The Bureau of Mines investigated severe coal mine roof support problems along a section of main entries in the Pittsburgh coalbed in southwestern Pennsylvania to identify the causative factors. The mine roof was examined in detail, and various sedimentary structures are described that contributed directly to irregular and unstable roof. Small-scale paleochannels, scours, and related slickensides were identified as the leading cause of bad roof, and isopach maps were prepared to illustrate a method whereby the presence of these structures could be inferred in advance of mining. Probably second in importance was the occurrence of relatively incompetent flaggy, poorly cemented sandstone, weakened by coal and micaceous laminea. No effect of in situ stresses on roof stability was detected.