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The Basics of Roof Pitch: What It Is and Why It Matters

Posted on March 20, 2024

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roof pitch

Roof pitch holds great significance when designing a new roof. Not only does it determine the structure of your roof, but it ensures your roof can manage rainwater flow and accommodate snow. 

If you are building a new roof, you might be curious to know what roof pitch is, as without determining the roof pitch, you can’t decide which roofing materials to install. Though roof pitch is sometimes interchangeably used with roof slope, it is important to note that both terms are different and have unique properties. 

If you want to know everything about roof pitch, read this blog post through the end. 

Understanding Roof Pitch

Roof pitch refers to the amount of vertical ‘rise’ a roof has over a horizontal distance (also called the ‘span’). 

In practical terms, roof pitches are typically written as 4/12 or 4:12. This indicates that for every foot (12 inches) horizontally (run), there are 4 inches rising vertically.

However, it is important to note – Homeowners often confuse roof slope with roof pitch and vice versa. Although these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they carry different implications and meanings in the roofing industry.

Roof pitch shapes many aspects of your building project. It influences everything from cost calculations to logistics planning, roofing materials, structural considerations, and the aesthetic appeal of the roof. 

To put it simply, we can say: 

  • In general, the pitch significantly influences your home’s architectural style. 
  • A roof pitch has a substantial impact on how well it drains water away from your home. A steeper slope allows rain and snow to run off more efficiently when compared to flatter ones. 
  • Moreover, roof pitch determines which roofing materials can be used for your roof. 
  • Another point to remember is attic space. The size of your attic is greatly influenced by roof pitch. Higher pitches translate into larger attics, which provide extra room for storage, while flat roofs have little to no attic space. 

Common Roof Pitches And Their Applications

Roof pitches

When it comes to roof pitches, a wide variety stretches across the building industry. Each pitch has its benefits and drawbacks based on factors like climate, aesthetic considerations, and roofing material compatibility. Essentially, each scenario may call for different roof pitches.

1. Standard Roof Pitches

Standard roof pitches are commonly found on homes due to their multiple advantages. Standard roof pitch generally ranges from 4/12 to 9/12. These numbers mean that for every 12 inches horizontally (the run), the roof rises vertically between 4 and 9 inches.

Why is this range so popular? For one thing, these pitches generally offer an optimal blend of practical functionality and appealing aesthetics to many homeowners. Moreover, they provide reasonable rain and snow runoff, lessening the chances of water damage over time.

2. Roof Pitch for Various Roofing Materials

The choice of your roofing material also depends on the specific range of suitable roof pitches:

  • Flat Roofs (1/2:12 – 2:12): Rubber or single-ply membrane roofing systems
  • Low Slope Roofs (2:12 – 4:12): Metal or synthetic membrane roofing systems
  • Medium Slope Roofs (4:12 – 9:12): Asphalt shingles or composite shingles.
  • Steep Slope Roofs (9:12 and above): Wood shakes or tiles.

Related: Discover The Best Materials For Flat And Low Slope Roofs

3. Recommended Roof Pitches for Snowy Regions

In regions with high rainfalls, steep-pitched roofs are recommended. This is because of their ability to facilitate snow shedding and prevent damage caused by the added weight. In regions prone to heavy snowfall, it goes without saying that roofs with steep pitches, in the range of 9/12 or more, seem more appealing. This sharp incline of roofs ensures effective snow shedding, reducing the chances of buildup, which could potentially lead to a collapse due to excess weight.

4. Best Roof Pitches for Efficient Water Drainage

Maintaining an optimal roof pitch is essential for effective water drainage while also ensuring that the material remains durable against heavy rainfall. It’s best to aim for a pitch within the 4:12 to 6:12 range, as this strikes the perfect balance between surface runoff and preventing material damage. This becomes even more important if you live in an area that experiences frequent and heavy rainfall. 

Factors Affecting Roof Pitch Selection

Choosing the pitch of a roof is not as simple as picking out your favorite number. Different factors come into play that will influence your final choice.

1. Impact of Building Design on Roof Pitch

The design of your building plays a significant role in deciding the correct roof pitch. High-pitched roofs might be suitable for some structures but may look out of place or even cause structural issues with others.

For example, modern minimalist homes often favor flat roofs since they blend seamlessly with their clean lines and sleek appeal. On the other hand, houses that have an attic require steep pitch roofs that provide necessary headroom.

2. Snow and Water Runoff Considerations

If you live in an area prone to heavy snowfall or rainfall, having a steeper roof pitch is beneficial. The steeper roof pitch effectively facilitates water runoff, which prevents pooling that can lead to leaks or compromise the integrity of your roof structure.

In areas with more consistent sun, though, flatter roofs have advantages because they can be highly reflective, meaning less heat absorbed. This can lead to a cooler indoor environment during sweltering summer months.

3. Aesthetics and Architectural Styles 

Architectural or house styles in Oklahoma are a huge factor in determining roof pitch. Certain architectural themes call for specific roof pitches.

For instance, colonial-style homes generally require steep pitch roofs, giving them a classic appeal, while mid-century modern designs tend towards low-slope roofs, emphasizing their horizontal orientation.

So, when selecting your roof pitch, it’s essential to consider not only the practical implications for weatherproofing and internal functionality but also the aesthetic impact on your home’s overall appearance. Roof pitch is a delicate balance that requires thoughtful planning and design. 

Final Thoughts

By determining roof pitch, you can make informed decisions about suitable roofing materials and procedures that will keep your home safe from the elements while also enhancing its aesthetic appeal. Additionally, knowing how to calculate roof pitch will help ensure that any work done on the roof is completed accurately and efficiently. Learning this skill isn’t just practical—it can be empowering!

Contact Trustworthy Roofers In Tulsa, OK, For Your Roof Installation

If you are considering installing a new roof in Tulsa, OK, consult the roofing professionals at A. Fricker Roofing and Waterproofing. The roofers at the company can proficiently install a new roof that can withstand the harshest weather conditions and facilitate proper water and snow runoff. Contact our expert and experienced roofers at (918) 402-7167 to install your new roof and ensure your peace of mind.


A. No, the ideal pitch for a roof depends on various factors, including the local climate, architectural style of the house, local building codes, and personal preferences.

A. While it’s technically possible to change the pitch of a roof, it’s a complex and costly undertaking that often involves significant structural modifications. It’s usually more practical to work with the existing pitch when re-roofing.

A. Some roofing materials, such as single-ply membranes, modified bitumen, and certain types of metal roofs are suitable for low-pitch roofs.

roof pitch