Roofing Terms: Industry Vocabulary from A to Z

roofing terms

Venturing into the roofing industry isn’t always easy. With so many complex and unique terms associated with the industry, it is common for many people to feel unsure on how, or even where to begin. Most of us don’t know what “woven valley” is right off the bat, and truthfully, nobody expects you to. 

We put together a comprehensive list of terms used to describe the tools, techniques, and processes that are commonplace for roofing professionals so you can have a fruitful conversation with your roofing contractor.

PS.: The concepts gathered here are meant to facilitate dialogue between homeowners and their roofing professionals. This is not a complete glossary of roofing terms and should not be used as your sole source of information in educating fellow roofing professionals.

Asphalt

A black, sticky substance, often mixed with small stones or sand, that forms a strong surface when it becomes hard.

Asphalt Shingle

A type of roof shingle that uses asphalt for waterproofing. It’s the most popular shingle in North American because of its cheap up-front cost and simple installation.

Asphalt Primer

A substance used as a preparatory coat to ensure better adhesion of asphalt membrane to the surface.

Asphalt Membrane

Bituminous semi-solid form of petroleum perfect for waterproofing roofs.

Architectural Shingles

Also known as laminated shingles, this product offers enhanced protection against the elements and great durability. The term “laminated” refers to the fact that the shingle consists of two or more shingles bonded together.

Back Surfacing

Pulverized mineral applied to the backside of shingles to keep them from sticking together.

Blisters

Little bubbles on the roof caused by air and water infiltration due to loss of adhesion.

Butt

The portion of the shingle exposed to the weather.

Base Sheet

The bottom waterproofing layer on a multilayer roofing membrane system. The base sheet is designed to work together with the cap sheet.

Bridging

A method of reroofing with metric-sized shingles.

Cap Sheet

A layer that provides color, protection from fire, ultraviolet radiation protection, and resistance to mechanical abuse. 

Caulk

The use of a substance to fill a joint to prevent leaks.

Chalk Line

A tool used to help ensure straight lines for slates or tiles.

Coating

A layer of viscous asphalt applied to the base material into which another surface is embedded.

Coverage

The number of material layers covering the roof deck.

Cricket

A peaked structure built on the back of a roof to prevent the accumulation of water and snow.

Deck

The foundation that lays on top of the structural trusses to cover the rafters and support the weight of the roofing shingles.

Dormer

A window that projects vertically from a sloping roof.

Downspout

A pipe to carry rainwater from a roof to a drain or ground level.

Drip Edge

Metal flashing that is installed at the edges of the roof to help control the flow of water away from the underlying roofing components.

Eave

The edges of the roof which overhang the face of a wall and, normally, project beyond the side of a building.

Felt

A layer of tar paper installed beneath the shingles to provide a backup waterproof membrane in case of leakage. 

Flat Roof

A roof that is almost level in contrast to the many types of sloped roofs. 

Flashing

A thin metal material installed to direct water away from certain areas (eaves, chimneys, roof valleys) of a roof.

Gable

The triangular part of a wall that reaches the top of a pitched roof.

Gable Roof

A roof atop a gable.

Gambrel Roof

A roof with a lower steeper slope and an upper less steep one on each of its two sides.

Gutter

A shallow channel fixed beneath the edge of a roof for carrying off rainwater.

Hip

A roof with the ends inclined, as well as the sides.

Ice Dam

Ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.

Interlocking Shingles

T-shaped shingles that interlock with each other to withstand heavy winds.

Laminated Shingles

Shingles containing more than one layer to create extra thickness. Also called three-dimensional shingles or architectural shingles.

Mansard Roof

A roof that has four sloping sides, each of which becomes steeper halfway down.

Mitigation

When a certified inspector checks your home’s wind-resistant features. These features can be anything from door/window coverings to the way your roof is attached to your home to how your roof is sealed to prevent water from entering.

Open Valley

A roofing valley laid with a broad open gutter with the slates, tiles, or shingles lapping over the edges of the metal.

Primer

Primer is used as the first step in the application of a roof coating or membrane to aid in the proper bonding of the product to the surface.

Racking

Vertical application of asphalt shingles up the roof rather than across and diagonally up.

Rafter

A rafter is a long board that supports the peak of a roof.

Reroofing

The process of installing an additional roof covering over a prepared existing roof covering without removing the existing roof covering. You can only have two layers of roof installed at the same time.

Ridge

The uppermost, horizontal external angle formed by the intersection of two sloping roof planes.

Ridge Shingles

Shingles used to cover the horizontal external angle formed by the intersection of two sloping roof planes.

Shading

Slight differences in shingle color that may occur as a result of manufacturing operations.

Shakes

A shake is a wooden shingle split by hand from lumber logs using special crafting tools.

Sheathing

See Deck.

Shed Roof

A roof having only one sloping plane and no hips, ridges or valleys.

Soffit

The finished underside of the eaves.

Soil Stack

The pipe which takes all the wastewater from the upstairs plumbing system of a building.

Strip Shingles

Asphalt shingles made from a single layer that are approximately three times as long as they are wide.

Synthetic Underlayment

An underlayment product that is typically manufactured using polypropylene and is used as an alternative to felt underlayment.

Tear Off

To remove an existing roofing system down to the structural deck.

Telegraphing

A shingle distortion that may arise when a new roof is applied over an uneven surface.

Tile

A roof shingle made from clay, ceramic, concrete, or slate tiles.

Underlayment

Asphalt saturated felt or specially engineered synthetic material used beneath roofing to provide additional protection for the deck.

Valley

Areas on your roof where slopes meet, forming a V angle where water usually runs off.

Vapor Retarder

A material or system that prevents the transmission of water vapor from moving into the building, where it can condense into liquid water within the structure.

Vent

A small dome mounted near the ridge of the roof to allow the passage of air through the attic.

Woven Valley

A valley that is not exposed as shingles extend across it.

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