Roofing Terms Cheat Sheet

Having a damaged roof is already a stressful situation, and it can feel like the contractor is speaking an entirely different language.  A quick glance at this handy guide can help make your conversation more pleasant and yield better results.

Asphalt – the is the water-proofing stuff applied to various types of roofing materials

Course – this refers to the row of shingles or roofing that runs horizontally across your roof

Decking/Sheathing – This is material, typically plywood, that is attached to the rafters in your attic.  Other materials (like shingles) are then attached to the decking.

Dormer – This is a small structure (usually shaped like a small house) that projects from a sloped roof.  Usually, dormers include windows.

Downspout – This is a pipe attached to the sides of your home running from the roof to the ground.  The downspout is very important since it leads the water away from your home. It is very important to keep this clear and free of built-up debris.

Drip Edge – This runs along the edges of your roof and allows excess water to drip clear of the decking, eaves, and siding.  If there is a problem here, you will find moisture behind the fascia boards.

Eave – The eaves run under you roof between your home’s exterior walls and the fascia boards.

Fascia – If you look up from the ground along the outside of your house, you will see exposed boards.  These boards are called fascia. They can be made from a variety of materials: aluminum, wood, or vinyl.  The gutters are also attached to the fascia board, so it is imperative to keep it clean.

Flashing – This material is also of vital importance to your home. Flashing is sheet metal material that is used to prevent water from entering any intersection in the roof.  Typically, you will find flashing around the fireplace, vents, or dormers.

Gable – This is the pointed, triangular area that runs from the top point of the roof down to the bottom.  It is not part of what you would consider the roof, but more the part of the house underneath it on the side.

Gable Roof – A gable roof is the most common type of roof, especially along the East Coast.  This type of roof has two flat sides that come together at a top point that runs along the middle of the house from side to side.

Gambrel Roof – You might have a gambrel roof if the two sides of your gable roof are different pitches.  

Gutter – Most people are very familiar with their gutters – these run along the fascia boards and lead water, snow, ice, and debris towards the downspouts.  Many roofing issues are related to blocked gutters, so be sure to keep yours free from leaves, branches, and whatever else might collect there throughout the months.  You will want to clean your gutters with each season change.

Hip Roof – If you do not see gables on two sides of your home, but instead see four sides of roof heading to the top at the same pitch, you have a Hip Roof.  All four sides of the roof will proceed to the same end point.

Ice Dam: This is as bad as it sounds.  An ice dam occurs when rain, ice, or snow thaw and refreeze in the eaves.  These will prevent water from flowing freely away from your roof and home causing leaks and water damage.

Laminate Shingles – These shingles are made from two different shingles that have been laminated together.  You might also hear this referred to as dimensional or architectural shingles.

Louvers – A louver looks like a window with shades.  The angle of the slats allow air to flow through and equalize air temperature and moisture while preventing rain or too much sun to penetrate.

Mansard Roof – A Mansard Roof looks like a Hip Roof, but has an extra angle in the roof.  You will now have 8 flats of roof – 2 on each side with a bend at some point.

Natural Ventilation – This is just what it sounds like.  This system relies on non-mechanical vents in the attic. These are positioned to allow natural air flow and draw out hot or moist interior air to replace it with fresh outside air.

Overhang – The part of the roof that hangs over the exterior walls.

Pitch – This describes how steep the roof is.  For those of you who remember 7th grade Math class, it is the slope (rise over run)

Rafter Tails – These are decorative designs that will grace either the underside of the roof or the overhangs.  You can choose from several different styles to match your home.

Rafters – These are the supporting framework.  They are visible in the ceilings of unfinished attics.  The roof deck is attached to the rafters.

Ridge – This is the top edge of two intersecting sloping roof surfaces

Rise – The distance between the eaves to the ridge of the roof

Shed Roof – A roof style that has a single sloping plane without hips, ridges, valleys, or gables

Soffit – A soffit refers to the underside of the eaves.  These are generally only visible if you look up while standing against the exterior wall of your home.

Starter Strip – This is the asphalt roofing that is attached at the eaves.  The Starter Strip protects by filling in spaces under cutouts and joints from the first layer of shingles.

Underlayment – This is an asphalt-based sheet material that is installed under the shingles.  It adds an extra layer of protection from the elements.

Valleys – As opposed to the ridge, these are where two planes of roof join to create a V

Vent – A vent comes up out of the roof deck and provides air for the underside of the roof deck.

Now that you have your A to Z (actually an A to V!) guide to roofing terms, you can discuss your thoughts clearly with the roofing professionals at George J. Keller & Sons Roofing.  The friendly staff will answer any and all of your questions and are happy to help. Reach out to George J. Keller & Sons Roofing by phone today at 973-927-0963.