Roofing Terms: Homeowner’s Guide

Learn the roofing terms you need to know as a homeowner. Our easy guide breaks down the most common vocabulary so you can talk roofing like a pro.
roof terminology

Ever found yourself puzzled by roofing terms? Maybe you’ve heard words like “flashing,” “shingles,” or “eaves” but weren’t quite sure what they meant.

Knowing the lingo can make a world of difference when you’re dealing with roof repairs or a full replacement.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide: “Roofing Terms Every Homeowner Should Know.” In this guide, we’ll break down common roofing terms in plain English so you can talk about your roof like a pro and make smart decisions.

Let’s get started on our list to become a more informed homeowner.

parts of roof
Parts of a Roof
1 roof square equals to 100 square feet

Roof Square


A roof square is a term used in roofing to simplify the calculation of a roof’s size.

One “roof square” equals 100 square feet.

So, if a roof is 2,500 square feet, that would be described as 25 squares. This makes it easier for contractors and suppliers to talk about the size of a roof and helps in estimating the cost of materials and labor.

roofing installer nailing asphalt shingle to the deck with a pneumatic coil roofing nailer

Shingles



These are the outermost layer of a roof. They are designed to protect the roof from weather and can be made from various materials such as asphalt, wood, or metal.

asphalt roofing shingles

Asphalt Shingles



A popular type of roof covering known for their affordability, ease of installation, and variety of styles.

These shingles are made from a base saturated with asphalt and coated with mineral granules. They provide a good balance of cost, longevity, and appearance.

3 Tab Asphalt Shingles



Type of asphalt shingle with three cutouts, or tabs, along its lower edge, giving the appearance of three separate shingles when installed.

It’s a single piece, though, and is typically more affordable but less durable than other types of shingles, such as architectural or dimensional shingles.

 

Architectural
or Dimensional Asphalt Shingles


These are thicker than standard asphalt shingles and have a layered, textured appearance. They offer a high-end look, mimicking more expensive materials like cedar shakes or slate tiles.

Their durability is higher than 3-tab shingles, often reflected in longer warranties.

Modified Bitumen Roof (Rolled Roofing)



Type of roofing system for flat or low-slope roofs, made from asphalt enhanced with plastic or rubber. It’s appreciated for its durability, elasticity, and multi-layered waterproofing characteristics.

 

 

 

Tile Roof



Roofing system made up of overlapping tiles, commonly made from materials like clay, concrete, or slate.

Known for their durability and aesthetic appeal, tile roofs are often associated with Mediterranean, Spanish, or Southwestern style homes. They resist harsh weather well and are usually fireproof.

Image A house with a standing seam metal roof combining durability and modern style for enhanced curb appeal

Metal Roofing



A roofing system made of metal pieces or tiles characterized by its high resistance, impermeability and longevity. Types of metal used can include steel, aluminum, copper, or zinc.

Rafters



These are the wooden beams that make up the framework of the roof.

Decking / Sheathing



This is the layer of boards or sheet material fastened to the rafters on which the underlayment and shingles are laid.

Tear Off



The process of removing all the existing layers of the roofing system for a new roof installation.

Additional Layers



Layer of shingles over existing shingles. This can save money but is not always recommended because it can add weight to the roof and heat can build up causing more rapid aging of the new roofing.

Sometimes is found on existing houses and can bring up the labor and removal cost.

Roof Dry-in



The process of installing the underlayment on the roof to help keep it dry until the roof covering is installed.

underlayment

Underlayment


This is a protective layer installed under the roof finish material to provide additional weather protection.

ice water shield

Ice & Water Shield


Sticky underlayment that adheres directly to the roof decking. It provides a waterproof barrier to prevent leaks and damage caused by ice dams or wind-driven rain, especially at roof edges, valleys, and around roof features like chimneys or skylights.

starter strip

Starter Strip Shingle


The first course of roofing installed, usually trimmed from main roof material.

 

roofing vocabulary

Ice Dam


This is a buildup of ice at the edge of the roof, which can prevent melting snow from draining properly and potentially cause water damage.

chimney flashing

Roof Flashing


This is the material used to prevent water from seeping into areas where the roof has been penetrated (like around a chimney or vent).

ridge

Ridge


The peak where two sloping roof sections meet.

hip

Hip


The external angle formed by the meeting of two sloping sides of a roof.

hip ridge cap

Hip & Ridge Caps


Hip and ridge caps are special shingles that cover the intersections of the roof planes, providing protection and a finished look. They seal these areas, preventing water and wind from getting under the roof material.

valley

Valley


This is the opposite of a ridge; it’s where two sloping roof sections meet, forming a “V”.

eave

Eave


The edge of the roof that hangs over the house wall. They help to control water runoff.

fascia

Fascia


This is a band running horizontally and situated vertically under a roof edge, or which forms the outer surface of a cornice and is visible to an observer.

drip edge

Metal Drip Edge


This is a strip that goes side-to-side, right under the edge of the roof or as part of the decorative trim. You can see it when you look up at the building.

off ridge vent

Off-Ridge Vent


An off-ridge vent is a ventilation unit placed near the peak of a roof, but not on the ridge itself. It allows hot, humid air to escape from the attic, helping to regulate temperature and moisture levels.

sofft vent

Soffit Vent


The underside of the part of the roof that hangs over the wall. Often ventilated to help keep the roof cool.

dormer

Dormer


A structure that projects from a sloping roof and has a window.

rake

Rake


The sloped side of a gable end. It extends from the eaves to the ridge.

skylights

Skylight


Window installed in a roof or ceiling, designed to allow natural light to enter the interior space. It can be fixed or operable for ventilation, and may also provide a view to the outside.

counter flashing

Counter Flashing


The piece of metal that is installed on chimney walls or over the top of other flashing to prevent water from entering.

roof slope

Roof Slope or Pitch


The number of inched of vertical rise in a roof per 12 inches of horizontal distance, also referred to as the roof’s pitch.

tapered roofing

Tapered Roof


A design used mostly on flat roofs to eliminate ponding or standing water.

The roof is slightly sloped, typically using tapered insulation to create a pitch, which allows water to drain off the roof more effectively. This can increase the longevity of the roof by reducing water damage and leaks.

buckling

Buckling


A bending or warping, usually caused by moisture and uneven wood under the roofing.

abutment

Abutment or Transition


The junction of the roof surface with a wall or other structural feature that arises above it.

When a roof plane ties into another roof plane that has a different pitch or slope.

gooseneck

Gooseneck Vent


Type of roof vent with a design that resembles the shape of a goose’s neck.

It is typically used for exhausting bathroom or dryer vents through the roof. Its unique curved shape helps prevent water from entering the vent and damaging the interior structures.

stack vent

Stack Vent


Also known as a plumbing vent or vent stack, is a pipe that allows air into a plumbing system to balance the pressure and enable wastewater to flow out properly.

It also vents sewer gas to the outside, typically extending through the roof of a house.

electrical vent

Electrical Boot


An electrical boot is a protective covering used to seal the area where electrical wires enter a house through the roof. Its purpose is to prevent water leaks at this point of roof penetration.

gutters

Gutters


These are installed along the eaves of a roof to direct water away from the house and its foundation.

downspout

Downspout


A pipe for directing rain water from the roof or gutter to the ground.

Wrapping Up

No more scratching your head when your contractor talks about shingles, flashing, or squares. With this knowledge, you can make more informed decisions, whether you’re repairing a leak or investing in a whole new roof.

Remember, understanding the basics puts you in a better position to discuss options with professionals and ensures that you’re not left in the dark.

Related Articles

Find a Pro Near Me:

Roofing Contractor Talking to Homeowner Should I Home During A Roof Replacement
Look Up Pro Location
Use Shift+Tab to go back