Understanding the Basics of Roofing

A roof is a system that keeps the elements out of your home. The humble roof doesn’t get much respect, but if you’ve ever experienced a compromised roof system, you’ll know that it is the first line of defense, and the system that protects all the other systems in your home.

Like any other field, roofing has its own specialized terminology. Here are a few terms you’ll likely come into contact with:

  • Eaves: The eaves are the edges of the roof that hang over the edge of the walls. They’re where gutters are typically attached.

  • Gables: Gables are the edges of the roof that come up from the eaves to the peak of the roof.

  • Pitch: This refers to the slope of the roof. It’s usually stated in a ratio, like 9:12. That means that for every foot, the roof rises nine inches.

  • Ridge: Another term for the peak of the roof.

  • Hip: This is a high point (other than the peak) where two sections of roof meet. The stereotypical image of this is a hip-roofed barn.

  • Valley: a valley is a slope or corner where two sections of roof meet.

  • Dormer: A dormer is a section of building that extrudes from the roof. They are usually used to add light to an upper story or attic.

Roofing is a relatively straightforward process, but it requires proper tools and experience and careful attention to detail to make sure that it’s done correctly.

A roof begins with deck, a solid surface of plywood. On top of that is applied an underlayment, which serves as a waterproofing and vapor barrier. After that, flashing is applied. Flashing is a metal barrier used to divert water along places where the shingles cannot form a watertight barrier, such as hips, valleys, and along dormer walls or chimneys.

After that, the top roofing material is installed, whether it be shingles, tile, slate or tin. Finally the trim is applied on the ridge or anywhere else it may be necessary.

Now you know the basics of roofing, so you will understand what your roofing contractors are doing. But don’t be afraid to ask questions. A quality roofer will want you to feel confident about everything.