Roofs protect your home from the elements; they add beauty to a house and even add value when you sell. You can have a flat roof or a sloped one, but they all do the same job: keep your house dry! Unfortunately, most homeowners don’t know the different parts of a roof. This article will explain all the roofing terminology you need to know as a homeowner.
What are the parts of a roof?
A roof consists of parts that work together to form a protective barrier around your home. A typical roof includes three parts: decking, insulation, and shingles or tiles. These are usually made of wood with a high-quality waterproof surface on top, which channels water away from the building’s walls and foundation.
The deck is the surface that the other parts of the roof are attached to, making up the structural foundation of the roof itself. Solid decking is when roofing experts place flat boards along the rafters in the roof designs, and asphalt shingles can be applied to it.
Decking is usually made out of plywood, OSB (oriented strand board), or particleboard. The roof deck sits on top of the structural sheathing. Doing this provides a flat surface for all pieces of the roof structure to be placed.
Roofers add the sheathing to hold up the roof deck. The material is usually plywood, OSB, or particleboard. The roofer cuts it into parts and then nails it down to create a surface that has multiple “plays” of wood.
The underlayment is the waterproofing material placed underneath the roof shingles and the sheathing.
Remember how we said that sheathing holds up the roof deck? The underlayment fills in all the spaces between parts of the roof and helps keep it sturdy and protected from weather or any kind of damage.
It is made from rubber strips, felt, or synthetic fiber. Roofing experts often use felt underlayment for added insulation. This protects against water infiltration.
The shingles are the part of the roof that you see from the outside. They come in many different shapes and sizes, but they are made out of tough materials like asphalt, fiberglass, or metal. Shingles protect your home from leaks and add a great deal of curb appeal to your house.
There are many different types of shingles that come in different sizes, colors, and thicknesses. They are the parts that weather over time, so you may need to replace them every 15-20 years, depending on how much sun or rain they get.
Gutters carry unwanted water off the roof and away from your home. They are built into the eaves of your roof, so no matter what type you have, they are there.
The downspout is a pipe that connects the gutter to the ground below. Water flows through it and is carried away from your home, so you don’t have a water in the basement or damage to parts of your house. They are usually made of plastic, aluminum, or galvanized steel.
The plumbing vents are pipes that stick out of the roof that is used to ventilate a home’s plumbing system. The plumbing stack allows proper airflow in your plumbing system and septic system or sewer.
Without these, water in your house cannot flow. These vents are usually made out of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) piping, and there is vent pipe flashing around these pipes to protect the roof from water seeping in.
A ridge vent, also called a ridge cap, allows air to flow throughout the top parts of your house. It prevents hot air from collecting near the roofline, causing parts of your roof to warp or become damaged. Ridge vents also help to prevent ice dams and snow buildup during the winter months.
The attic can gather warm moist air generated from the house in the winter, and without that air able to exit the attic, mold can gather and cause damage.
The eaves of a roof are the parts of the roof that jut over the walls and shelter the home from rain, snow, and any other elements. They also cover an exterior wall, so they are designed to protect your home from the elements.
The ridge is the point where two areas of a roof come together, usually at an angle. They can be very complex, depending on what type of roof you have.
The roof valley of a roof is the area where two parts of a pitched roof meet at an angle, usually in a V shape. Sometimes you will see multiple valleys on a roof, but this is not common.
Because roof valleys direct so much water in a roofing system, they require a specific underlayment that will prevent any leaks and damage to parts of the roof.
The roof’s valley line is constructed with an additional waterproofing layer, and it adds an extra layer of protection to parts of your home where two parts come together.
The rafters are slanted beams that support the roof. They are usually made out of wood, but they can also be steel or concrete, depending on what you have on your roof.
Skylights on a roof are made up of a pane of glass that sits on top of your roof. They allow natural light into parts of your home that don’t have windows, plus they add depth and beauty to any room!
The attic is the space above the ceiling in your home. It usually goes all the way from the ceiling to the very tip of your roof. Sometimes parts of the attic are enclosed to create bonus rooms like a game room or home office.
Fascia is a board that covers the end of the rafters and prevents water from getting inside your home through cracks or gaps between boards.
The roofing fascia is an integral part of roof construction because it attaches all roof parts. It also adds a finished decorative look to your roof, which can increase its curb appeal.
Wood, wood composite, vinyl, and aluminum are common fascia materials. Learn more about what fascia is on the house here.
A soffit is the covering of your roof that protects the underbelly of your roof from the elements, animals and insects.
For example, if you have an overhang extending off your second story, then the components underneath the overhang are covered by soffits. They ensure that air can flow so moisture doesn’t gather into the parts of your house while also preventing animals like birds and insects from getting in.
Learn more about what soffits are here.
The drip edge is the part of the roof edge that overhangs parts of your home. It hangs off of your roof so water flows down the side of your house rather than in-between parts of your home and into parts underneath it. Drip edges are usually made out of sheet metal or aluminum.
Flashing on a roof is metal that is used to prevent water from coming into your home through the parts of the roof that are not sealed. If you have a chimney or vertical parts of your roof, they are likely covered in flashing. It prevents water from seeping under the shingles and leads to leaks inside your home.
This type of flashing covers parts of a chimney that protrude from your roof. This flashing on a vertical structure protruding from the roof prevents water from seeping under the shingles and leads to leaks inside your home.
A chimney cap is a covering for a chimney on top of a roof. It covers up parts of the chimney where flashing would normally be, but it isn’t sealed like flashing. It is simply a decorative piece that adds character to your roof.
Ceiling joists are slanted beams that form the ceiling in parts of your home running along with the interior of the roof. They are usually made out of wood, but they can also be steel or concrete, depending on what you have on your roof.
Roof insulation is a layer of material placed somewhere on the roof to prevent heat from moving. If you live in an area with cold winters, it is very common to put insulation up near parts of your home that are exposed to the elements like your eaves.
A rafter vent is a triangle or gable-shaped opening at the top of parts of a roof in your attic. It is covered with a screen to keep out bugs and debris, but it allows air from inside parts of your home to escape through the gable or eaves when it gets too hot.
The attic fan is a ventilation system for parts of your home that are not well-ventilated like your attic. This helps to keep air circulating in parts of your house where it can build up, like your living room and kitchen.
The abutment is parts of your roof that transfer the weight and pressure from parts of the roof to parts of the home. This includes parts like chimneys or dormers, which add additional weight to parts of your roof and cause it to sag if not properly supported. An abutment is usually made out of concrete, wood, steel, or aluminum.
A dormer on the house is a window on parts of your roof that juts out from the side. They add light and space to parts of your home where you wouldn’t otherwise have either, so they are a very popular feature in custom homes today.
The dormer window, as they are often referred to, is a popular choice among custom home builds. There is also a dormer flashing around the dormer to prevent water from getting in.
A hip roof is where parts of your roof connect in parts that form an H shape. They are also very common in homes today.
A hipped roof is a roof design where parts of your roof meet at points that form the input of an X shape, making it resemble a pyramid when you look at it from above. Like hip roofs, they are also quite popular.
Gable / Rake
A gable is part of your roof that forms an opening to parts of your home. It is usually located on the side or front of the house, and the parts underneath it are referred to as the gable ends. A rake is just another word for a gable, but they tend to be more popular than simply saying “gable” for obvious reasons.
The gable end is parts of your roof that are on the end of your house. It is usually one layer thick, but it can also be two layers. The parts below them are referred to as the gable ends or the rakes.
Pitch or Pitched Roofs
The pitch refers to how much the roof is slanted down towards the exterior walls. It usually is described as how many inches of the rise there are per 12 inches on the roof. A 6/12 pitch means that for every foot, your house drops down 6 inches, while a 10/12 pitch means that for every foot of length, your house drops 10 inches.
Bring all the roofing areas together
When it comes to the construction of the entire roof, here is what you need to understand.
- Trusses support your roof and hold it in place.
- Rafters support your roof by holding up the trusses.
- Battens are attached to the rafters to provide a surface for attaching underlayment and shingles.
- Gutters carry the water off of the roof and protect your gutters and home by directing it away from your foundation.
- Valley flashing protects against leaks at intersections of two spots of a roof that come together, such as where a gable meets a hip on a gabled roof or where two roof planes meet at a chimney.
- Ridge cap covers the top edge of a roof where two areas of a roof intersect, such as in a gable or hip roof.
- Wall flashing protects against leaks when water from one part of your roof reaches another part that is different from it, such as where your wall meets your roof.
- Roof jacks hold the rafters of hip roofs in place.
- Venting/vents help release heat and moisture to keep your home comfortable year-round!
Why are these parts important?
Every part of a roof is important and serves a purpose, even if it seems small or unimportant.
For example, your gutters are very important parts of your roof since they protect your home from water damage. Without gutters, the water would run down the side of your home and cause extensive damage to it.
When is the best time to replace parts of a roof?
Roof parts have different lifespans, so it is important to inspect them often. Here is the expected lifespan of the different parts you’ll find on a typical roof:
- Underlayment 10-30 years
- Gutters 10+ years
- Shingles/roofing shingles 15+ years
- Trusses usually the life of the building’s roof
- Flashing 20+ years
Now you know the terminology of roof components.
Roofs are very important parts of your home. They protect from weather and help prevent damage from being done to other parts of your home as well as providing a nice aesthetic for your home.
A roof is made of many parts, some parts are more vital or important than others, but each part plays an integral role in the protection and attractiveness of your roof. Every part is vital to the roof being completely functional and strong! Each part serves a different purpose that helps keep your home safe from harm.
There are many parts that make up a roof, and each part has its own lifespan and will need to be maintained or replaced at certain times. The parts of a roof can usually last anywhere from 10 years to the life span of your home, depending on how often it is used and what kind of weather you experience in your area.
When inspecting parts of a roof, it is best to check for any signs of wear and tear or damage that may need to be repaired. If parts do start to show signs of aging, a professional should be hired to inspect the parts and make repairs as needed.