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What Should I Know About Roof Pitch?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated May 17, 2024
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Whether you're buying a home or repairing your existing roof, knowing a bit about roof pitch is important. Most roofing contractors base the price of any roofing working upon the pitch of a roof. In addition, some contractors will not work on roofs that have a steep pitch, since steeply pitched roofs can be dangerous for a roofer.

While these numbers may vary from area to area, a roof pitch that has a gradient of more than 15 degrees is generally considered a steep roof. The problem with a steep roof is that all objects must be securely anchored to this type of roof before any work can be completed. Thus, this type of work requires additional precautions. If you own a home with a steep roof, then you can expect to pay more for any roof repairs.

Even though your roof pitch determines the price of any roofing work, homes should not be disregarded solely based upon a steep roof. In fact, homes that have steeper roofs often have many benefits. Shingles that are placed on steeper roofs tend to last longer, and roofs with a large pitch can also be aesthetically appealing. In addition, homes that have flat roofs do not fair well in wet or humid weather, as they can allow water or moisture to gather. For these reasons, any person who may be in the market for a home might want to consider a roof with a steep pitch.

The main purpose of any roof is to repel water by redirecting it towards the ground. If a home does not have enough of a roof pitch, then water cannot be effectively removed from a roof's surface. This is why homes with flat roofs are generally found in warm weather climates, while homes with steeply pitched roofs are frequently built in colder climates. Some cities have specific guidelines in place regarding the construction of new roofs. Montreal, Canada, and Buffalo, New York, are two cities that will not allow homeowners to build homes with flat roofs.

Knowing what your roof pitch is will help you to determine the cost of any roof repairs, and any potential moisture problems that you may face. If you intend to repair a steeply pitched roof on your own, make sure to wear proper safety equipment. Many homeowners are injured each year when falling off of a rooftop. In most instances, paying a professional roofer to repair your roof is well worth the money.

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Discussion Comments
By kentuckycat — On Jul 13, 2011

@titans62 - I had to figure out the pitch of my roof for a project I was doing. There are a lot online tools for calculating roof pitch, but some are better than others. Understanding the measurement itself isn't that difficult.

The pitch is measured as the amount the roof rises over a distance of 12 inches. You can do the measurement on top of the roof, but I found it easiest to measure under one of the eaves. You could also measure from inside the attic if the rafters are exposed.

The rise of most roofs will be between 2 and 12 inches per 12 inches of distance. Obviously a rise of 12 inches per foot will be much steeper than 2 inches per foot.

You can then take the pitch numbers and punch them into one of the online calculators to get the actual degree measure. I'm pretty sure if you knew trigonometry, you could figure out the angle yourself, but that's outside my realm. I hope that helps.

By JimmyT — On Jul 12, 2011

I just wanted to note that even if you don't have an extremely steep roof, climbing around on it can still be dangerous.

One of my friends was cleaning out gutters and replacing a few worn out shingles on his roof. He ended up tripping a few feet from the edge. Even though the roof had a moderate slope, it was still enough for him not to be able to get his balance before the edge. He ended up breaking his wrist and leg.

Luckily his house was only one story, or it could have been much worse.

By titans62 — On Jul 11, 2011

I guess I have noticed the differences between houses in warm and cold climates before, but hadn't really thought much about it. I definitely didn't know that same places outlawed certain roof types.

I don't have a particularly steep roof, but I am curious about the pitch. The article mentions 15 degrees. What does this mean, and how is it calculated? Is there something like a roof pitch calculator online that I could use to figure out what my roof is?

By matthewc23 — On Jul 10, 2011

@jcraig - I know what you mean. My roof slope is also very steep, and unfortunately, I didn't have any insurance to help me with mine.

I do agree, though, that there are a lot of benefits to steep roofs. When I moved into the house, the attic was unfinished. After turning the attic into living space, I found that having the steeper roof creates a ton of head room compared to normal roofs. It's quite a beautiful effect. I was also able to have a great picture window installed that wouldn't have looked right with most roof styles.

By jcraig — On Jul 09, 2011

I didn't realize it when buying my house, but this article is right about the difference in price. I live in a house built in the early 1900s, and roof is very, very steep. I'm usually afraid to climb on it for fear of falling.

I live in the Midwest and had to have the roof replaced after a recent hail storm. My neighbor had to have similar repairs, and her cost was much lower. Luckily my homeowner's insurance paid the majority of the cost.

I never knew that having a steep roof usually meant shingles would last longer, though, so maybe I won't have to replace the shingles until the next big hail storm!

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