Home Roofs Have a Standard Pitch of 4_12 to 9_12_ Here’s Why 


You don’t need to be a professional roofer to understand the reason the roofs on most houses slant the way they do. It’s to allow rain and snow to roll off of the roof, preventing it from getting into the home, right? Well, yes, that’s certainly part of it. But as you’ll learn from reading this article, there’s actually a good deal more behind what’s known as roof pitch.

What Is Roof Pitch?

In the world of roofing, the word pitch refers to the slope of a roof, and it’s simply defined by how many inches the roof rises for every 12 inches of depth. For example, a roof pitch of 5/12 would rise 5 inches in height for every 12 inches of length, inwards towards the peak of the roof. Most home roofs have a standard pitch of 4/12 to 9/12. Out loud, a 4/12 pitch is usually said as, “Four to twelve pitch,” “Four over twelve pitch,” or just “Four twelve pitch.”

Of course, 4/12 to 9/12 is quite a large amount of variation, and some roofs have an even greater pitch than that.

Measuring Your Roof Pitch

There are several ways that you can measure the roof pitch on your home. It can be done both outdoors, from the top of the roof, and indoors, from within the attic. In either case, you’ll need a few tools: an 18-inch (or longer) level, a heavy-duty tape measure, and a pencil. All you have to do is mark your level at 12 inches. You’ll then hold it at the very bottom of your roof rafter and keep the bubble right in the center of the level’s liquid vial. From that 12-inch mark, use your tape measure to measure upward until you touch the roof itself. That measurement is your roof pitch: if it’s 5 inches, for example, you have a roof pitch of 5/12. If it’s 6 inches, your roof pitch will then be 6/12.

This method will work equally well on top of the roof. Simply measure downward from the level instead of upward. Of course, if you intend to go climbing around on a rooftop, always ensure that safety is your top priority. Wear long pants and close-toed shoes, use a roofing harness, and watch out for any tripping hazards or other risky areas. Do not climb on the roof on a very hot or very cold day, and especially do not climb on the roof if it has been raining or snowing. As with any hazardous job, always have a spotter: a second person who can serve as an extra set of eyes while you go about the job.

Why Your Roof Pitch Is What It Is

As we mentioned above, the standard roof pitch is 4/12 to 9/12. This, of course, means that the average home roof can have only a slight slant or a much more extreme one. How is the roof pitch chosen when buildings are designed? There are several factors that builders take into consideration when creating a house.


The first, of course, is the weather. You’ll notice that the rooftops in regions with more extreme weather conditions—ones that are prone to a lot of rain and snow—tend to have a lot more slant than the ones in drier and more temperate areas. That’s a big part of the reason why Colonial-style New England homes have the famously steep pitches that they do. In drier areas, such as Arizona, you’ll notice that the roofs are a lot less steep because they have a greatly reduced need to deflect rain and snow.


Weather isn’t the only factor in play when choosing a roof pitch. A roof slant on the lower end—such as a 4/12 pitch—may also be that way due to the materials being used. Tar and gravel roofs, commonly used on apartment buildings, don’t lend themselves to highly slanted rooftops. By the same token, a roof with a narrow pitch won’t make use of decorative shingles since there would be no particular benefit to having them. Essentially, the steeper the angle of the roof, the more visible the roofing material. A roof with a steep pitch will require fancier—and potentially more expensive—materials in its construction.


The other consideration with regards to roof pitches is space. If a home has a relatively flat roof, there won’t really be any room for an attic or much of anything else in the upper part of the home. On the other hand, if the roof has a steeper pitch, that leaves you plenty of room for an attic you can store things in. You can even turn it into a loft space that serves as an extra room for your home.

How Your Roof Pitch Affects Maintenance

Caring for your roof is a critical part of the regular maintenance of your home. After all, it’s the roof that is responsible for keeping rain and damaging ultraviolet radiation out of your home. Over time, your roof will take a beating from rain, snow, and the sun’s rays. If it develops any damage, this can quickly balloon into a catastrophic failure that can potentially cost you many thousands of dollars.

The pitch of your roof has a major effect on how maintenance is done. The steeper the pitch, the more difficult it is for a roofer to walk around performing basic repair work. A steeper pitch also means that the roof most likely makes use of shingles or other complex materials.

In any case, it’s important that you find a reputable roofing professional who has experience with roofs that have the same pitch as the one on your home. A company like Interstate Roofing employs professionals who are experienced with all types of roofs. They can maintain and repair your roof so that, regardless of the angle of your roof, it remains in great condition for many years to come.

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