Pitch & Gravel Roof Inspection


I’m going to inspect my first pitch & gravel roof this week. I have a couple questions:

  1. Should I be walking on it since the slope is minimal?
  2. Other than obvious standing water & signs of leakage inside the structure, are there other things I should be looking for?

Thanks in advance for everyone’s help!



You will get various opinions about walking on roofs. I personally walk every one I can get up on. There are too many things you can miss by not walking them.

I am assuming you are talking about two different roof systems - a pithced roof and a flat roof. Is the pitched roof tile, shake, or shingle. There are different things to look for. Always look for high nails on any type of roof. Look for wear and tear of shingles (and curling), previous repairs, check for any loose shingles or tiles. Always look at the back side of the fascia. Water stains on the back of the fascia are an indication of a leak. Also look for the obvious - trees overhaning the roof causing damage - correct height of vent tacks - make sure the pitch pans are full. These are only some of the items to look for, depending on the type of roof. Im sure other will chime in with more.

As for the gravel roof (I assume this is a flat roof as you said standing water) look for pretty much the same things listed above. Make sure you walk close to the edge. A lot of time this is were they leak and the wood will be soft. We see very few gravel roofs down here in south florida - very few have been installed since 1992, which makes my job easy, as they all need to be replaced.

I also have one of those extended moisutre pin meters. I stick that in all the soffits under the valley. If it beaps, then there will be a valley leak. If you have one, it is a good idea to use it randomly around the soffit area and under the flat roof. Some times you can pick up a leak that may be undetectable to the naked eye.

Good luck to you.


There are 2 basic types of built up roof: Coal tar pitch, and asphalt. They look similar, but behave somewhat differently. The type can be identified by placing a small amount of the material in a small glass of lighter fluid. If the fluid turns transparent yellow, it is coal tar. If it turns opaque dark brown, it is asphalt. Asphalt cannot tolerate ponding water, so good drainage is important. Coal tar can tolerate standing water without deterioration. Defects would include bare spots where gravel has eroded, exposed edges of roofing felts not covered by the flood coat of asphalt or tar, blisters (These are usually 6"x12" or larger air pockets. Do not puncture them), tears in flashings, splits, or improper repair. A repair that does not match the rest of the roof in general appearance is an improper repair.

Hope that helps.

Jim King

James, Dale, & William,

Thanks for the help & clarification…

In this particular case, I walked up on the roof. It felt quite stable, although there were obvious places where the gravel was missing, signs of wood rot along the edges, & several areas under the soffit that had been repaired and/or rotted out. This made my job very easy since I’ll be referring them to a qualified licensed contractor for further assessment.

Thanks again!