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Residential Roofing Styles and Pitch

By Blue Corona Dev Jan 10, 2014

Roof Pitch

What note does your roof sing? Learn about the tenor and timbre of your roof by understanding its pitch!

The pitch of a roof isn’t a measurement of the sound it makes when the wind howls. It is the measure of your roof’s steepness, when viewed in profile. A flat roof has no pitch, and an A-Frame has a very steeply pitched roof. If you remember anything from middle-school algebra, you will recognize roof pitch as ‘slope.’ A roof’s pitch is defined as rise over run, denoted in inches. The run is customarily expressed as 12 inches, equal to one foot, and the rise in inches and fractions of inches.

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With modern roof construction, pitch has become less of an issue of strength and more of an issue of style, but more steeply pitched roofs do shed precipitation (rain and snow) and debris (leafs and pine needles) more readily. Homes built in dry areas tend to have flatter roofs, while those built in high latitudes tend to have steeper roofs to shed snow on roof and prevents roof problems.

Residential Roofing Styles:

Pitch is also correlated with roof style. Certain residential roofing styles, like the skillion or shed roof are typically built with gentle pitches. These roofs are often found on modernist homes.  Roofing and siding contractors also recommend shed roofs for additions to existing homes where the upper edge of the addition’s roof must intersect with the home below the existing roofline. They can shed precipitation well and it is easy to prevent leaks.

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A version of the skillion roof is the sawtooth roof. This is another more modern roof style found in schools and modern homes. It uses alternating sections of single plane, pitched roofing with vertical glass to allow diffuse natural light to enter the space below. The glass is usually set facing away from the equator, preventing unnecessary heat build up for increased energy efficiency in the summer.

A familiar shape to most New Englanders is the traditional saltbox shape. These homes have only two original roof planes, set at modest pitches. The front exposure of the home has two stories and a shorter roof segment, with a longer roof segment extending down to the first story in the rear. An example of this style is the the Ephraim Hawley house in Nichols, CT. These roofs are not recommended for windy areas.

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Hipped roofs are squat, pyramidal or prismatic shapes often seen in newly build sunbelt homes. Hipped roofs are ideal for warm climates because they can provide shade on all four sides of the home. They are a bit harder to vent, though. Poorly vented roofs are prone to ice dams. If you live in a mixed climate like Connecticut, consult your residential roofing company. Hipped roofs are energy efficiency in the summer and generally have a lower roof replacement cost. The style reduces attic space, though. Many homeowners in areas with high wind risks assume that because their hipped roof is visually ‘lower profile’ than other roof styles, they are more wind resistant. Unfortunately, hipped roofs can act as a wing when high winds hit, generating enough lift to rip themselves off the underlying home.  Ensuring adequate reinforcement reduces the risk of roof problems.  (image via

Gable roofs are ideal for cold climates because they are easy to vent, the pitch is steep enough to shed snow on roof, and it is easy to keep them water-tight because there aren’t multiple intersections. Your residential roofing company can advise you on what pitch will work best in your area. More steeply pitched roofs can transmit more lateral load, but they generate more wind turbulence and disrupt the pressure systems that generate aerodynamic lift.

A-Frames, the arch-nemesis of roofing and siding contractors, (no roofs are steeper) are just what they sound like. The roof of an A-Frame starts at the ground and rises abruptly, forming an A when viewed from the side. These abominations allow in little natural light and sacrifice interior space for style. The steep pitch makes roof maintenance difficult, but they do shed snow admirably.

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Residential Roofing Styles that Maximize Interior Space

A mansard roof is a multi-pitched roof designed to preserve interior space in the attic or top story while still shedding precipitation. They don’t shed snow as well as other types of residential roofs, but they can restore functionality to the top story in regions with height restrictions. In terms of roofing costs, mansard roofs are one of the more expensive styles and the intricate details demand regular roof maintenance.

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Gambrel roofs combine elements of the mansard style to maximize interior volume with broad, kicked-out eaves to shelter porches or peripheral spaces. Other pros are lower roof replacement cost and unique, barn-like appearance. Unfortunately, they require more frequent roof maintenance and don’t hold up as well to snow as a simple gable roof.

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Barrel arched roofs and their stylized counterparts, the gothic barrel arched roof, are an evolution of the gambrel roof that substitute a continuous arc for the multiple flat sections of a gambrel roof.

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Roof Problems and Roof Maintenance

There are different roof problems associated with each style of residential roofing described above.  Regular roof maintenance helps prevent roof problems.  Insurers recommend that you have your roof inspected at least twice per year (once in the summer and once in the winter) by a professional residential roofing company.  It’s also a good idea to conduct visual roof inspections yourself- see our roof inspection checklist for regular roof maintenance tips. Understanding how to spot a bad roof will help prevent any roof problems from progressing. In the event that you do have roof problems, get in touch with your insurer as well as your residential roofing company or local roofing and siding contractors as soon as possible! Your insurer will cover most repair costs (or the roof replacement cost, minus your deductible) as long as you have conducted regular roof maintenance.

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