know the angle of the roof but you know the start and finish elevation, use this method.
  • In all cases, you have to define the elevation of the pitch line and the thickness of the roof. If you are using roof styles, then you can select a roof style that will define the thickness and components on the roof face.


  • Click on the OK button.
  • The next step is to define the pitch line, also known as the pivot line or the bearing line.
  • On the image below, I’ve used the X-ray mode (B-key) to make it easy to see the walls below the roof.
  • Click once at the start of the pitch line.


  • Click once again to define the other end of the pitch line.
  • There is one final click, and this one defines the slope of the roof. The arrow points up the roof slope.

You can use this technique to create a more complex roof where you might want to have a series of mono-pitched roofs, as in this example.

Roof Editing with Shapes

When you need to create holes in your standard roof or roof face, you can use this technique. This technique only requires a closed shape (polygon, rectangle, circle, etc.).

  • Draw the shape that you require and select the shape as well as the roof.


  • Right click on the closed shape and choose Clip Surface from the pop-up menu.


  • The shape will be cut from the roof.
  • Vectorworks leaves the shape selected so that you can use it for another purpose or delete it.


Two-story Roof Using Standard Roofs

In this example, we have upper and lower roofs that relate to the upper and lower floors. The setting out for the roof design layers will be as shown above. When you get a complex building, you need to have a clear strategy for dealing with the roof and the wall design layers. Earlier on, we looked at making sure that the roof design layer was set to the same elevation as the wall design layer supporting it.
In this example, there will be a lower roof that is sitting on the lower walls. There will be an upper roof sitting on the upper walls. The upper walls should create a cut out in the lower roof.
To start with, I have the walls created on the upper and lower floors.

  • The next step is to create the roof with the lower floor walls.
  • Select all the lower floor walls.
  • If you are using Vectorworks Architect, go to the Menu bar.
  • Choose AEC > Create Roof…
  • If you are using Vectorworks Landmark, go to the Menu bar.
  • Choose Landmark > Architectural > Create Roof…
  • This will create your roof for the entire lower floor. You still have to cut out the area where the upper walls intersect this roof.
  • The easy way to do this is to change back to a Top/Plan view and draw a rectangle or a polygon over the upper floor walls. If the plan is complex, consider using the Create Polygon From Walls… command. This is a quick way to create the polygon from all of the walls.


  • Copy this rectangle or polygon.
  • Change to the lower roof layer.
  • Paste the shape using the Paste in Place command from the Edit menu. Pasting the copied polygon in place will ensure that it will be properly located in relation to the roof.
  • Select the roof and the shape.
  • Right-click on the shape and choose Clip Surface from the contextual menu.


  • The shape used to clip the roof will still be selected.
  • Delete the clipping shape, unless it is needed for another reason.


  • When you change to a 3D view, you should see your entire roof with a portion missing where we clipped out the upper floor.


Advanced Topics

Complex Roof Using Three Roofs

This is a technique that I use on a regular basis. The technique allows you to find the exact intersection of three-dimensional objects. Once you know the intersection of these objects you can then use the result to adjust your objects.
In this example, we will be looking at the intersection of three roofs. we want to know where the roof is intersect so that we can adjust all the roofs to get a clean intersection.
This is the plan of my building. This example is relatively simple and Vectorworks would be able to create the roof by selecting all the walls and using the Create Roof command. In my example, the main part of the building is existing and the two extensions are proposed. This means that I want to have the ability to turn off the proposed roofs and still see the existing roof.

  • Create the main roof and the two proposed roofs.
  • In this image, you will notice that I have extended the proposed roofs so that they intersect the existing roof.
  • You will also notice that the existing roof has been colored blue and the proposed roofs have been colored red. I do this to make it easy to find the intersection between the different roof faces. When I first started using this technique I didn’t change the color of the roofs, and it could be difficult to see where one roof started and the other one finished. Changing the color makes this a lot clearer.


  • Select all the roofs.
  • Go to the Menu bar.
  • Choose Modify > Convert > Convert Copy to Lines…
  • This command will look at the entire 3D model of the selected objects and show where the ridgeline of each roof penetrates the face of the existing roof. The resulting group will show us exactly where the red roofs intersect the blue roof. We will be able to use this group to create polygons.


  • Here is the resulting group. It is a group of lines. We can’t use these lines directly, but we can use these lines to create polygons.
  • Double-click on the group of lines to edit the group.
  • In this image, I have turned off the option to see other objects while I edit inside the group.


  • Go to the Basic tool set.
  • Choose the 2D Polygon tool.
  • Go to the Tool bar.
  • Click on the second mode: Create Polygon from Inner Boundary.
  • Use this mode to create three polygons, one for each roof area.
  • When you have created the three polygons, select them and copy them.


  • Exit the group.
  • Delete the group, it is no longer needed.
  • Use paste in place to paste a copy of the polygons.
  • we cannot edit all three roofs at the same time. Remove any polygons not required for the first roof editing.
  • Select the required roof and polygon.
  • Right-click on the polygon.
  • Choose the Clip Surface command. This will subtract the polygon away from the selected roof.


  • Repeat this for each roof object until all the roofs have been edited.


  • If you look at the underside of the roofs, you will see that they are perfectly intersected.


Editing a Roof Using Reshape

Sometimes, when you create your roof from the walls, it is not what you required. You might need the roof to start some way off the wall, instead of directly on top of the walls.
Another reason to reshape the roof might be that the roof follows the wall exactly but you want the roof to cover an area.

  • When you select a roof, you will notice that you get a blue handle at the center of each roof face.


  • When you choose the Reshape tool, you will see the roof faces change to have a blue handle at each corner as well as the midpoint on each roof face.


  • Depending on the selected mode, you can move a roof edge.
  • In this case, I have used the move edge mode and the handle in the middle of the roof face.


  • Other modes include the possibility of deleting or adding a vertex.
  • In this example, I am showing how to remove a portion of the roof.
  • I am using the Delete Vertex mode.
  • Move the cursor to the required handle.
  • When the cursor changes shape, click once.


  • The roof will re-create.


  • Continue removing parts of the roof to create the required roof.


Complex Roof with Roof and Roof Faces

This roof is created with a variety of roofs and roof faces.

Complex Roof with Roof Faces

This is the ultimate solution for a complex roof. There are some parts of the roof that Vectorworks does not like creating. For example, there is a small gable roof in the image below. Vectorworks struggles to create this unless you offset the face of the gable by at least a millimeter.
This technique uses roof faces for all parts of the roof. You might think that it’s difficult to create all of the roof faces. the trick here is to add the Roof Face command to your contextual menu so that it is easy to find. Combine this with the 2D Polygon tool in Paint Pot mode and it is extremely quick to create this roof.

  • Start by drawing the outline of the roof that you require.
  • It will be quicker if you also include a line for the bearing height (pivot line).

Click once in the area to create the roof face area. This command will flood a closed area. If the area is not closed, it will not create the area.
I have added the Roof Face… command to the contextual menu on my customized workspace. This saves a lot of time. Instead of going to the AEC or Landmark menus, I can right click on the polygon.
Use the X-ray mode (B-key) to locate the bearing height line.
Click once for the start of the bearing height.
Click once more for the end of the bearing height line.
Click once again to define the slope of the roof.
Continue this for all the required roof areas.
This seems like a complex or slow way to create the roof. In this example, there are 12 roof faces. They can be made in a few minutes with this technique. I end up with the required roof. When I try to create this roof using the Standard Roof command, Vectorworks does not create the roof that I want. It creates a hip roof. When I change the roofs to gables, the roof fails. It is quicker in this case to make the roof faces.


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