Roofing 101 – Roofing Basics for Homeowners – Key Terms

Mar 31, 2021

It’s always good to the know or at least be familiar with the basic terminology regarding your roof, especially if you are need of a roof repair or contemplating a whole roof replacement.  Being able to speak “the same language” with the roofing company will go a long way to helping you feel confident about the project and ensure you are being dealt with fairly. 

To that end, we’ve listed below some common roofing terms and their respective definitions so that you can better understand the elements that are referenced in a typical roofing project.  And if the roofing company or person that knocked on your door trying to sell you a roof isn’t familiar with these basic terms, be careful….and better yet, run away!  Some roofing companies employ people who do not have your best interest at your heart and are only focused on trying to sell you a roof (and get paid a big commission on your project).  We at Elite Roofing recommend you only work with a trusted contractor like a GAF Master Elite one or similarly credentialed roofer.  Elite Roofing is not only GAF Master Elite, but are also multi-year President Club award winners so you can have even greater confidence you are dealing with the best of the best. 

The Different Elements of A Roof

Structural Roof Components

  • Rafters — are structural framing components that run from the ridge, or peak, of the roof to the eave, or edge. Rafters form the base of a roof’s support from inside the home and are what you can see in your attic that “holds up the roof”.
  • Roof truss —is a structural member or framework made up of three or more pieces, usually in the shape of a triangle. They support the roof decking and structure.  Nowadays, they are typically pre-manufactured and installed as an entire truss system in newer homes.  Historically these were built on site.
  • Sheathing / Decking — are the structural base of the roof that the roofing components are installed over and secured to. Generally, sheathing is made from plywood, OSB (oriented strand board) or wood plank (typically in 1x6x10 boards or other lengths). Along with the roof’s structural framework, decking is designed to support the load of the roofing system, snow load, and any other loads required by local code.
  • Ridges – are the horizontal peak lines connecting 2 sloped roofs. They are supported by the rafters / trusses and are typically the highest horizontal lines you see when you look at your roof from the street.  In today’s roofing systems, the ridges form a critical point for the ventilation of your roof.
  • Hips – are created where the roof slopes downward from the ridge to the corners of the home at gradual angles.  Typically, a hip’s two end points connect to the upper corners of the home. In some combinations of roof styles, a hip will connect to another part of the roof, as part of the frame. You can find some examples of hip roofs here.
  • Eaves – are the board braces, or joints, that extend away from the upper wall to wherever an overhanging roof ends.
  • Fascia or Fascia Boards – are the long boards which are nailed to the end of the trusses or rafters at the edge of a roof are run parallel to the side of a house, covering the end point of eaves.  Fascia are typically constructed from wood or can be composite boards to help deter rot. Gutters are usually hung from the fascia.
  • Soffits – are found on the underside of eaves, and are intended to fill the visible gap between eave joints. The soffit typically has venting or what looks like holes punched into it to help ventilate the roofing system.  Soffits also help keep any wild animals, birds, etc. from entering into the home.  Soffits can be thought of as extensions of the inner ceiling, but are in reality a part of the exterior of the home and are critical roof components.
  • Rakes — are the inclined edge of gable-style roof planes. A gable-style roof has two sloping sides that meet at the top.
  • Valleys – occur wherever two sloped planes connect, other than at a peak point.  Valleys  can be thought of as the inverse of a ridge, or lines that appear to go inward on a roof, and are a key area of water flow that need to be properly sealed and protected to prevent roof leaking.
  • Chimneys and Other Pipe Vents – are objects that start somewhere in the interior of the home, and travel through a pipe or enclosed channel and protrude through the upper ceiling and beyond the outer layer of a roof. These vent gasses or heat from mechanical devices (such as HVAC, Water Heaters, etc.) or are routed from bathrooms for plumbing venting. It is critical that these venting structures be well sealed, and periodically checked for wear and tear around the seals.  Worn out or poorly sealed vents are some of the main causes of leaking roofs.
  • Skylights – While a great source of providing natural light inside the home.  These provide a great ornamental feature, using laminated, durable, glass. Sealing along edges of skylights is very important as well.

These are just some of the basic terms that any roofing professional should be familiar with and should address in any inspection or quote.  Now you are armed with this knowledge so you can feel more confident in your dealings with any roofing contractor.   Remember – knowledge is power!  In another blog post, we will leverage these terms to discuss the components that make up a roofing system. That way you can build upon this core knowledge to ensure you are getting the best roofing system for your home.

And you can always reach out to the best roofing company in town 🙂 your local Elite Roofing team 🙂 to address any questions or concerns you may have regarding your roof! We are always happy to serve you!