Property owners often get confused over the different pitches of roofs and their slopes. However, a roof’s pitch affects your choice of materials, its lifespan, and so on. The roof pitch also affects its appearance! In turn, it’s helpful to understand at least the basics about pitch or slope for your property’s roof.
Roof pitch, also known as roof slope, refers to a roof’s incline or angle. It indicates the vertical rise of the roof for every 12 inches of horizontal distance. Roof pitch determines how well the roof sheds water and handles snow loads, and affects the overall aesthetics of the building.
To learn more about different roof pitches and why this information is important, keep reading. It’s not difficult to understand these concepts once you realize some vital details. Also, a roof repair contractor near you can also explain roof types in greater detail. In turn, you know your property’s roof is in good condition year-round.
Roof pitch is typically measured in two ways: as an angle in degrees, or as a ratio. Note what this means in simpler terms for roofing types and materials further down:
When expressed in degrees, roof pitch is measured as the angle between the roof surface and the horizontal plane. For example, a roof with a 30-degree pitch rises 30 degrees above the horizontal plane.
The roof pitch can also be represented as a ratio. In this case, the first number indicates the vertical rise of the roof. Next, the second number represents the horizontal run or distance. For instance, a roof with a pitch of 6:12 means that for every 12 inches horizontally, the roof rises 6 inches vertically.
Contractors and builders usually measure roof pitches as flat, low, medium, and high. Flat roofs, as the name implies, have a minimal or zero pitch. Check out some added information as well as advantages and disadvantages of different roof pitches:
Roof pitches below 3:12 are considered low slope. These are easier and safer to walk on for maintenance. On the other hand, they’re prone to water pooling. Low roof pitches may require special roofing materials and installation methods. Low roof pitch is also common for commercial buildings and industrial buildings as well as homes in states with high winds such as Florida.
Pitches between 4:12 and 8:12 are considered medium-slope roofs. These are common in residential buildings and provide a good balance of aesthetics, proper drainage, and cost-effectiveness. Also, they provide more room inside the home, such as for attics or second stories.
Above an 8:12 pitch is considered a steep slope. Roofers often find these more challenging to work on due to their steep slope. However, they are effective at shedding water, snow, and debris. Consequently, you often find steeper roofs in regions with heavy snowfall as these prevent snow buildup.
Additionally, some older homes have high or steep slope roof pitches. You might notice Victorian homes with very pointed dormers, almost like turrets! These provide a stunning aesthetic that sets the home apart from other designs.
A 7-pitch or 7/12 roof pitch has a slope or incline that rises 7 inches vertically for every 12 inches of horizontal distance. This means that for every 12 units of horizontal width, the roof rises 7 units vertically.
A 7/12 roof pitch is moderately steep, falling into the category of medium-slope roofs. It strikes a good balance between aesthetics, water shedding capability, and ease of maintenance. This pitch is commonly used in residential construction.
A roof with a 45-degree or 12/12 pitch rises 12 inches vertically for every 12 inches or horizontal width. It is one of the steepest roof pitches used and is often found in areas with heavy snowfall. The steeper pitch also means quick water runoff.
In turn, they reduce the risk of water damage and structural issues caused by heavy loads on the roof. Additionally, steep roofs can provide more attic space or accommodate cathedral ceilings in the interior.
On the other hand, working on a 12/12 pitch roof is often challenging and hazardous due to its increased steepness. Roofers often need special safety precautions and equipment for installation, repair, or maintenance on roofs with such a steep pitch.
Roof pitch affects your roofing material choices! In turn, it’s vital to consider your options before you schedule repairs or new roof installation:
For flat or low slope roofs, choose special roofing materials designed for water resistance and ponding protection. These include built-up roofing (BUR) with multiple layers of asphalt and felt, or single-ply membranes like EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer). Roofing TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) is also an excellent choice.
Medium roof pitches are common for residential homes, garages, and other such structures. Asphalt shingles, wood shakes or shingles, concrete tiles, and metal roofing are excellent for medium pitches. These provide effective water shedding and are generally more affordable than materials used for steeper roofs.
Steep roofs require materials with excellent water shedding capabilities to prevent water penetration. Choose asphalt shingles, metal roofing, slate shingles, clay tiles, and synthetic roofing materials. Steeper roofs also benefit from materials that are more resistant to wind uplift.
Lastly, remember to consider your budget, climate conditions, local building codes, and the overall aesthetics you prefer. For instance, you might prefer a clay roof for a medium pitch, to add a Mediterranean look.
If you’ve checked local building codes and have the freedom to choose any roof pitch, consider a low slope. A lower slope offers a safer surface for walking. In turn, they’re often easier to install, repair, and maintain. Boards are also less likely to slide so you might face fewer delays during installation.
Also, note that lower slopes support heavier roofing materials more easily. In turn, you can choose clay, slate, and other options without worrying about having them slide. Your roofing installation contractor can advise on the best choice for your home.
Lastly, a flatter roof is often the better choice for solar panels. Lower pitches offer more sun exposure for those panels throughout the day. In turn, they’ll capture more sunlight and produce more usable power.
However, the downside of low pitch roofs is that they might be more prone to water and snow pooling. A steeper pitch encourages water and snow runoff, which means less risk of leaks and cracks. If you do choose a low pitch roof, be prepared to brush off rain and snow when needed!
Knowing more about different roof types also helps a property owner decide what’s right for their needs. This includes when you’re planning new construction, a major renovation, or repairs. Check out the most common roof types in use today:
A gable roof is one of the most common and simple roof designs. It consists of two sloping sides that meet at a ridge, forming a triangular shape. Gable roofs are effective at shedding water and snow, making them suitable for many different architectural styles.
A hip roof has slopes on all four sides, and the slopes meet at a ridge. The ends of the roof are truncated, creating a gentle slope instead of a vertical gable. Hip roofs offer better stability in high winds.
A Mansard roof is a unique pitched roof, it has two slopes on all four sides, with a steeper lower slope and flatter upper slope. The steep lower slope often features dormer windows, providing additional living space in the attic. The mansard roof type is more common in French architecture.
The gambrel roof resembles a barn roof with two distinct slopes on each side. The lower slope is steeper, and the upper slope is flatter. Gambrel roofs are commonly seen in barns and Dutch colonial-style homes.
The saltbox roof is a variation of the gable roof. It has two different slopes, with one side being longer and extending lower to the ground. This design provides a unique and asymmetrical look.
A pyramid roof is a type of hip roof with a square base, and all four sides slope to a point at the top, forming a pyramid shape.
If you’re planning to reconstruct an existing building or new construction, talk to your contractor about various roof designs. You’ll need to consider local building codes, your budget, ease of maintenance, and its appearance. This ensures you make the best choice for your property.
The Rhode Island Roofers hopes that this explanation of different pitches of roofs has been helpful. Also, if you’re in the state, don’t hesitate to contact our Rhode Island roof repair contractors. We’ll explain your options and prepare a FREE price quote. We also guarantee all our work to last! For more information, reach out to our team today.
Please reach out if you require more information on roof types, pitched roofs or roof rise.