Roof slope definitions and illustrations (C) Carson Dunlop Associates Roof Slope, Rise, Run, Definitions
How are roof rise, run, area or slope Defined? Roof slope specifications by roofing type.

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Roof slope definitions & measurement methods:

This article defines different types or degrees of roof slope and explains how roof slope, ptich, angle, or grade slope are measured & expressed. We give the required roof slopes for different types of roofing materials and we illustrate several methods by which the slope or pitch of a roof is easily measured.

We also show how simple measurements can give the roof area without having to walk on the roof surface. We include simple calculations and also examples of using the Tangent function to tell us the roof slope or angle, the rise and run of a roof, the distance under the ridge to the attic floor, and how wide we can build an attic room and still have decent head-room.

This article series gives clear examples just about every possible way to figure out any or all roof dimensions and measurements expressing the roof area, width, length, slope, rise, run, and unit rise in inches per foot.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Roof Slope or Roof Pitch Definitions

Snow curls off of  New York roof that has no snow retention system installed (C) 2013 D FriedmanSummary of Definitions of Roof Slope Types: Flat, Low Slope, Steep Slope Roofs

Our photo illustrates a roof whose slope has become irrelevant after the building collapsed. I suspect the roof in the photo was a bit steeper before the building fell in.

[Click to enlarge any image]

The illustration at page top and used again below, courtesy of Carson Dunlop & Associates, summarizes the ranges of roof pitch or slope for flat, low-slope or conventional or "steep slope" roofing.

What is the Difference in Slope Between Low Slope & Flat Slope Roofs?

Actually most flat roofs are not dead flat and in good design also include slope towards their drains.

Flat roofs (0" to 2" in slope) are flatter than low sloped roofs and pitch just enough to drain water.

In our photo below the roof slopes less than 1" per foot - notice the two areas of ponding and staining on this roof.

Ponding marks on a low-slope roof (C) Daniel Friedman at

What is the definition of roof slope and how are rise, run, slope, angle and percent slope related?

Roof slope explained (C) Daniel Friedman

Roof pitch or slope is the angle of the roof surface above the "flat" or horizontal plane.

Roofers express roof slope as "rise" or "pitch", measured in inches of vertical rise per foot of horizontal distance or "run". So a 3-inch rise roof, also described as a 3 in 12 roof, means that for every 12" (or foot) of horizontal distance, the height of the roof increases by 3".

Our sketch above shows the relationship between horizontal distance or "run" and roof slope or "rise".

[Click to enlarge any image]

While roof slope is typically expressed in "rise", it can also be expressed in degrees or in percent of slope. A 3-in-12 roof rises 3" for every 12" of run. That's the same as a 14 degree slope, or a 25 % slope. Why is the roof slope 25%? 3" of rise per 12" of run is the same as 1" of rise per 4" of run or 1/4 = 25%.

Illustrating where to measure roof or rafter run, length, slope, rise, and run when framing a roof (C) Daniel Friedman at

Also see ROOF SLOPE TABLE, TYPES, WALKABILITY for a guide to roof slopes versus walk-ability versus roof type and for an explanation of the roof slope ranges that define the catetories of "low slope" and "steep slope" roofs.

Definitions of Low Slope & Steep Slope Roofs

Steep slope slate roof (C) Daniel Friedman

The National Roofing Contractors' Association (NRCA) and other authorities and texts use these general definitions of roof pitch or slope:

Steep slope roofing is defined as any roof pitched greater than 3 in 12 or 14 degrees or 25%.

Roof slope affects roof life (steeper roofs drain better so may be more leak resistant), as well as roof installation cost (steeper roofs are harder or even impossible to walk-on without using roof jacks or scaffolding, increasing labor costs to install roofing).

Our photo (above-left) shows a steep slope slate roof. You can see by eye that this is certainly more than 3" of rise for every foot of horizontal distance or run of the roof slope, and you'll also see that the slate roofers were using roof jacks to work on the roof surface.

Low slope roofing is defined as any roof pitched at 3" in 12" or 14 degrees or 25% slope or less. Low slope roofing in other texts refers to roofing systems for pitches below 4" in 12" of slope



also see MODIFIED BITUMEN ROOFING for examples of low-slope roofing designs & materials.

Flat roofing is roughly horizontal or "flat" but in fact very few "flat" roofs are really flat, either because it is difficult to build a dead flat surface over a building, or more importantly because even "flat" roofs need to drain water to avoid ponding and leaks.

So most "flat" roofs have at least a little slope either towards one or more roof edges or towards roof drains. So "flat" roofs are really "low-slope" roofs most of the time. To avoid ponding and leaks, flat roofs typically have a nominal drainage slope of 2% to 4%.

Flat roof examples - see MEMBRANE & SINGLE PLY ROOFS


What are the Minimum Slope Requirement for Metal Roofs?

Most metal roofing systems can be installed on slopes of 3:12 and greater and standing-seam systems from 2:12 and greater.

Special standing-seam systems designed for slopes as shallow as 1/2 :12 require field crimping machinery and have sealant in all seams.

The height of the ribs at seams and whether they are protected with a sealant affect how weathertight a roof will be under extreme weather.

Roof Slope or Pitch Requirements for Clay Tiles

Low slope clay tile roof leaks (C) Daniel Friedman

Clay roofing tiles are installed on slopes as low as 4/12, restricted to 6/12 in some jurisdictions. Our photo (above left) shows a low slope clay tile roof in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Low slope clay tile roof leaks (C) Daniel Friedman

This roof was built without sufficient pitch (about 2/12) and it leaks badly during heavy rains, as you can see by our photograph of the roof's under-side (above right). Raising the high end of this shed roof a few inches will improve the roof drainage and stop the leak problem.

Where clay tiles are installed on low slope roofs (less than 4/12) for aesthetic reasons, install a waterproof membrane on the roof surface below the tiles.


Continue reading at STAIR RISE & RUN CALCULATIONS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see ROOF SLOPE CALCULATIONS for an explanation of the mathematics of roof slope and various slope calculation methods

Or see these

Building & Roof Measurement Articles

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ROOF SLOPE DEFINITIONS at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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