Consumer GuidesRoofing, Siding & Gutters

Helpful Roofing Terms

Roof pitch and slope: Roof pitch can dramatically affect installation and repair. In fact, the slope or pitch of a roof can determine the kind of roofing material you use.

Slope and pitch are two terms often used interchangeably, but they actually mean different things. Slope is described in inches of vertical rise per foot of horizontal run. For example a gently sloped roof that rises 4 inches for every 12 inches of house covering is said to have a 4 in 12 slope. Pitch is expressed as a fraction – the ration of rise to the total span of the entire roof. The same gentle 4 in 12 slope translates into a 1:6 pitch.

Completely confused? Don’t sweat. We don’t expect you to calculate the exact pitch or slope of your roof.

So go outside and take a look at your roof, and then come back and take a look at the diagrams below. A close, approximate guess is fine.

Height considerations: A story is a floor that’s above ground. Most homes are either one or two stories. If your house has more than one story, your roofing job may require more specialized equipment.

Roofing problems: Dormers create additional openings in your roof, which will affect your roof installation. One notable area is at the joints, which will need to be sealed with metal flashing. The style or dormer can also affect your roofing material. A shed dormer will decrease the slope of your roof over the opening. You will need to choose a roofing material that can shed water on a decreased slope. A gabled dormer often has higher pitches which will shed water more easily.

Most flashing is made of galvanized steel or aluminum. Galvanized steel is inexpensive but needs occasional painting to prevent rusting. Aluminum is moderately priced and naturally resistant to decay. Copper flashing is often used on slate or tile roofs. The most expensive, it lasts the longest.

Similar to gutters, a water diverter is a piece of metal that helps to control the flow of water as it drains from the roof.

Heat tape is an electrical feature that heats gutters during the winter and keeps water flowing.

A ridge vent is a special vent that sits along the top ridge of your roof. Like other vents, it allows your attic to breathe, but it sits underneath the roofing material, making it less visible than standard vents. Ridge vents help to prevent ice dams and improper snow melt off.

After your roof sheds any water from the house, the gutters and downspouts act as a drainage system for your roof.

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