Steep-Slope vs. Low-Slope Roofing: Understanding the Differences

Skywalker Roofing Company
Steep-Slope vs. Low-Slope Roofing: Understanding the Differences
March 17
By Luke Wilson | Roofing

A Roof is a Roof, Right?

At an elementary level, all roofs perform the same essential function – but the way they go about it can be quite different. The basic definition of a roof is simply the top envelope of a building. And what’s the function of a roof? Your roof exists to cover your structure and to protect you and the contents of your building from the elements. The roof system helps to support the overall structure of your building, and it typically adds some insulation value, as well.

But are all roofs the same? No, they aren’t. Modern roofs are now designed for a variety of slopes, are constructed with a range of materials, and can add specific functional features or aesthetic value, based upon the type of roof you choose.

Steep-Slope Roofs

Let’s talk about the differences between steep-slope and low-slope roofs. A steep-sloped roof is what you tend to see on most residential properties. To be technically classified as a steep roof, the roof must have a pitch of 18 degrees or more. This type of roof design is very common for homes, as well as for small businesses which are designed with a “homelike” look. The most common type of steep-slope (or pitched) roofing in America is asphalt shingles. Other popular roofing materials for pitched roofs include metal, slate, wood shakes, natural tile, and composite tile. To learn more about the best material options for pitched roofs, see here.

Low-Slope Roofing

Low-slope roofing is more or less exactly what it sounds like – it’s a roof designed to cover a low-slope surface. In order to meet the low-slope criteria, a roof must have a pitch of below 18 degrees. When many folks talk about low-slope roofs, what they’re often talking about is a flat roof (or something very close to flat). Because most commercial and industrial buildings entail significantly more square footage than residential roofs, flat or low-slope roofs are usually a much more cost-effective design for these types of facilities. Some of the most common materials used for flat and low-slope roofs include metal, modified bitumen & buildup roofs, PVC, TPO, and EPDM. Want to learn more about the best materials for low-slope and commercial roofs? Check out this helpful blog.

Pros & Cons of a Steep-Slope Roof

steep-slope-roof

What are the advantages of having a steep-slope or pitched roof? One of the main advantages has to do with gravity. A pitched roof by definition has a significant amount of slope. As a rule, the greater the roof slope, the easier it is for rain, snow, and debris to flow off of your roof and then be channeled away from your building. Here are a few specific pros for steep roofing:

• Better flow of water

Water that falls onto a pitched roof has nowhere to go but downhill, off of your roof and into your gutters. Because water can’t collect on a steep roof, your roof also stays drier. This helps to prevent mold & mildew development, also lengthening your roof’s lifespan.

• Less snow & ice buildup

Having a steep roof doesn’t just help with liquid water; it’s a better solution for preventing frozen water accumulation, too. If you live in an area that tends to get heavier snow, this is definitely something you want to keep in mind.

• Extra storage space

Pitched roofs are usually built on some type of A-frame design. The greater the roof slope, the more attic space you’ll have built in as a result. If having more available attic space for storage matters to you, then a steep slope roof is the way to go. Depending upon the pitch specifics, you can even opt to insulate and finish your attic as additional living space!

Of course, there are a few potential cons that go along with having a pitched roof, too. A steeper slope means it will be harder to access and navigate your roof. This could mean increased labor costs for roofing installation and will make roofing maintenance a little more challenging as well. Another liability of steep-sloped roofs is that they’re not a practical or cost-effective solution for commercial buildings or other large facilities.

Pros & Cons of Low-Slope Roofing

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Low-slope and flat roofs have their own sets of benefits, as well. Flat roofs lend themselves better to buildings with a significant amount of square footage to cover. Low-slope roofs can also work well for certain residential applications like covered porches and decks. Here are a few more key pros to keep in mind for low-slope and flat roofs:

• Simpler & cheaper to install

Because flat roofs don’t mandate the addition of a complicated rafter system for support, they require less building materials than steeper-sloped roofs. The fact that flat roofs are simpler to install also tends to help cut down on labor costs, too. If a flat roof will meet the needs of your building design, then it’s certainly a cost-effective option worth considering.

• Can actually improve heating & air costs

Constructing a steep-sloped roof also necessarily involves the creation of extra attic space. This added air space can have a significant effect on how hard your heating & cooling system has to work to keep your living space comfortable. A low-sloped roofing system limits the amount of air which can gain access to your structure, which can help to keep things warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

• Offers options for multipurpose roof usage

While a pitched roof may offer you some extra storage space in the attic, a low-slope roof offers you some other ways to be able to use the roof itself. For example, it’s much easier to include a sun deck area on a flat roof than it is on a pitched roof.

And as is the case with pitched roof options, there are some potential cons that go along with choosing a low-slope roof, too. Since overlapping materials (like shingles, tiles, or shakes) won’t work in a low-slope environment, you’re somewhat more limited by your available roofing material choices. And if you live in a particularly snowy area, low-slope roofs aren’t recommended as they allow for significant snow buildup. If the snow gets heavy enough, that even leads to a roof collapse. Another issue to bear in mind with low-slope roofs is a greater need for ongoing upkeep. Flatter roofs carry greater potential for leak development and thus require more frequent inspection and maintenance.

Choose Skywalker Roofing for ALL Your Roofing Needs in NC & VA

No matter what pitch of roof you want (or already have in place) for your building, and no matter which roofing material you prefer for your residential or commercial application, Skywalker Roofing is the name you can trust for roofing solutions in NC & VA! We work with all the best available pitched roofing materials, and we can also help you with flat roofing materials like PVC, TPO, EPDM, and BUR. In addition, our custom-crafted standing seam metal roofing is a perfect solution for both steep roofs and low-slope roofs alike!

Skywalker Roofing is proud to treat each customer as if you were our ONLY client, and we’ve been operating that way for over 18 years. We provide comprehensive roofing services for the entire NC Piedmont Triad, NC Piedmont Triangle, Lake Norman area, and greater Roanoke, VA region. And we do more than just roofing, too. Skywalker Roofing also offers many valuable home improvement services like gutter & gutter guard installation, siding replacement, windows & exterior doors replacement, deck & porch additions, blown insulation services, and more. In other words, we don’t just provide installations; we deliver complete exterior transformations!

Ask around for yourself, check out our glowing customer reviews, and then go ahead and give us a call today at +1 (336) 627-5596. Come experience the Skywalker Roofing difference for yourself!

Luke Wilson

Luke Wilson

Owner - Skywalker Roofing