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Do Steep Roofs Last Longer?

When homeowners are in the market for a new roof, cost is often at the forefront of their minds. Many people assume that a steep roof will cost more, both in materials and installation. However, there are many advantages to steep-pitch roofs that can save you time and money in the long run. At Interstate Roofing, we want to share our experience with you to help you decide if a steep roof might be the right choice for your home.

What Is a Steep-Pitch Roof?

Contractors will typically refer to your roof’s pitch, or slope, with a set of numbers. The first number represents the vertical rise in inches, and the second refers to horizontal progression in inches. The most common slope is 6/12, which means that, for every foot, the roof rises 6 inches. An 8/12 roof is considered a steep roof, while something like a 4/12 roof is considered a low-pitch roof.

A roof with a steep pitch can make a home look elegant, but of course, as the pitch of the roof increases, material costs also increase. That’s why it’s important to consider the advantages of a steep-pitch roof beyond the initial outlay for extra material, such as whether it is likely to last longer.

Outdoor Grandeur and Indoor Options

From the outside, steep roofs are more visible. They can make a house stand out and look a bit grander and more singular. From the outside, too, there are more options for ornamentation on a steep roof. Roof caps, gables, and other artistic designs are available options on steep roofs but not typically low-pitch roofs. On the inside, the increased height of the roof will provide more attic space. Adding a closed storage area beneath the roof is an easy task for a contractor since the space is already available. The installation costs for this space are relatively inexpensive. If you’ve added enough space to the attic area with a steep roof, you could even convert that space into an office or an extra bedroom.

Energy Costs

You may be wondering, if the attic has more space—won’t the house cost more to heat? Surprisingly, the answer is no. Having a steep roof oftentimes allows for the installation of ventilation within the roofing system, which allows for easy airflow into the eaves and out of the ridge. By creating a constant flow of cooler air above the insulation but below the roofing material, air is allowed to circulate. The circulating air helps prevent ice from forming on the roof in the winter and keeps cooling costs lower in the warm months. Steeper-sloped roofs allow for more effective ventilation than a lower slope roof, due to the additional space.

Less Wear and Tear

Steep roofs offer a lot in terms of longevity. One of the worst roofing hazards is the pooling of water. On lower-slung roofs, water can sometimes collect instead of running directly into the gutters. This is simply the result of gravity. However, it can have devastating consequences over time. Standing water can erode roofing materials and cause decay. Those weak spots then turn into leaks. A leak in your roof is a no-nonsense emergency. A steep roof keeps any moisture moving quickly into the gutter and away from the foundation walls and roofing material.

This is true for snow as well. The well-ventilated roof system mentioned above prevents snow from melting and refreezing on your roofing tiles. Extreme cold and extreme heat are the two major causes of roofing wear and tear, and a well-ventilated roof system helps mitigate those extremes. The pitch of the roof also prevents snow from piling up too high. Have you ever wondered why so many mountain cabins use an A-frame design? The answer is that it’s better overall to have accumulated snow slide off your roof rather than collecting there until the weather changes.

As the increased slope of the steep roof uses gravity and increased airflow to keep your roof from experiencing temperature extremes, that same basic function can keep your roof looking tidy all year. Have you ever looked at your neighborhoods’ roofs after a fall or spring storm? It’s more likely than not that there are piles of debris caught on most of the medium- and low-pitch roofs. Wet leaves, sticks, and anything else caught in the wind can pile up for months if not attended to, making a home look unkempt. Steep-pitch roofs tend to stay cleaner and freer of debris. This is all to say that the increased pitch of a roof helps keep it cleaner, better looking, safer, and less likely to fail over time.

Cost and Maintenance

It’s true that steep-pitch roofs can cost more up front. The steeper the roof, the more material you’ll need. Steep roofs can also limit what material you may use due to weight considerations. Typically, tile and shingles work better than other materials on steep roofs. It’s important to consider, too, that steeper roofs are more difficult to maneuver around. Your contractors will have to work carefully, and the installation may take slightly longer.

Crucially, though, a large part of avoiding catastrophic failures in your roof—things like leaks, missing or torn shingles, cracks, and other dangers—is merely keeping an eye on your roof’s state of health. A steep roof provides a benefit here as well because it’s easier to frequently assess the state of your roof simply because you can see more of it from the ground. Noticing worn and weathered areas and addressing those minor repairs before they get worse can save you money and stress over time.

A steep-slope roof, once installed, provides a lot of self-regulating maintenance. For this reason alone, they tend to last longer than lower-pitch roofs. If you’d like to discuss the benefits of a steep roof, please contact us at any time or you can take a look through our portfolio of steep residential roofs. Interstate Roofing is here to answer any questions you may have.

How To Shingle a Steep Roof

Performing any sort of work on your roof is a tricky proposition. You’ll have to make sure you have the proper tools, as well as a thorough understanding of what you’re doing. The steeper your roof is, the trickier the task becomes. This is especially true if you’ll need to be crawling around the entire roof, attempting to repair or replace the shingles. In most cases, you’ll want to contact a professional to perform a job like this, but it’s possible to do it yourself, provided you’re willing to put in the time, effort, and money to do so safely.

If you need to shingle a steep roof—or re-shingle—there are a few steps you must familiarize yourself with.

Best Tools for the Job

Most of the tools you’ll need will be the same as for any roofing job. You will need, first and foremost, safety equipment. The right ladders are key. Look for a ladder that is specifically designed for roofing. It should be able to connect securely to the house itself so that it doesn’t wobble or fall while you’re climbing onto or off of the roof. It should also have a ladder hoist equipped. You’ll definitely need both hands free when climbing, and a ladder hoist will help you do this by providing a place to put your tools and supplies.

You will need a shovel or crowbar for prying old shingles off, as well as a hammer or roofing hatchet for replacing them. A hook blade and a staple gun are also used in the process of putting shingles on a roof.

You’ll need all the other requisite safety gear as well, including heavy-duty boots, sturdy gloves, and eye protection. A full-body harness as well as ropes and carabiners are critical for safety.

The high pitch of the roof means you’ll need to install roofing brackets as temporary steps for you to climb over. These are 90-degree metal brackets that you can place 2x6s across for use in climbing the roof.

Working on a steep roof will likely also require temporary scaffolding. In this way, you can walk around the roof without having to worry about standing directly on top of it. You can rent scaffolding from most tool rental companies.

If you have any hesitancy about maintaining safety while you shingle your steep roof, it’s best to contact a roofing contractor.

Materials for Shingling

Once you have the tools, you can begin to shop for the materials. Shingles aren’t simply nailed directly to the roof. They have a layer underneath them called an underlayment. This underlayment can be purchased in large rolls.

A sealant for the shingles is an important material for a roofing job. You can usually get it in a caulking tube that’s specially designed for that purpose. You’ll need flashing for the roof as well, which comes in various types, depending on the need. Flashing is the material used to deflect water away from more vulnerable areas of the roof, such as around vents or around the chimney. Along with the underlayment, this prevents water from getting underneath the shingles, where it can do serious damage to the roof.

Getting Started

The first step when shingling your roof is the setup. Find the most level ground possible in order to make sure the ladder is stable. When setting up your roofing ladder, it’s necessary to do so at the proper angle. If the angle of the ladder is too steep, it will be nearly impossible to climb. Too narrow, however, and it will not be safe. The best angle to use is approximately a 4:1. That is, approximately one foot back for every foot of height. You can then use sturdy straps to anchor the ladder to the roof. This is a critical step, to prevent the ladder from falling.

The next thing to do is to set up the scaffolding. Scaffolding also requires level ground to sit upon. If it will sit upon dirt, grass, or any other soft ground, you should set down some plywood first, to prevent the scaffold from sinking due to its weight.

How to Shingle a Steep Roof

Shingling a steep roof definitely comes with a learning curve. It will be a slow process at first, but soon enough, you’ll be able to attach shingles quickly and effectively.

Start by using your crowbar to remove the old shingles if there are any. You can then lay down the underlayment by rolling it out. Use your staple gun to fix it in place. Each row of underlayment should overlap around three to four inches or the manufacturer’s recommended overlap.

Installing the flashing is next. Once again, it should be placed around chimneys, vents, edges, and other vulnerable areas of the roof. Next, you can attach the shingles one by one, making sure that they’re properly layered over one another. Nail them down with the proper technique, ensuring that the head of the nail is flush with the shingle itself.

If You Opt Not to DIY

Of course, the job of learning how to shingle a steep roof is a massive undertaking, and one that can be dangerous and expensive, depending upon how much equipment you need to rent. If you would prefer not to do it yourself, you can contact a professional like Interstate Roofing. We can perform the job for you, safely and effectively, and be able to maintain your roof after the fact so that it lasts for many years.