If you’re in the process of constructing a new building, whether it’s your residential home or a commercial office building, you might be wondering what type of roof is right. In general, you have the option to choose between pitched roofs and flat roofs. But how do you know which option is right for your project? We’re going to break down the pros and cons of both pitched and flat roofs, so you can make the best decision based on your budget and your goals for the building. Let’s start with a basic comparison:

Pitched Roof vs. Flat Roof: The Breakdown

Ultimately, in the pitched roof vs. flat roof debate, it comes down to personal preference. As roofing professionals, we know that pitched roofs will last longer and require less money and maintenance over time, but if you like the look of flat roofs, and are hoping for a low-cost installation, a flat roof is still going to work. It all depends on the type of home or commercial building you’re working with, the style of the building, and how much maintenance you care to put into your roof over time. Want to know more? Here’s the complete breakdown of pitched roofs vs. flat roofs. 

What is a Pitched Roof?

First and foremost, what do we mean when we say pitched roof? We’re talking about any type of roof that has a peak. This is the type of roof you’ll see most often on residential homes here in the Midwest. Pitched roofs are what give you that triangular shape at the top of your home, and create those tall attics on the inside. 

Pitched Roof Pros

As you can imagine, there are plenty of reasons most homeowners and business owners choose pitched roofs, especially considering pitched roofs are significantly more common than flat roofs. A few of the pros you can expect when you opt for a pitched roof include:

 

  • Longer lifespan — the average asphalt shingle pitched roof has a lifespan of anywhere from 20 to 50 years, depending on what shingles and roofing material you choose. Other than a metal pitched roof, this is the longest-lasting roofing option. 

 

  • Less Maintenance — Pitched roofs are designed to let precipitation like snow and rain slide right off. They’re built with a pitch to reduce the beating a roof takes, and minimize the potential for leads as your roof begins to age. That design feature means that you’re going to experience far fewer maintenance requirements throughout the life of your pitched roof than you would with a flat roof. 

 

Pitched Roof Cons

The only real problem with a pitched roof, compared to a flat roof, is the initial upfront installation cost. In general, a pitched roof costs more to install because it will take longer, and require more material than a flat roof. That said, as far as overall costs go, you’re still likely to pay less in the long run when you opt for a pitched roof. 

 

The other potential negative with a pitched roof is in regard to aesthetic. If you’re designing a contemporary, modern building, a pitched roof may not fit with the architectural style you’ve planned. In that case, a flat roof does make more sense to tie together the overall look of the building. 

What is a Flat Roof?

As you might imagine, a flat roof is, well, flat. Most commonly seen on commercial buildings and contemporary architecture, flat roofs aren’t actually completely flat. Most flat roofs are designed with a slight, almost indetectable slope, that pushes any precipitation out toward the building’s gutter system. 

Flat Roof Pros

If you’re not sure whether a flat or a pitched roof is the right choice for your building, it’s important to consider two primary factors: cost and aesthetic. This is where the pros of a flat roof come in: 

 

  • Lower Upfront Cost — A flat roof is less expensive to install on a new building than a pitched roof. This is because it requires fewer materials, and is structurally more simple. That means flat roofs can also be installed a bit more quickly, which is part of what makes them attractive for commercial buildings. 

 

  • More Cohesive Space — There’s a bit of controversy over whether a pitched roof or a flat roof provides a building with more space. Regardless, a flat roof does offer a more cohesive, usable space for an entire building. While a pitched roof might have a triangular attic, the entire top floor of a flat-roofed building will be the same size and shape of the lower floors. Again, this makes flat roofs a good choice for commercial use, as you can fit in more offices and storage space.

 

  • Modern Aesthetic — Clean, straight, and minimalist lines are the current trend for any building, whether it’s commercial or residential. If that’s the aesthetic you’re going for in your building project, then a flat roof can deliver. 

 

Flat Roof Cons

While flat roofs offer a more affordable upfront cost and can provide the aesthetics that many homeowners and business owners are looking for, they’re not always the most practical option. Here’s why:

    • Shorter Lifespan — A flat roof, on average, will last about 10 years. That’s considerably less than the 20 year minimum of a pitched roof, and means you’ll be spending quite a lot more on roofing over the decades if you’re planning to stay in the building long-term. 

 

  • Increased Maintenance — Because flat roofs are flat, they pose some structural concerns, especially for buildings in areas that experience a lot of rainfall and snow. For that reason, it’s recommended that you have your flat roof inspected at least once a year, if not more regularly, to ensure you don’t miss any big problems in your roof. Luckily, flat roofs are pretty easy to inspect because you can walk on them easily, so it won’t cost much to get a roofer out to your building regularly.
  • Greater Chance of Leaks — Again, the problem with flat roofs is that they’re flat. Even though most are designed with a slight slope, they’re not great at shedding a lot of rain or snow. As a result, rain and snow tend to build up or puddle at various spots on the roof, which often causes leaks as the water sits there for quite some time. For this reason, flat roofs tend to cost more overall than pitched roofs. 

 

Whether you’re roofing a residential home or a commercial building, the decision between a flat or pitched roof is a big one and can have long-term implications on the maintenance and upkeep of your building. For help deciding which roof is best for you, give the experts at Werner Roofing a call.

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