24 Parts of a Roof: Terminology and Function
Whether you need to make repairs or you’re gearing up for a new build, knowing the parts of a roof can prepare you for the process.
While everyone notices the finish on their roof, not many know about the other materials keeping them safe and dry. The truth is many roof parts are required to stop leaks, redirect water run-off, and protect wood from rot.
Here’s a breakdown of roof terminology.
Common Roofing Terms
Roof trusses are pre-manufactured metal or wood pieces that make up the roof frame, supporting the weight of all roofing materials.
Roof rafters provide the same function as trusses: framing the roof. They look like large triangles made of lumber. But unlike trusses, contractors build rafters on-site. While they’re less popular today, rafters are a more traditional method for framing a roof and allow for custom designs.
Roof decking goes over your roof’s trusses or rafters and lays the foundation for other materials. There are different types of roof decking (also known as sheathing). These include plywood, plank sheathing, and tongue and groove.
Half-an-inch thick plywood is the most common type of roof decking.
The underlayment is a thin material, usually felt or synthetic, that goes on top of the roof’s decking and underneath the shingles. Underlayment is an integral part of a roof structure, protecting the decking from moisture and rot.
The fascia is the long board that runs along the roof’s lower edge. It’s situated at the bottom of the trusses or rafters, and while decorative, it plays a vital role, giving you a place to attach your gutters.
The drip edge is a piece of metal installed at the edge of the roof. Its purpose is to prevent water from penetrating the roof and to direct water away from your fascia and into the gutters.
Ice and Water Shield
The ice and water shield is a waterproof membrane that protects the most vulnerable places in your roof, such as the valleys, eaves, raked edges, and overhangs. It’s an integral part of a roof if you live in areas with heavy snowfall. The shield prevents melting snow from making its way through small cracks.
Roof flashing material is flat and thin (often galvanized steel), preventing water from penetrating vulnerable areas. It goes on valleys, around vents, skylights, roof edges, and where the roof meets the home’s walls.
Chimney flashing is a thin, flat material that goes around chimneys to prevent water from entering the home.
Your roof covering or roof material can be shingles, cedar shake, metal, aluminum, or roof tiles, depending on your preferences and area. In the United States, asphalt shingles remain the most popular roofing material because of their cost and performance.
A roof edge is also called a roof eave – it’s the portion of the roof that overhangs your home’s sidewalls.
The soffit is the material that covers the underside of the roof’s eave. You can see the soffit if you stand under the edge of your roof and look up. The most common soffit materials include wood, fiber cement, vinyl, and aluminum.
Rain gutters are a water drainage system attached to your roof’s fascia board. Most gutters are aluminum and look like long, hollow pieces. The purpose of a rain gutter is to direct rain and snow run-off away from your home’s foundation.
The downspout is the vertical piece attached to your gutter that runs down the side or corner of your home. Downspouts direct water collected by the gutters away from your house.
A roof abutment is any section of a roof that joins to a wall higher than it.
The ridge is the horizontal line at the top of a sloping roof where two sides meet.
A roof valley is where two sections of the roof meet, forming a downward slope that creates angled interior walls. The valley allows water to run off the roof.
A dormer is a window that extends out of a sloped roof. Dormers look like small rooms with their own roofs. A roof dormer may be small, holding only one window, or long, holding several.
A roof gable is where two sides of a roof come together, creating a horizontal ridge at the top of the roof. A gable-style roof looks like a standard triangle and is one of the most popular and simplest to build.
A gable end is the section of wall underneath the end of a gable roof.
A roof hip is where multiple sides of a roof slope downward from the peak. There are many types of hipped roofs, some featuring four sloping sides while others have hips and valleys, creating multiple sections.
The hipped edge of a roof is the triangle-shaped section that forms where the sloped sides of the roof meet.
A flat roof is a gently sloped roof that appears flat. Most flat roofs have a slight pitch that allows water to shed. Flat roofs are common for small additions.
A skylight is a window in the ceiling; if you have one, it’s also a roof component. Skylights can be small and square, but most are long rectangles. Skylights require proper roof flashing to prevent leaks.
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