What is a Pitched Roof?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A pitched roof is a roof made up of two angled pieces which meet in the middle, with gables at either end. The pitch of both sides of the roof is generally the same, although sometimes they may be pitched at different angles for aesthetic reasons. It is also possible to make what is known as a single pitch roof, in which the entire roof is made of one flat segment installed at an angle. This method of construction is extremely common all over the world; ask almost any child to draw a picture of a house, and he or she will probably sketch a structure with a pitched roof.

A pitched roof can be more dangerous for roofing crews than flat ones due to the steep slopes.
A pitched roof can be more dangerous for roofing crews than flat ones due to the steep slopes.

The angle of the pitch varies considerably, depending on the size of the building and the size of the segments. In some regions, people traditionally build with a very deep pitch so that snow cannot accumulate on the roof. In other areas, the pitch may be more shallow, with the roof angled just enough to allow water to drain from the roof. In addition to climate concerns, people may also be concerned with the look and feel of the roof, as the angle of the pitch can considerably change the way the house looks.

A pitched roof might be used during home construction to evade local restrictions on number of stories.
A pitched roof might be used during home construction to evade local restrictions on number of stories.

Steep pitches can create more space under the roof, which may be useful in homes with lofts and attics where the height of the roof can limit head room. Shallow pitches tend to create unusable space near the walls, unless the walls are high enough to elevate the roof well above the floor. In regions with restrictions on the number of stories people can use in home construction, pitched roofs can sometimes be used to cleverly evade restrictions while providing more room inside the structure.

There are several different ways to support a pitched roof. Classically, such roofs were made with very heavy beams, allowing for open space underneath the roof. Modern pitched roofs may be supported with trusses which are hidden behind the ceiling, creating a flat ceiling inside a home with a pitched roof. Using trusses can add to the security of the roof, and tends to be cheaper than utilizing the heavy duty beams needed for a pitched roof which will be open underneath.

A number of materials can be utilized in the finish of a pitched roof, including wooden shakes, slate tiles, terra cotta, and composition shingle. The choice of finish is an aesthetic and practical one, with some finishes holding up longer or looking better than others. The costs for building or reroofing a pitched roof can sometimes be higher than those for other roof types, because these roofs and be trickier and more dangerous for roofing crews.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Does anyone have any idea what kind of pitch it is that is in the style that barns have? Maybe the best way to describe it is like the Amityville horror house (for any other horror movie buffs out there).

My husband and I are arguing about the fact that all pitched roofs have gables or not.

He says that that particular house is called a gable style roof. I say all houses that are pitched have gables, so that can’t be what they're called.

Anybody have the answer to our hot dispute? Thankies!


I can totally understand the value of a pitched roof, as can anyone who has ever lived in a flat-topped home!

Having a flat roof creates all kinds of problems from leaks where water pools up to difficulty in insulating. However, I think that the worst for us was indeed the leaks.

I suppose it must have been where the water would settle into lower areas and just stay there. There was no pitch to help with runoff, so it would sit in the same spots. This eventually led to a lot of rot.

We moved before replacing the roof, but we had decided to hire contractors to revamp it with a pitch if we had.

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