It’s official: dramatic, steep roofs are back in style.
Or perhaps they never went away. Gabled roofs and A-frame structures have been around as long as humans have been building.
Today, a 10/12 roof pitch is the most common of these steep types. This is especially true in cold-weather climates where snow and hail are common.
But this particular roof shape has spread across the United States — enough that it’s often recognized as a “typical” suburban house roof.
Whether building your dream home or on the market, roof pitch and slope can make a more significant difference than you might think. Like every roof type, a 10/12 pitch has its tradeoffs.
Below, we’ve put together a list of the pros and cons of a 10/12 roof pitch.
What Is a 10/12 Roof Pitch?
Let’s define some basic terminology for those unfamiliar with roofing. The most important are run, rise, span, slope, and pitch.
Run, Rise, and Span
Remember learning “rise over run” to calculate the slope of an angled line? The same principle applies to roofs. Roof pitch measurements are written as rise/run, in inches.
Let’s take the 10/12 pitch as an example. For every 12 inches (one foot) of the distance between a building’s edge and the roof’s apex, the roof itself gains 10 inches in height.
The lateral distance from the edge of the building to the point beneath the roof’s apex is called the “run,” while the vertical distance between that point and the roof’s apex is called the “rise.”
If you see the word “span” used — it’s a similar measurement to a roof’s “run,” but it covers the entire building width from edge to edge instead of from one edge to the point beneath the roof apex.
Pitch and Slope
You’ll see the words “pitch” and “slope” used a lot in the roofing world. Sometimes, they’re treated as interchangeable.
However, there is a slight difference between the two.
Pitch technically refers to the roof’s rise over the entire width — or span — of the building.
Roof slope, on the other hand, refers to just the rise over the “run” to the point beneath the roof’s apex. In a symmetrical roof, this would be right in the middle.
However, modern architecture has seen a rise in asymmetrical roof styles. This means you can have more than one slope measurement in a roof, depending on the structure of your building. In turn, this means there isn’t one consistent “pitch” for the entire building.
For the purposes of this article, however, we’ll be using the term “pitch” to refer to a single roof angle — whether you plan to have a symmetrical or asymmetrical roof.
Check Your Local Codes and Ordinances
Another quick note before we dive in. Many towns and cities across the country have local codes that limit how steep or flat your roof can be. These can exist for various environmental, cosmetic, or weather-related reasons.
If you’re building a new home or considering extensive roof renovation, check your local ordinances to ensure your planned roof pitch angle will pass code in your area.
Remember, if you’re in doubt, don’t hesitate to call on an experienced roofing company to consult! That said, let’s get into the pros and cons of a 10/12 roof pitch.
There are tons of benefits to this particular pitch angle. Many of these depend on your location, weather, and maintenance needs.
Because of their steep angle, gravity helps you keep a 10/12 pitch roof in good everyday shape. Rain, snow, and other weather debris will slide into your roof drainage system.
Compare this to a flatter roof, where piled-up snow can cause roof collapse. Or puddling water can turn into nasty leaks.
This gravity-powered drainage is why the 10/12 pitch is typical in areas with a lot of snowfall and inclement weather – like New England and Canada.
A 10/12 pitch roof’s superior drainage also gives it an advantage in durability. Because water and other debris flow down and off the roof quickly, they don’t have time to settle in and warp your beams or erode your roof materials.
Roofs will last a long time with the proper care and maintenance. But because most damage-causing water and debris can’t sit and stay on a steeper roof, a 10/12 pitch might last slightly longer than a lower angle.
More Interior Space
Do you dream of having a cozy loft sleeping area? Do you need the extra storage that an attic can provide?
The steeper 10/12 pitch gives you extra space to create those spaces on the same footprint as a flat-roofed home. You could turn that space into usable storage or living areas.
As a bonus, that little attic or loft could give your home a slightly greater market value if you ever sell. It’s definitely worth considering if you’re building a new home.
More Ventilation Options
That added vertical space not only gives you more interior structure options but also allows you more leeway when planning insulation.
Another reason steeper-angled roofs are preferred in snowy climates? They provide enough space to set up a “cold” roof system. By strategically placing insulation to provide cooling ventilation just below the roof, homeowners can keep their actual roof itself cold instead of allowing heat from inside to warm it up.
Why would someone want this? The answer is simple: to prevent snow from melting and re-freezing into ice before it drains entirely off the roof. It also prevents heat from escaping through the roof, a definite plus in areas with heavy snowfall.
Whether you need to build a “cold” roof system or have other special ventilation requirements, a steep 10/12 pitch gives you the space to make those designs a reality.
All roofs will need maintenance. However, steeper 10/12 pitch roofs won’t often need someone to get up on the roof for routine work.
This comes back to the 10/12 pitch’s better drainage. Because the steep angle doesn’t really let anything sit and stay on top of the roof, there’s almost no reason for you or a roofing contractor to climb onto the roof for simple maintenance.
And rightly so — because a 10/12 pitch is a little too steep for safe DIY roof care. We’ll get into that later.
There’s a reason steep roofs are in fashion. Even the ultra-steep A-frame style is now a popular choice for vacation homes and cabins.
It’s because they’re stunning. They’ve also been used for hundreds of years, so many people have come to associate steeply pitched roofs with stately Victorian homes or quaint gables.
If you’re building new with the possibility of selling your home later, a steep roof will make it attractive to potential buyers.
Every roof type will have its ups and downs. Remember — it all depends on your needs, whether you’re buying or building, and environmental considerations.
That said, a few potential drawbacks to a steep 10/12 roof exist.
Gravity is helpful when draining a 10/12 roof fast, but not when it comes to weight.
A steeper pitched roof bears more weight by default because of its added height in the same footprint as a flat roof. This means you must consider material weight when selecting a roofing material.
If you go with a steeper roof pitch, you might want to consider lighter roofing materials, such as asphalt or wood shingles.
Wear and Tear From Wind
The steepness of a 10/12 roof pitch also means they are more susceptible to wind damage than a lower pitch.
Though this isn’t always immediately noticeable, the effects of windy storms definitely add up and can damage your roofing materials over time. This may cause your roof to need maintenance more often, especially if you live in an area that sees frequent windstorms or blowing debris.
However, this isn’t likely an issue you’d need to deal with frequently. With suitable materials, care, and a skilled roofer doing the initial installation, it might not make a huge difference.
A roof with a 10/12 pitch will have a greater surface area than a lower-pitched roof on the same building. This is because it has greater height by default.
Because of their large surface area, building a roof at a 10/12 pitch can get expensive — not just from the roofing materials cost (shingles, slate, or whatever you choose), but also from the timber needed to support or truss that roof.
This is likely to be a more significant concern for those building a new home rather than renovations. Either way, a steeper roof pitch in any project will need careful planning and budgeting.
Fewer Roof Installation Possibilities
Are you thinking about going solar? It’s much harder to install rooftop solar panels — or anything else — on a steep 10/12 pitch roof.
This is primarily due to a 10/12 roof pitch being dangerous to walk on without the proper training and equipment. Rooftop installations can be done but will require expert help whenever maintenance is needed.
On a lower-pitched roof, however, it’s much easier and safer for a contractor to hop up and install something or make repairs.
Gutter Cleaning Is Paramount
The efficient drainage is one of the biggest pros of a steep 10/12 roof. But it relies on regular and thorough cleaning of the gutters and other drainage parts.
Think about it: the water, snow, leaves, and other debris fall from the roof into your gutters. If those gutters get plugged up with too much debris, water and snow can start piling up on and around them, leading to internal damage.
It’s not a big downside to a steep roof pitch. But you definitely need to factor in regular drainage clearing with any 10/12 pitch home.
Steep Sloped Roofs Are Dangerous to Climb
Not that roofs are intended for climbing — they’re there to keep out the elements, after all.
But the steep slope of a 10/12 roof presents a host of issues because it’s so difficult to climb. Though we wouldn’t recommend doing heavy-duty roofing work yourself in any scenario, it’s at least possible on a low-pitched roof.
Without specialized safety equipment, getting onto and staying safe on a 10/12 roof for any reason is very dangerous. You need to hire a specialized contractor for any needed work.
This brings us right to our next point.
Maintenance Can Be Costly
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines a “steep” roof as any rise greater than 4 inches for every foot (12 inches) of run. This makes a 10/12 roof pitch very steep.
Because of their steepness and the challenges associated with getting onto and working on a steep roof, contractor help is necessary. However, not all contractors have the right equipment or skills to work well on a steep roof.
Down the road, the necessity of hiring professionals makes might raise maintenance costs.
Consult a Professional Roofer Like Point Roofing
There are clearly a lot of pros and cons to a 10/12 roof pitch. But at the end of the day, you know your needs in a roof pitch best.
A good roofing company can help you match those needs to a roof style in your budget. With their substantial expertise, they can also provide sound recommendations for your particular situation.
If you’re in the Boise area, consider Point Roofing. We’ll provide you with a free inspection and quote. We’re skilled with all roof pitch types (low and high).
Even if you’re not starting a new project, you’ll still need a reliable roofer for your semi-annual inspections. Give us a call!