Roof 101: Pros and Cons of Steep-Slope and Low-Slope Roofs

The Basics

Let’s take it from the top. Roofs fall into 2 main categories: steep-slope and low-slope. Believe it or not, there is no such thing as a flat roof. Steep-slope roofs can be covered with shingles, slate, or metal, and low-slope roofs have the options of built-up, single-ply membrane, or monolithic sprayed foam.

Pros and Cons of Steep-Slope and Low-Slope Roofs


People are most familiar with traditional steep-slope roofs, simply because that’s what we see on houses. Starting with the benefits, steep-slope roofs are relatively low maintenance. Debris rolls or slides off into the gutters, so you don’t have to worry about cleaning the roof, standing water, or relieving the weight from accumulated debris. Steep-slope roofs also have a familiar, classic, and aesthetically pleasing look to them that compliments a variety of structures.

While they are great roofing systems, steep-slopes do have a few disadvantages. One obvious yet important weakness is that they decrease utility space, especially in larger commercial buildings. Commercial buildings can benefit from hiding large systems and equipment on top of their roofs, which is more of a challenge or even impossible on a significantly sloped surface. Mounting heavy equipment or large objects on a steep-slope roof is challenging and can create run-off blockage situations. Finally, as one might expect, the most common problem arising from steep-slope roofs is clogged gutters that result from the run-off debris and require regular cleaning.

DeHority Residence Hall - Ball State University

DeHority Residence Hall – Ball State University


On the other hand, low-slopes offer several benefits and fewer disadvantages. First and foremost, low-slope roofs essentially provide buildings with another floor. Hiding large mechanical equipment on a low-slope roof can provide additional space inside the building. Further, low-slopes allow for easy implementation of new technology, such as solar panels and rooftop gardens. Lastly, low-slope roofs require less material than steep-slope roofs, making them less expensive, more practical, and ideal for larger buildings.

Hoosier Energy Headquarters

Hoosier Energy Headquarters

On the negative side, as pointed out earlier, care must be given to ensure that debris and water are regularly removed from the low-slope roof to avoid leaks and possible collapse.

In sum, low-slope roofs are ideal for large commercial buildings due to the extra space they provide. Steep-slope roofs on the other hand are aesthetically classic and require little maintenance, making them more ideal for smaller structures, such as homes.


Look for future posts about roof material options for both steep-slope and low-slope, as well as which option we prefer and why.