The Durability Challenge: Low-Slope Roofs vs. Steep-Slope Roofs

The Durability Challenge: Low-Slope Roofs vs. Steep-Slope Roofs

Since flat roofs are now gaining popularity for modern homes, the question on every homeowner’s mind is: which roof style is more durable? If you are thinking of installing a low-slope roof on your home, you might be interested in knowing which roofing system, pitched or low slope, wins the durability challenge. 

Every roofing system, whether angled or flat, has its own share of advantages and setbacks. Varying weather patterns and environmental factors affect each roofing system differently. If you are debating between installing a low-slope or steep-slope roof, this blog post will help you reach a final decision. 

Defining The Durability Of A Roofing System

The durability of a roof is its ability to withstand various environmental and structural factors over an extended period of time with no significant deterioration or damage. A durable roof maintains its structural integrity, performance, and aesthetic qualities for at least its estimated lifespan, if not longer. Installing a durable roof is essential as it safeguards your home and also saves you from costly repairs. 

Factors That Affect The Durability Of A Roof

1. Material Selection

The type of roofing material you have installed plays a crucial role in determining the durability of your roofing system. Common roofing materials for residential buildings include asphalt shingles, metal, concrete tiles, clay tiles, and wood shakes. Each has its own characteristics, lifespan, and strength against the elements. 

2. Quality of Installation

Without a correct installation, even the sturdiest roofing materials remain susceptible to damage. Therefore, proper installation by skilled professionals is essential for a roof’s durability. The damage caused by inadequate installation includes leaks, poor ventilation, and premature wear and tear.

Also Read: Do Roof Slopes Affect Roof Installation?

3. Maintenance

Over time, minor damage to roofs is normal. But if left unnoticed and untreated, the damage can worsen and lead to more major issues and costly repairs. Regular maintenance, such as cleaning gutters, replacing damaged shingles, and addressing minor issues promptly can significantly extend a roof’s lifespan. 

4. Climate and Weather Conditions

The local climate and weather patterns have a significant impact on a roof’s durability. Roofs in areas with extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rainfall, snow, strong winds, or intense sunlight, may require specific materials and maintenance practices to remain durable.

5. Ventilation and Insulation

Your home needs proper ventilation to exhaust moist and humid air while bringing in fresh, cool air. Proper attic ventilation and insulation work together to regulate temperature and moisture levels in the attic space. The added insulation to the roof helps continue this cycle, which ultimately increases the roof’s lifespan. Inadequate ventilation can lead to ice dams, condensation, and other issues, which is why you need different roof vents for your home. 

6. Design and Slope

The design of the roof, including its slope and drainage systems, can impact its durability. Roofs with good drainage and adequate slope are less likely to accumulate water and debris, reducing the risk of damage. While low slope roofs are more likely to collect water and hold snow until the sun melts it. 

7. Resilience to Environmental Factors

Roofs should be designed and constructed to withstand environmental factors such as UV radiation, thermal expansion and contraction, and exposure to pollutants without significant deterioration. Asphalt shingles, metal roofs, and clay tiles show exceptional resistance to UV radiation. 

Defining The Slope of A Roofing System 

The slope of a roof, also known as the pitch, is a measure of its steepness or incline. It is expressed as a ratio and describes the relationship between the vertical rise and the horizontal run of the roof.

1. Flat or Low-Sloped Roofs

  • A low-slope roof has a minimal incline, where the vertical rise is relatively small compared to the horizontal run.
  • Low-slope roofs typically have a pitch of less than 3:12. That means for every 12 horizontal inches (run), there is a vertical rise of less than 3 inches. Consequently, we can say flat roofs aren’t completely flat, they have a small sloping angle that helps them drain water. 
  • These roofs are commonly used on commercial and industrial buildings, along with some modern residential designs.
 Flat Or Low-Sloped Roofs

2. Pitched or Steep-Slope Roofs

  • A steep-slope roof has a pitch or significant incline. On steep roofs, the vertical rise is much greater in relation to the horizontal run.
  • Steep-slope roofs are often characterized by a pitch of 6:12 or greater, meaning for every 12 horizontal inches, there is a vertical rise of 6 inches or more. The ratio 6:12 isn’t a defining characteristic of sloped roofs, as the pitch can vary depending on your preference. 
  • Sloped roofs are commonly seen on residential buildings and some commercial structures.
Pitched Or Steep-Slope Roofs

The Durability Of Pitched Roofing Systems

1. Enhanced Water Drainage

One of the primary advantages of sloped roofs is their exceptional water drainage capabilities. Sloped roofs allow rainwater, snow, and debris to flow naturally and efficiently down and away from the roof’s surface. This efficient drainage system helps prevent water from pooling or seeping into the roof’s structure, reducing the risk of leaks and water-related damage. This is one reason sloped roofs last longer than some low-sloped roofs. 

2. Weather Resistance

The inclined design of sloped roofs helps them withstand various weather conditions effectively. Designs like gable and hip roofs stand sturdily against high winds and storms. Moreover, depending on the quality of the materials chosen, sloped roofs can last in any weather conditions. Sloped roofing materials like asphalt, clay and slate tiles, and metal are highly effective against UV rays, are energy efficient, and have superior weather resistance. 

3. Durable Roofing Materials

a) Asphalt Shingles – Asphalt is one of the most traditional roofing materials, especially installed on sloped residential roofs. Some of its types, like 3-tab, dimensional shingles, and luxury shingles, are best known for their longevity and durability against the harshest climates. Their lifespan can vary from 25 to 50 years, depending on routine maintenance and quality of installation. 

b) Metal Roofs – Metal roofs are superior to many other sloped roofing materials, including asphalt shingles and wood shakes. Metal roofs are known for their extended lifespan, increased durability, and high reflectivity. Though the initial investment may be expensive to many homeowners, metal roofs can last beyond 50 years. In addition, metal roofs are sustainable and recyclable at the end of their lifespan. 

c) Clay and Concrete Tiles – Clay tiles are a timeless roofing material known for their durability and resistance to fire, pests, and rot. They are often chosen for their aesthetic appeal and Mediterranean or Spanish-style architectural charm.

Clay tiles have been used for centuries and are famous for their longevity, sometimes exceeding 100 years. Concrete tiles, while slightly less expensive than clay, still offer excellent durability and can last 50 years or more.

The Durability of Low-Sloped Roofing Systems

1. Longevity

Flat roofing systems can have a long lifespan when correctly designed and maintained. Some materials, like built-up roofs (BUR) and PVC, can last 20 to 30 years or more with proper care. This longevity reduces the need for frequent replacements, saving you money in the long run.

2. Efficient Roofing Materials

a) Single-Ply Membranes: Materials like TPO (thermoplastic olefin) and EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) are known for their durability and resistance to weathering.

b) Modified Bitumen: This asphalt-based material is designed to withstand extreme temperatures and offers excellent durability when correctly installed.

c) Built-Up Roofs (BUR): BUR consists of multiple layers of asphalt and other materials and is known for its robustness and can last for many years.

d) PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): PVC roofs are highly resistant to chemicals, UV rays, and weathering, making them a durable choice.

3. Resistance to Weathering

Flat roofs are designed to withstand various weather conditions, from heavy rain and snow to intense sunlight and wind. Durable roofing materials like single-ply membranes, modified bitumen, and PVC are highly resistant to weathering and damage over time.

4. Energy Efficiency

Flat roofs can be energy-efficient, contributing to long-term sustainability. They offer excellent insulation properties, reducing heat transfer in hot and cold climates. This energy efficiency can lead to lower heating and cooling costs, making them a cost-effective choice.

Low-Slope vs. Steep-Slope Roof: Which One Is Right For You?

Though low-sloped roofs are installed on commercial properties, their popularity is now increasing for residential buildings as well. They offer homeowners many advantages over sloped roofs. 

One of the advantages of installing a low-sloped roof you get is an added living space. The flat area on your home can be used for entertaining guests, a rooftop garden, or for storage. If you install a flat roof on your home, you will get the benefits of an additional outdoor area. 

Low-sloped roofs also have many disadvantages, one of which is ponding water. Due to their flat structure, low-slope roofs have the tendency to collect water and snow. The ponding water on flat roofs and accumulated snow can result in water leaks, potential roof damage, bubbles, and blisters. It is crucial to consider this factor if you live in snowy areas and with heavy rainfall, as your flat roof may require additional maintenance for removing ponding water. Because of this and other disadvantages of flat roofs, some homeowners prefer installing sloped roofs on their homes. 

Due to their pitch, sloped roofs have the ability to shed water, debris, and ice easily rather than allow it to accumulate on their surface. This makes them less likely to sustain the water damage that frequently occurs on flat roofs. The other advantage of sloped roofs is their longevity and durability. While flat roofs can last between 10 to 15 years, sloped roofs made of asphalt shingles can last more than 20 years. 

Are You Looking To Replace Your Roof In New Jersey?

If you are considering installing a new roof or replacing an existing one, then you know an installation by professional and skilled contractors is the key to a durable roof. An improper installation can limit your roof’s longevity and lead to premature wear. So, if you live in New Jersey and want to install a residential roof, contact Champion Exteriors at (609) 845-3576 to consult with a professional roofer.