Roof Lingo: A Homeowners Dictionary of Roofing Terms


Roof Lingo: A Homeowners Dictionary of Roofing Terms

two people discussing the roof terms in a contract

For any homeowner, it’s usually apparent when you have a roofing issue that needs attention. Coming up with the exact roofing terms to describe it is another matter. And no matter how careful your roofing contractor is about explaining a new roofing project or repair, sometimes the contract may contain roofing terminology and definitions that don’t ring a bell. Since the roofing industry has its own jargon, below are some common roofing terms to know for most homeowner needs.

Parts of the Roof

When considering the parts of a roof, it’s helpful to have roof terms displaying the parts of a roof explained with a picture like the one below.

roofing terms pointing to parts of a roof in a diagram

Drip Edge

A metal molding designed to direct water away from shingles located near your eaves and gutters. Drip edges prevent rain from infiltrating the roof.


The roof eave is composed of several parts, but in general, refers to the overhang that extends beyond the side of your house or building. The drip edge, fascia, and soffit are all parts of the eave.


Long, straight boards that run along the lower roofline and support the bottom row of shingles or tiles. Fascia boards block moisture from getting in, support the gutter system, and provide a smooth appearance along the roof’s edge.


A resistant molding that prevents water from infiltrating the roof. It is made from aluminum, galvanized steel, or plastic. Flashing is commonly found in valleys, at the bases of chimneys, around vent pipes, or around roof vents.

Gable (roof)

A gable roof is the most common type of roof. Imagine what a roof likes when drawn by a young child and it will probably be a gable roof. Two sides have a roof that slopes downward toward the walls, and the other two sides have walls that extend from the bottom of the eaves to the peak of the ridge in a triangle pattern. The triangle that is formed between the two inclined roof slopes at the top of the side wall is technically called the gable.


A hip roof (or hipped roof) is a roof design where all roof sides slope downward toward the walls and meet at a point at the top. Each triangular roof slope is called a hip. Larger roofs often have hip roof sections built into their design.


The horizontal line on the top of your roof. The roof ridge is the highest point of the roof’s frame.


The enclosed underside of any overhanging eave. Soffits cover the eaves of the roof and hide visible rafters. They also allow air to be captured and circulated through the roof system, regulating temperature, and preventing moisture damage.


The “V-cut” angles formed along the junction of two roof slopes, which are commonly reinforced with a specialized underlayment membrane.

Roofing System Components

Another important set of roofing definitions describes the various roofing materials that make up the complete roof system.

Decking (or roof deck)

The structural material over which the roofing is applied, usually constructed of plywood, planks, or boards. Its purpose is to enclose the roof structure, reinforce its strength, and provide a sturdy nail bed for shingles.


A penetration is any opening through your home’s roof and roof deck, such as a chimney, sanitary stack, skylight, or sewer vent.

Roof vents

Openings near that peak of the roof. Roof vents help with ventilation, drawing air from soffit vents located at the base of the roof. Vents also help regulate the roof and attic temperature and prevent the accumulation of moisture.

Roofing felt

Roofing material that is laid down over the roof deck to preserve the building beneath. Roofing felt is often made from asphalt-saturated paper.


Roofing underlayment consists of an asphalt-saturated felt (or synthetic fabric) sheet that is installed over the roof deck and under all other roofing materials. It helps the roof shed water while protecting the outer layer from resin released by the roof deck.

Vapor retarder

A layer of roofing material used to prevent water vapor from damaging other layers.

Types of Residential Roofing Materials

There are many types of roofing materials in use around the globe. In West Michigan, most residential roofs use one of three types of roofing materials that are suited to our local weather conditions and the budgets of most homeowners.

Asphalt shingle roofing material

Asphalt shingles

Durable shingles that are made by covering fiberglass with a coating made from asphalt, then applying small granules to the surface. The asphalt is needed to make the roof waterproof. Asphalt shingles are the most common shingle in use in the United States.

Synthetic shingles

Shingles made of recycled materials like rubber and plastics or an engineered polymer. Also known as composite shingles.

Standing seam metal

A series of metal panels (usually steel, copper, or stainless steel) locked together at the seams or seamed mechanically. The seaming allows the metal panels to expand and contract easily when the metal goes through thermal expansion.

Have Questions about Roofing Terms?

Roofing involves a lot of specialized concepts. Whether we are your roofing contractor or not, we are always happy to help when anyone has a question or needs roofing terms explained. It’s important to be knowledgeable and informed about the type of roof you have and the type of roof that you may want or need! Whether you need a new roof or a roof repair, our mission is to assist with your roofing needs and make sure you know what to expect in the clearest terms possible.

The post Roof Lingo: A Homeowners Dictionary of Roofing Terms appeared first on Melvin Belk Roofing.

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