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Did you know that the pitch of your roof makes a difference in what you have to do to protect your roof from water damage? Pitch refers to the angle of the roof. If your roof has a low pitch, that means it's not steep – the lower the pitch, the closer the roof is to being a flat roof. A high-pitched roof does have steep angles – it's pointed like a witch's hat. There are both aesthetic and functional pros and cons to both types of roofs, but water management is something that homeowners often don't realize they have to worry about with steep roofs – they tend to worry more about flat roofs where water may be able to pool. Take a look at what you need to know to protect your steep roof from the spring rains.
What's The Risk With A Steep Roof?
The reason that many homeowners don't realize that they have to worry about water management when their roof is steep is because steep roofs do shed water and snow very effectively. There is nowhere for the water to collect and pool, as there would be on a roof with a low pitch. This means that you're less likely to have to deal with the mold, mildew, and rot that can form when a roof gets wet and doesn't shed the water as effectively.
However, there's a definite downside, and it's located in your gutters. The effective shedding of water and snow also means that water rushes into your gutter system faster and harder than it would from a roof with a lower pitch. And it's not just rainwater or snow – storm debris won't stay on a high-pitched roof either. Sticks, leaves, twigs, trash, and other debris will be forced into your gutter system at high speeds. This can lead to gutter and downspout clogs, and clogs that aren't taken care of or particularly heavy loads of water, snow, and debris can damage your gutters and even pull down parts of your gutters, taking your roof's flashing along with it.
Installing New Gutters
One thing that you can do when you're installing new gutters is make sure that you're installing the right size. The steeper the pitch, the wider the gutters will need to be to handle the speed and strength of the water flowing into them, so it's not a good idea to try to save money by installing a smaller gutter. You'll need to measure the pitch of the roof to get the roof pitch factor. You can do this with a 2-foot level and a tape measure. You'll also need to look up the rainfall intensity for your area, which you can get from the U.S. weather bureau. The calculation for determining the right gutter size involves multiplying the drainage area by the roof pitch factor and the rainfall intensity.
It's not as simple as just making the correct calculation and getting the right size gutters, though. The gutters also need to be positioned correctly. If they're tilted the wrong way, they may still be prone to clogging and overflowing. Or they may dump water onto your exterior walls, which is a whole new problem for your house. If you're not certain of your ability to position and install the gutters correctly, don't attempt to install them yourself – have an experienced contractor do it.
After Gutter Installation
If you already have gutters in place, you can protect your roof by keeping an eye out for clogs and signs of flashing damage. It's easy to spot a clogged area while the rain is falling – you'll see water spilling out of the sides of your gutters like a waterfall, instead of running down the downspouts like it's supposed to. If the clogs are particularly heavy, your gutters may sag or pull away from the roof. That's when you may see saggy, damaged, or disconnected flashing, and even shingles or tiles that have been pulled off the roof by the weight of the gutters. These are signs that you need roofing repair right away. If you do need roofing repair, click here for more information.
One more way to protect your roof is by installing a gutter protection system. These come in many varieties, ranging from simple mesh screens to curved metal helmets. They block solid debris from entering the gutter system while still allowing water and snow into the gutters. This will at least prevent clogs, and hitting the gutter protection system first may dilute some of the force with which the water hits the gutter itself, which could help prevent damage.
The next time you have a roof inspection, ask your contractor if you're doing enough to protect your steep roof from damage. With proper care, you can enjoy all the advantages of a steep roof while keeping it in great shape.