Understanding the Different Roofing Terms

It’s finally that time—you’re replacing your roof—but as you begin to navigate your way through different quotes, contractors, and roofing companies, you’ll be faced with a slew of roofing terms, some of which you’ve never heard of.  When it comes down to it, roof replacement and repair becomes a whole lot easier when you begin to understand the terms that go along with the anatomy of the roof itself.

Your Roofing Glossary

The better educated you are in roofing terminology, the better choices you can make when it comes down to the nitty-gritty decision making of replacing your roof.

Roof Frame

Truss:  An assembly of beams and components that is often found in the construction of newer homes and buildings.

Deck/Sheathing:  A plywood strand board where roofing materials are installed.

Sheathing:  The boards, usually rigid plywood, attached to the home’s rafters, allowing for a viable surface to fasten other roofing materials, such as the shingles.

Roof Components

Buckling: The wrinkled or distorted appearance of shingles or the underlayment of a roof.

Felt/Tar Paper/Underlayment: Available in rolls and sheets, roofing felt, or sometimes called tar paper or underlayment, is an additional layer of protection against moisture for the roofing system.

Apron Flashing: Metal pieces that help prevent water seepage, usually installed around chimneys and dormer fronts.

Counter Flashing:  Flashing material fastened at its top in a vertical structure over shingle and rooftop base flashing systems.

Nesting:  A method that entails a second layer of shingles over an already-existing layer during reroofing in which the top edge of the new shingle is right against the bottom edge of the old shingle.  This allows for a smoother look and application.

Soffit: Soffits are the boards that make up the enclosure of the underside of the extended part of the roofing system.

Fascia:  A flat trim board that forms the outer surface of a cornice.

Asphalt: Sticky and black, asphalt, derived from petroleum, can be found in a highly vicious form or semi-sold.  Asphalt is a material used in roofing in products like primers to prepare surfaces for better adhesion.

Courses: The term for horizontal rows of shingles.

Cap Sheet:  On low-slope roof systems, the cap sheet is the topmost layer.

Louvers:  Usually made of metal, wood, or aluminum, these slotted devise are installed in gables or soffits to help create ventilation.

Base Sheet: In roofing systems that are low-sloped and multi-ply, the base sheet is the first layer—the base.

Cant Strips:  Another part used in a low-slope roofing system—the cant strips are triangular pieces of material that aid in channeling water away from flashing sites.

Design Elements of a Roof

Ridge: The top edge where the two intersecting sloping roof surfaces meet.

Valley:  A valley forms when two sloping roofs meet, creating a V-shaped depression.

Eave: The lower edges of a roof that typically overhang beyond the house to help cast water away from the walls.

Gable:  Generally triangular in their shape, gables are the upper portions of walls at the closing ends of the edges of traditionally shaped, intersecting roof pitches.

Dormer:  A raised roof projecting from the main, sloped roof, typically containing a window beneath it.

Built-up Roof: A roof that is low-sloped, nearly flat looking, covered with alternating layers of roofing felt and asphalt.  Often times it is completed with a final layer of gravel.

Rafters:  The framework that supports the attached roof deck.

Rake: The slanted edge of a roof that extends beyond the wall of the house.

Frieze Board:  This board is located at the top of the siding and forms a corner with the soffit.

Slope:  Also called a pitch, a slope is the measurement of the vertical rise in a roof, as measured per 12-inches of horizontal distance.

Drip Edge:  A piece of metal in an L-shape installed along the edges of a roof that reaches beyond the eaves to assist in controlling and channeling rainwater away from the shingles and seeping into the wooden areas of the house.

Cornice:  A cornice is an architectural feature that is comprised of ornamental molding that protrudes out from a building’s wall, doorway, or above a window.  It can also refer to the roof’s overhang out from the sidewalls of a house.  It dually serves as a means to channel water away from the building’s walls and to add embellishment.

Other Roofing Terms

Algae: You might wonder what algae has got to do with roofing, but if you’ve ever notice black streaks on a roof, that’s not from deterioration or age—that’s actually algae.

Penetrations:  Anything that penetrates a roof deck, which can include any vents, chimneys stacks, pipes, or conduits.

Square:  The unit of measurement for a roof.  One square is equal to 100 square feet (10 by 10 feet).

Tear-Off:  The removal process of the original roofing materials, stripping it down to the roof deck.

Taking on the Vast Roofing Terminology

There are hundreds of specific terms unique to the roofing industry, but so long as you know the general parts and most used references in a roof’s anatomy, you’ll be able to navigate the conversation and be versed on the choices you’ll have to make for a replacement.

Much of the terminology thrown around in roofing dialogue has to do with the architecture of a house, and so it becomes essential that you understand the basics of architectural design.

If you still find the entire vocabulary and lengthy glossary or roofing terms overwhelming, keep in mind that you’ll be hiring a professional to help guide you through this daunting process.  A good roofer will take the time to explain everything to you, walking you through each step and answering your questions along the way.

Replace Your Roof with Feldco

The most important element to a good roof is durability. At Feldco Roofing, we replace your old roof with a brand new roof made out of asphalt shingles. Our asphalt shingles come with triple layer protection that will stand the test of time against wind, snow and rain. Speak to a product specialist and get a free quote online today.

Share this article:


Get started with

*View our privacy policy

Or call us at 1-866-4FELDCO®
or visit one of our locations.


Is Window Trim Necessary?

Is Window Trim Necessary?

What Is Window Trim and Why Is It Necessary? Window ...
exterior window shutters

Painting Vinyl Shutters

Painting Vinyl Shutters: Expert Tips and Techniques Updating the appearance ...
Protecting your roof

5 Steps to Protect Your Roof on July 4th

5 Steps to Protect Your Roof on July 4th In ...
entry door sidelights

Painting Doors vs. Staining Doors

Should You Stain or Paint Your New Front Door? Deciding ...
how to fix a bent gutter

How to Fix a Bent Gutter

How to Fix a Bent Gutter: A Step-by-Step Guide Understanding ...

Book Today and Save!

Over 500,000 homeowners have trusted Feldco with their windows, siding and doors. Click the button below and we’ll get started on your quote!