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A Guide to Understanding Common Roofing Terms

Posted on February 25, 2024

Estimated Reading Time : 7 Min.

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roofing terms

Roofing, an integral part of every home, is a topic often enveloped in a web of complex terms that can leave homeowners scratching their heads. But understanding these terms is crucial for making informed decisions about roof maintenance, repairs, or replacements. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll define some common roofing terms, providing you with the knowledge you need to better understand the parts of your roof with confidence. Also, we have categorized and organized the roofing components so that you can easily navigate through this roofing glossary. 

A. Roof Structure Terminology

The following components are the supporting structure of the roof, providing the framework for the other materials. 

1. Roof Deck

Roof deck
Roof Deck

The roof deck serves as the foundation for the entire roofing structure. Generally  constructed from plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), it provides a stable base for the upper roofing layers. The advantages lie in its ability to support the load of roofing materials and distribute it evenly across the underlying structure.

2. Roof Rafters and Trusses

Roof rafters and trusses
Roof Rafters and Trusses

Roof rafters and trusses are fundamental structural components that create the attic space. Roof rafters, individual sloping beams that form the structure of the roof, provide support and architectural shape. Similarly, roof trusses are prefabricated triangular structures that support the roof and distribute the load evenly across exterior walls, ensuring structural integrity. The choice between rafters and trusses depends on factors like architectural design, load-bearing requirements, and cost considerations.

B. Protective Components

These parts of the roof protect against water intrusion, safeguarding the home from damage. 

1. Roof Flashing

Roof flashing
Roof Flashing

Roof flashing is generally made of metal. The pieces are strategically installed in vulnerable areas, such as around any roof penetration, to prevent water penetration. Their primary role is to create a watertight barrier around chimneys, vents, and valleys. Common types of flashing include step flashing and valley flashing. 

a) Chimney Flashing

Chimney flashing is installed around the base of chimneys to create a watertight seal. They prevent water intrusion and leaks into the attic space.

b) Step Flashing

Step flashing is a series of L-shaped metal pieces installed at roof-wall intersections, providing a water-resistant barrier in areas where vertical walls meet sloping roofs.

c) Valley Flashing

Valley flashing is placed in the valleys formed by the intersection of two sloping roof surfaces, directing water flow down and preventing water accumulation. 

2. Drip Edge

The drip edge is a metal strip installed along the edges of the roof. This component prevents water from entering the roof structure on the roof edge. The advantages of a drip edge include enhanced water shedding, which contributes to the overall longevity of the roof and the structural integrity of the building.

3. The Gutter System

A gutter system comprises gutters, downspouts, and accessories. It plays a crucial role in managing and draining rainwater away from the building. The gutters collect water runoff from the roof while the downspouts channel it away from the foundation, preventing erosion and potential water damage. 

Different gutter materials include aluminum, vinyl, or steel. Depending on their materials, gutters offer varying benefits like durability, affordability, and resistance to corrosion.

4. Roofing Materials

The roofing material is the visible outer layer that shields the roof from the elements. The choice of roofing material impacts both the aesthetics and functionality of the roof. 

a) Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles
Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are the most common roofing material due to their affordability and versatility. They come in many types, including 3-tab and architectural shingles. Asphalt shingles are easy to install and come in various colors and styles.

b) Metal Roofs

Metal roofs
Metal Roofs

Metal roofing materials, such as steel, aluminum, and copper, are valued for their durability and longevity. Metal roofs come in various styles, including standing seam panels, shingles, and tiles, offering versatility in design.

c) Wood Shingles and Shakes

Wood shingles and shakes
Wood Shingles and Shakes

Wood shingles and shakes add a natural and timeless aesthetic to roofs. A wood shake roof made from cedar or redwood offers insulation benefits. While shakes have a more rustic appearance, shingles are precisely cut for a smoother, uniform look.

5. Underlayment


Positioned directly atop the roof deck, the underlayment acts as a protective barrier against water infiltration. Usually made of asphalt-saturated felt or synthetic materials, it enhances the roof’s resilience by preventing leaks and water damage. Each type of underlayment offers specific benefits, such as improved durability or enhanced resistance to weather conditions.

a) Ice and Water Shields

In colder climates, ice and water shields are crucial. This type of underlayment is made of waterproof materials and should be used in regions with harsh winter weather. Offering more robust protection against ice and snow buildup, they are responsible for safeguarding your roof from winter-related damage.

C. Architectural Components

Fascia and soffit
Fascia and Soffit

Each of the following parts plays a role in maintaining a watertight roofing system. 

1. Fascia

Positioned at the edge of the roof, the fascia serves both functional and aesthetic purposes. It provides support to the lower edge of the roof and gives a finished appearance to the structure. Fascia boards can be made from wood, composite materials, or vinyl, each offering distinct advantages such as durability, low maintenance, and customization options.

2. Roof Eaves

Eaves are the horizontal extensions of the roof beyond the exterior walls. Apart from protecting walls from rainwater, eaves add architectural character to a home. The design of eaves can vary. The advantages of roof eaves include enhanced curb appeal and increased protection against water damage to the building’s structure. 

3. Soffit

The soffit is the visible roofing component beneath the eaves. It contributes to the overall aesthetics of the roof. Soffits come in various materials, including wood, vinyl, and aluminum, and can be vented. Vented soffits can enhance attic ventilation, preventing moisture buildup and regulating temperatures. The advantages lie in their ability to improve energy efficiency by promoting proper airflow within the attic space.

4. Roof Ridge

The ridge is the highest point where two roof slopes meet, and it is often covered with ridge caps or ridge shingles. Playing a crucial role in weatherproofing the roof, the ridge prevents water penetration and protects against wind uplift. Ridge vents contribute to proper attic ventilation, improving the overall performance of the roof.

5. Roof Valley

Roof valleys offer both aesthetic and functional advantages to the roofing system. They form when two sloping roof surfaces meet, making an interior angle.  Moreover, they require special attention to prevent water accumulation and leaks. There are three main types of roof valleys: closed valleys, open valleys, and woven valleys. Open valleys, for example, provide a more pronounced aesthetic appeal, while closed valleys offer enhanced protection against water infiltration.

Common Roofing Accessories You Should Know 

While these components are not always needed, they can be found on many residential roofs in Tulsa, OK. 

1. Ridge Vents and Soffit Vents

Installed along the peak of the roof, ridge vents provide proper attic ventilation. Ridge vents are a type of exhaust vents, as they allow hot air to escape and prevent heat buildup inside the attic. They reduce the risk of moisture-related issues.

While soffit vents are a type of intake vents that work in the combination of ridge vents. As mentioned above, soffit vents bring in cooler air and are responsible for creating a balanced airflow. This thermal equilibrium that helps regulate humidity and moisture buildup within the attic space.

2. Skylights

Skylights not only add natural light to interior spaces but also contribute to energy efficiency. They reduce the need for artificial lighting and ventilation during day. Plus, properly installed skylights can enhance the aesthetic appeal of your home.

3. Vent Pipe Boots

Vent pipe boots are essential roofing components installed around vent pipes. They create a secure seal, preventing water infiltration and protecting these vulnerable points on your roof. 

4. Roof Snow Guards

Especially important in regions with heavy snowfall, snow guards prevent snow from suddenly sliding down the roof, protecting both the structure and anyone below. They help keep the snow in one place, reducing the risk of avalanches.

5. Roof Sealants and Caulks

Roof sealants and caulks play a vital role in maintaining the integrity of your roof. Applied to gaps, cracks, and seams on various roofing materials, these products prevent water penetration and enhance overall durability.

6. Chimney

The chimney is a vertical structure rising above the roofline. Chimneys can be constructed from brick, stone, or metal, each with its own set of advantages such as durability, aesthetic versatility, and resistance to weathering. Proper flashing around the chimney base is essential to create a watertight seal, preventing water leaks. 

Contact The Professional Roof Installers In Tulsa, OK 

If you are thinking of installing a new roof or are planning a complete roof replacement in Tulsa, OK, contact our team of local professional roof installers. A. Fricker Roofing and Waterproofing in Tulsa, OK, is a leading roofing company known for its excellent and trustworthy service. 
The roofers at the company are proficient in handling any roofing task. Whether you need a new roof installation, a complete roof replacement, or just a professional roof inspection, we have you covered. Contact us today at (918) 402-7167 to consult a professional roofer.

roofing terms