In German Houses, Why Are Roofs Built Very Steep with Little Fences on Them?

German houses with sloping roofs sure are beautiful to look at, but there is a very good reason they’re built that way. And if you look at them up-close, you’ll notice the roofs have small fences on them. There’s a reason for those too. Find out in detail below from the best answers from the internet.


The steep roofs are less prone to collapse under the weight of snow, compared to flatter ones. So they are effectively safer/ cheaper to build in places with heavy snowfall.

However, due to the high angle, the snow or ice can slide off in large pieces and be dangerous, so the “fences” act to prevent/ reduce that. Melting snow and smaller bits can still run off which is why a fence type structure is preferred to a solid barrier.
The main/ sole reason is to prevent dangerous falls.


Not in Germany, but in the US those little fences are so big chunks of snow/ice don’t fall and hurt people. I would guess they serve much the same purpose in Germany. You see them a lot on metal roofs as they have more of a tendency to have the snow slide off in large chunks. Steep roofs are also common as it allows more usable living space.


The slope is so that the snow will fall off the roof before it is too heavy and the roof caves in. The little fences stop chunks falling off in lighter snowfalls and to stop ice falling in the case of snow melting and refreezing, without them there would be a constant danger of snow and ice falling off.
Most houses also have a stick attached to the wall which indicates the safe distance you should stand away from the wall as in the case of heavy snowfall, there is still a risk of snow and ice falling down.


One of the reasons for the tall and very steep roofs is temperature control in the basement.
Traditional German houses, e.g. Bavarian, have long tall houses with tall roofs that are parallel to the equator, so that one side is colder (north side) and the other warmer (south side). Their basements have holes all the way to the surface on each of those sides. Warm air lifts up and cold air falls down creating a continuous air stream in the basement and keeps a relatively cool temperature. This also keeps the basement dry and safe from mold.

Simple ideas like that were important because Germans have had strict laws regarding food and beer and how it should be stored for centuries when electricity wasn’t an option.


The reason why we have those steep pitches is due to a concept in the northern US we call snow load. When you get upwards in to 1m of snow on the roof it can be enormously heavy. Now imagine it’s the spring and you just got 1cm of rain on top of that snow. That snow will suck up water like a sponge. The snows weight just doubled or worse. This causes roofs to collapse. That actually happens to a few houses in my community last year. The steep pitch allows it to slide off easier as it builds up. When it does slide off it’s not entirely uncommon for half the roof load to go at once.

My house has a shallower pitch and I normally have to climb up there in February and shovel it off so the load doesn’t become dangerous in March.
Those “steps” make partitions of snow. So the bottom chunks of snow don’t take the higher up ones with it. When snow slides in to them they tend to act more like a knife than a brake. In practice they don’t see too much force exerted on them.


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