A Complete Guide to the Parts of a Roof

By Amanda Lutz Updated March 12, 2024

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Many homeowners don’t realize it, but there’s a lot going on beneath a roof’s shingles to protect against rain, wind, snow, tree branches, and debris. Familiarizing yourself with the parts of your roof may help when it’s time for a repair or replacement. In this article, we’ll explain roofing terms, detail different roofing materials, and break down various roof components.

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Common Roofing Terms

Roofers use the following terms when describing the different parts of a roof:

Parts of a Pitched Roof

Most residential roofs are pitched and combine various parts to create a durable, functional, and weather-resistant covering. While flat roofs still have slight inclines, builders rarely use them since they’re more prone to ponding, which is the accumulation of water that can threaten a building’s structural integrity. If you have a pitched roof, see below for a list of all major roof sections.

1. Roof Framing System

A roof’s framing system serves as its core support. The system provides structure and shape to your roof and includes the following components:

2. Roof Deck

A roof deck, also known as a roof sheath, is a wooden board underneath the shingles and other exterior parts. This is a structural component that supports the frame. It’s where a builder attaches the shingles, and it offers protection for your house against severe weather. Roof decking comes in various types, including the following:

If you want to learn which type of roof decking you have, head to any space in your home where the underside of the roof is exposed. Homeowners may confuse decking with wood shakes and other roofing components, so contact an experienced roofer if you’re unsure.

The framing system supports your roof deck and uses one of the following material types:

3. Underlayment

The roof underlayment is a layer placed between the sheathing and shingles. It’s an extra moisture barrier that protects your roof decking from water that can be placed under the shingles. The underlayment comes in the three types listed below:

4. Ice and Water Shield

Part of waterproofing your roof includes adding an ice and water shield. This shield protects your roof from the elements when water reaches vulnerable roofing parts. A roofer will apply the ice and water shield in areas of the roof that are prone to water damage, such as the roof valley. Roofers often recommend ice and water shields for every roof since they protect homes against moisture, and building codes mandate them in many parts of the U.S.

5. Flashing

Roof flashing is another material used to stop water from entering your home through vulnerable spots. The following list runs through the main types of flashing:

6. Roofing Material

The type of roofing you choose for your home will depend on where you live and your preferred style. Here are some of the most popular roofing materials to choose from:

7. Roof Vents

Roof vents allow heat and moisture to escape from your attic or crawl space. Here are the types of vents you may find on a roof:

8. Soffit and Fascia

When the undersides of your roof’s eaves have a finished appearance, it’s called soffit. The soffit acts as a vent when your roof gets hot by letting air escape. If the soffit didn’t release heat, shingles could break down and make your roof vulnerable to a leak.

Roofers mount fascia where the roof meets a building’s outer wall. It runs along the lower edge of a roof and sits behind the gutter, which it supports. Fascia boards can be made of aluminum, vinyl, or wood.

9. Gutters and Downspouts

Gutters are attached to the fascia and collect water that runs down roof planes. Once water enters the gutter, it travels to the downspout, which is a vertical gutter that runs along the side of your house. Both the gutter and downspout block water from entering your home by draining it and releasing the water elsewhere.

Our Recommendation

Understanding roofing terminology isn’t necessary for all homeowners, but it could be useful. We recommend learning about the parts of a roof to know what your roofing contractor is referring to during a repair or when installing a new roof.

Both roof replacements and roof repairs are difficult to perform and can be dangerous. Because of this, it’s best to look for professional help when starting out a major roofing project.

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Just answer a few questions, and we’ll take care of the rest!

Parts of a Roof FAQ

What is the difference between a flat roof and a sloping roof?

The difference between a flat roof and a sloping roof is their angles. A flat roof has a slight slope for water runoff, while a sloping roof has a far steeper pitch. A sloped roof is easier to maintain and more resistant to leaks, while a flat roof is less expensive and easier to install.

What is the steepest pitch a roof can have?

The steepest pitch a roof can have is an 18/12 pitch, but a 9/12 pitch is the steepest roof you can still walk on. A roof’s incline depends on the type of house you have, but most homes fall between 4/12 and 6/12.

What are the different types of asphalt shingles?

The different types of asphalt shingles include 3-tab, architectural, and luxury. While 3-tab shingles are the least expensive, they’re less durable than the others. Architectural shingles come in many styles and last longer than 3-tab ones, while luxury shingles cost more but are sturdier than the other two types.

What kind of materials are used for flat roofs?

The materials used for flat roofs include single ply, built-up roofing, modified bitumen, and standing seam metal. Flat roof materials need to be lightweight, durable, and water-resistant.