The Roof Pitch Predicament: Determine the Pitch of Your Roof

June 30, 2017

roof pitch Isaiah Industries/Lifetime Metal Roofing

For various reasons, when you are doing research on having a roof installed on your property, it is sometimes necessary for you to accurately determine the pitch of your building’s roof. This may seem like a daunting task, but it is relatively simple.

The Basics of Roof Pitches

Roof pitches are referred to as a number in ratio to 12. They are usually written out as 3:12, 4:12, 5:12, etc. and spoken as “three-twelve,” “four-twelve,” “five-twelve,” etc.

If you were to look at one-half of the truss that creates the roof pitch as though it’s a triangle, the 12 would refer to the bottom of the triangle and could be feet or inches. The other number, then would be the vertical leg, or rise, of the triangle and would be referred to in the same unit of measure.

Therefore, as an example, a 5:12 pitch roof would rise five feet for every 12 feet that it goes back horizontally. A 12:12 roof would rise 12 feet for every 12 feet it goes back horizontally, creating a 45-degree angle.

Determining Your Roof’s Pitch

When determining roof pitch on a building, it is easiest to do so from a gable end where using a level, you can take clear measurements. On a hip roof, you must take the measurements from the rooftop. Using a 24” level can work very well.

Follow these instructions to obtain your roof’s pitch:

  1.  Rest one end of the level on your roof
  2.  Extend the level out perpendicular to your roof
  3. Hold it level
  4. Measure straight down from the other end of the level to your roof
  5. Divide this measurement by 2

The reason this measurement must be divided by 2 is that it was taken at 24” rather than 12”. As an example, if the drop was measured at 14” when measured from a 24” level, the roof pitch is 7:12.

Special Considerations for Determining Roof Pitch

If your roof already has a dimensional product installed such as tile, shake, or formed metal products, your pitch measurements must take this into consideration and, if both ends of the level cannot fall at the same “thickness” of the dimensional product, you must make the appropriate allowances to determine the actual roof pitch. Also, there are a variety of “pitch gauges” that one can view a gable end through to determine pitch. When doing so, though, you need to be square to your building and as far away as possible.

For more explanations of roofing-related concepts, you can read additional articles in this blog, visit, or simply contact Lifetime Metal Roofing for Atlanta, GA.  We are more than happy to help solve your roofing problems and can easily determine your roof’s pitch. We do it every day.

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Ask the Expert: Todd Miller

Todd Miller, roofing expertTodd Miller is President of Isaiah Industries, an organization that is recognized as one of the world’s leading metal roofing manufacturers, and manufacturer of Classic Metal Roofing Systems.

Todd has over 30 years of experience in residential metal roofing and is internationally recognized as a roofing and ventilation expert. Passionate about using his experience to help homeowners make the best roofing decision for them, he can help you navigate the issues encountered in roofing or reroofing your home or commercial property. Use the form below and you'll receive a response directly from Todd or his team.