Tips for Understanding Roofing Terminology


It’s beneficial to become familiar with commonly used roofing words whether you’re constructing a roof on a new home or fixing an old roof. Working with a reputable builder or contractor is a crucial initial step because they will guide you through the construction process, but it’s best to be prepared for the conversation by being familiar with the structure of your roof.

Making your own research can give you an advantage while building your roof and may even result in cost savings. Every component of your roof is essential and has a specific function in the overall roof system. To protect your home from extreme elements like wind, torrential rain, snow, and ice, they all need to operate together. Your greatest investment will be safeguarded and secured for years to come if you are ready for the roofing process.

Common Roofing Terminology

Roof of a whitewashed building

You can start by knowing the fundamental parts and work your way up to comprehending the specifics of your particular roof. Your home’s roof may have a customized design with specialized layouts and protective layers depending on its size, location, and style. Here is a glossary of common roofing phrases that will help you understand the many components of a typical shingle roof, from the structure to the roof covering.


Wooden house frame

The frame of your roof is, first and foremost, the skeleton of your building. With its strong, durable timbers, it gives a sturdy shape and makes a path for runoff water to flow away from your house.


The area made above your ceiling between the rafters and the insulation is known as the attic. Many homeowners use their attics as storage spaces, or they may create a stylish living area above the main house. To prevent moisture damage and to release trapped heat, this area needs to be adequately aired and insulated.

Collar Beam

A typical roof is shaped like a triangle, with the ceiling joists enclosing the base and the mirrored rafters creating the edges. The rafters are connected and supported by a collar beam that runs horizontally through the building parallel to the ceiling joists. A pair of rafters are often joined by collar beams around halfway up the height of the apex. By providing lateral support, these cross beams deliberately and meticulously enhance the overall structure.


The underside of the roof’s outside overhang next to a wall is known as the eaves. They allow water to drain away from the walls and preserve the siding of the house by allowing any elements to fall off the roof beyond the side of the building.

Eave Membrane

A must-have for homeowners in chilly climes is eave protection. Any water held back by ice dams can escape with the aid of an eave membrane, which works like a gutter. This airtight membrane, which is positioned beneath the shingles, prevents water from accumulating beneath the shingles and eventually penetrating downward into the roof by directing any water trapped behind the ice dam and under the shingles into the regular gutter.


The fascia is a crucial outside choice when seeking for a beautiful design appeal. It is a lovely addition to the side of the overhanging roof that completes the look of your roof. This board protects your shingles and aids in moisture repulsion. It runs along the edge. Along with the soffit, it supports your gutter and helps with ventilation to safeguard your roof. The roof edge or eaves edge may also be used to describe this.


A gable is a part of some roofs that is typically triangular in shape and is situated between the borders of two angled roof sides. The intersection of the two panels, right below the ridge, is where the top of the gable is located. According to the available materials, the environment, and the desired aesthetics, gable structures are carefully designed and detailed.


The horizontal joist that extends in a cantilever from the wall is referred to as the lookout. This supports an outwardly extending exterior structural addition to your roof.


Your roof’s incline and siding are supported by the fundamental frame made up of rafters. The major support for your roof cover is provided by these angled timbers, which also hold up your roof deck. Transverse beams are frequently used to connect them.


The sloped side at the end of a gable is referred to as the roof’s rake. It stretches from the eaves to the ridge and may overhang or lie flat. Rakes prevent rushing water from penetrating the siding of your home.


At the intersection of two sloped roof portions, there is a ridge. This peak, which often extends horizontally across the top of your building, is well-ventilated and well protected against moisture.

Ridge Board

The spine of a typical roof could be thought of as the ridge board. It is situated between the rafters’ ends. On the sloped roof, this horizontal plank is situated at the ridge.


When someone says “soffit,” they usually mean the underside of an overhang that is horizontal, as the one on a roof, stairway, or arch. Soffits are typically the flat region beneath the eaves on modern dwellings. Attic ventilation may be provided through vents in these places.


The framework of timbers that surrounds and supports the roof of your attic area above your home is referred to as a truss. Cross-bracing a roof truss creates a solid, secure framework that safeguards your property.


The intersection of two sloping roof pitches is referred to as a valley. Since the water originates from two different planes, this area accumulates twice as much runoff, hence it needs to be covered with metal valley flashing.


Red terracotta tiles on the roof

The roof deck, sometimes referred to as the roof sheathing, is the layer directly above the framework. The truss and the structural joints are all connected by this layer of half-inch-thick plywood or other sheet material, which holds everything in place. Additionally, it offers a smooth, secure surface for laying the roofing materials.

Water Shield

Covered roof

A coating of adhesive known as the water shield or water barrier is put to the deck to defend it from the weather, especially melting ice and torrential downpours. This layer is crucial for safeguarding the deck’s delicate timber frame.


Gray steel underlayment layer

The underlayment layer provides further defense against water and moisture damage. It creates a flatter surface for the shingles to firmly adhere to by being positioned between the roof deck and the shingles.

Underlay Membrane

Direct installation of the underlay membrane occurs on the deck, which sits in between the roof sheathing and shingles. It could be constructed of felt or perhaps an adhesive substance that gets stronger over time to lessen the possibility of the tiles blowing off in strong winds. However, it is frequently built of synthetic materials, such as a base mat that has been wet with asphalt and strengthened with a mix of fiberglass to make it durable and tear-resistant.

Valley Underlay

Install a second valley underlay to make sure your valleys are waterproof. In order to waterproof and seal the region and prevent leaks, a synthetic substance can help.

Roof Coverings

Roof tiles

Depending on the type of home, the temperature, and the desired appearance, roof coverings can vary greatly. They are the last layers to be applied to the roof and could give it a certain look or design. Although synthetic materials, tiles, stone, shakes, clay tiles, or metal can be used in their place, asphalt shingles are generally accepted as the industry standard.

Fastener Attachments

You will require fastener attachments to hold the connections together while fastening your roof coverings to the underlayment and deck. Probably roofing nails will be used for asphalt shingles. Metal fasteners might be preferable for tiling. For your needs, bonding, glue, tar, or adhesive-type paper may also be adequate.

Ridge Cap

A unique variety of shingle known as a “ridge cap” is shaped to the ridge line’s slope. In order to shield the interior of your home from rain and snow while simultaneously enabling moisture and heat to escape through the ridge vents, it runs horizontally along the ridge of your home where two edges meet.

Starter Strip

The starter strip is the first layer of shingles that just lines the border of a roof. It is positioned below the underlayment to waterproof and seal the roof’s edges as well as shield them from strong winds and potential break-offs.

Drainage and Ventilation

House roof with chimney

Strong environmental factors like wind, rain, and snow must be kept out of any high-quality housing. If a roof is not maintained, water and moisture accumulation pose a major threat to it.


Brick homes frequently have chimneys. To ventilate smoke and exhaust gases as they escape the fireplace, boiler, or stove, these vertical structures are inserted into the roof. In order to waterproof the joint where the roof and the chimney meet, chimney flashing is necessary.


The downspout aids in ensuring that water and other moisture are properly drained from your home and placed in the designated area. Your roof’s gutter serves as its water drainage system, but the downspout transports the water to the ground.

Drip Edge

The term “drip edge” describes metal flashing that is laid on a roof’s margins to deflect water away from the fascia. This safeguards the deeper layers and supporting elements of the roof. A little metal flange that flexes away from the fascia supports the drip edge as it hangs over the side of the roof.

Flashing (Joint Covers)

Flashing is the process of positioning and tucking sheet metal or another strong material over roof seams and angles to direct water away from your home’s interior. Other roof protrusions, including chimneys and vents, where leaks are more likely to occur, are covered with this material. Flashing serves to protect areas that are thought to be at a higher risk for water damage while directing water into the gutter and downspout.

Plumbing Vent

A vent stack is another name for a plumbing vent. Similar to how drain lines remove water and garbage, this vent helps regulate the air pressure in your home by removing gas and odors. It improves the water flow through the drain pipes and lets fresh air into your plumbing system.

Roof Vent

Roof vents are available in a range of sizes, styles, and shapes. They are put in place in your roof to make room for warm, humid air from your attic to escape. The hot air can be expelled through vents that are powered by electricity, solar energy, or wind while still drawing cool air from the vents in the soffits.


You might include a saddle to prevent water from collecting during rainstorms while building a chimney or other projection from your roof. To push water around it and redirect the flow, this structure is positioned behind the higher side of the chimney or projection.


Increasing the amount of natural light in your house can be something you’re interested in doing. Installing a skylight is one method of accomplishing that. To provide natural light into your home’s interior, a sizable window was installed into the roof. Considering other methods to regulate the temperature inside is important because it might make the space extremely warm.

Valley Flashing

Metal flashing is necessary in open valleys to defend against flowing water. The metal is typically left exposed, which could give off a modern mood and highlight the design of the roof.


The most typical roofing terms are now familiar to you. Although it doesn’t cover every phrase you’ll come across, this article is a fantastic place to start if you’re interested in roofing. You’re prepared to learn more about the various roof layers to advance your knowledge of roofing. After all, your roof is made up of several parts and materials that work together to create a whole roof system.