All the basic parts of roof diagram illustrated and labeled

Basic Parts of a Roof: Learning Roof Structure Terminology

The primary function of a house is to provide shelter and protection against harsh natural elements. The roof plays a major role in this, and while homeowners don’t have to know all the technical intricacies, it always helps to know about the basic parts of a roof. Such knowledge can prove instrumental when the roofer is done with your roof’s inspection. Likewise, having a working knowledge of one’s roofing system is beneficial when communicating about roof repair or a complete roof replacement. 

We have put together this guide to help acquaint you with the general anatomy of a roof. For homeowners, knowing roof structure terminology will prove to be useful when planning for shingle replacement, general roof maintenance, a roofing inspection, and other roof-related services. Having a fundamental grasp of roofing terminology will help you when speaking with our project consultant, thus enabling you to make the best choice for your needs. 

Most homeowners have only heard common roof-related terms like skylight, gutters, soffit, vents, chimney, and more. However, the anatomy of a roof is somewhat complex and consists of many different parts. Our project consultants would guide you in the right direction when choosing any parts of a roof under these various categories. 

When confronting the need for roofing repair and understanding the anatomy of a roof, we know that people often silently wonder, “What are the parts of a roof called?” This section will briefly discuss various essential parts of a roof to help you better understand how a roof functions, the crucial elements of a roof upon which its performance and durability depend, and how to extend its lifespan and lower the cost of maintenance. 

The straight line at the apex of the meeting point of two rising roof surfaces that inclines in the opposite directions is called a ridge. It is the highest point of your roof, usually consisting of roofing joists, trusses, or beams.

As mentioned above, the ridge is the peak of your roof, and the ridge vent ideally runs through the length of the entire roof. It helps in getting rid of moisture in the attic and regulating the temperature of the roof. Also, getting rid of the additional moisture helps prevent mold or mildew and rot damage. The release of heat can also help prevent the warping of your decking, or sheathing.

Not every house has valleys on its roof, but they are still common. A valley is what connects two pitched roofs while forming a right angle. To the onlookers, it will appear as a “V” in shape, and hence the name, “valley.” These are often covered with flashings to protect from snow, water damage, and other kinds of damage. However, some valleys can be made by overlapping shingles. Valleys make it easier for the water and debris accumulated on the roof to drain off into the gutter system.

Mostly, soffits can be seen at the intersection of walls, eaves, and fascia. The purpose of the soffit is to insulate the building and to protect the roof eaves, keeping the natural elements, pests, and animals out. 

The eaves can be defined as the lowest end of the roof or the point that’s farthest from the ridge. The roof eaves generally hang out a little beyond the house walls. And they are the ideal location for gutters as this is the point where the rain drips off the roof. It is also the last point on the shingle roofs. At the tip of the eave and the edge of a shingle roof, you will find drip edge flashing. Typically, during high-speed winds or hurricane/storm, the eave is where the shingles begin to peel off or from where the rot damage starts to occur.

rake boards on a gable roofA gable is the portion of the wall that extends from the eaves to the roof’s peak, forming a triangular shape. The rake in roofing terminology is the exposed outer edge of a gable roof that runs from the roof eave to the ridge. The rake is sometimes flat with no overhang or eave, or it can sometimes extend beyond the roof gable end in the same way as an ordinary eave. You can choose to have this overhang area enclosed or it can be left open.

The gutters are a duct or discharge system in the form of long basins commonly attached to the fascia at the end of the roof’s eave. It helps in collecting rainwater runoff and melting snow. Gutter systems are generally made of PVC plastic or galvanized metal. Maintaining gutters can be tricky for homeowners as they can be easily clogged due to the accumulation of tree leaves, dirt, and debris. If not cleaned regularly, clogged gutters can cause backflow or overflow of water leading to extensive roof damage.  Also, gutter downspouts and extensions are used to move the water runoff away from your home’s foundation or basement.

When you look around your roof, you’ll notice several pipes (or, vents) coming up out of it. Their function is to let off gasses generated in the home from the ventilation system, plumbing, etc. They are guarded by protective collars called pipe boots, which help protect the roof against leaking where the vents come through it. There are different types of pipe boots available in the market, including:

  • Rubber Collars
  • Copper Pipe Boots
  • Lead Pipe Boots
  • Plastic Pipe Boots

If you’re unsure of which pipe boots are required for your roof, our roofing experts can help you choose the right product. 

Hip

Diagram of a roof hipThe hip is the external portion of the roof between two intersecting or overlapping roof slopes. It is the outer angle, typically more than 180 degrees, formed by the leaning ridge. It is designed to ensure water runs off the roof easily, greatly reducing the risk of water damage.

A skylight is among the most luxurious parts of a roof. They have become more popular in recent decades. Skylights are basically windows on the roof which allow natural sunlight to come in during the daytime. Skylights can be a great feature to add to your home if you’re looking to add natural light and appealing aesthetics to your home and roof. However, proper skylight installation is essential to ensure there’s no water damage, as they have a notorious reputation for leaking. Also, one needs to check for air escaping from inside, which can cause a strain on your HVAC system or air conditioner as it tries to maintain a pleasant internal temperature. 

These are roof structures that come out vertically from the roof and are meant to add space, better airflow, natural sunlight, and better aesthetics to your loft or the upper rooms.

Dormers mostly have windows, which are often their primary purpose, ensuring your otherwise dark loft or rooms get sufficient sunlight. Dormers also allow these rooms to be more spacious. They can also act as an emergency exit, if needed. 

If not already present in your roof, it would call for major alterations to build a dormer. However, the benefit dormers offer can make it worth the expense. There are many different types of dormer roofs that can be installed depending on your preferences, including:

  • Wall Dormer
  • Gable-Fronted Dormer
  • Shed Dormer
  • Hip Roof Dormer
  • Flat Roof Dormer

You can consult with our in-house roofing expert to know more about the pros and cons of each of these dormer types to choose the one that best fits your needs. 

Pair of hip roof dormer windows on the Howard Memorial Hall, Letchworth (By Julian Osley, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48980149)

One of the most important parts of a roof is the chimney. The starting point of a chimney is at your fireplace or wood-burning stove inside the house, and it extends up through the roof. The chimney contains a flue that moves soot, combustion gases, and smoke from the stove, fireplace, or boiler to the outside. 

Pan vents are a type of ventilation system affixed to the inclined roof slopes. A pan vent helps with improving air circulation and regulating the internal temperature in the attic space.

Pan vents on a rooftop

This is the large primary roof area in the anatomy of a roof. The field of the roof is where the major protective roof components are installed. It includes tiles, shingles, decking underlayment, etc.

We hope this comprehensive roof parts glossary will adequately answer the question we often hear, “What are the parts of a roof called?” Knowing the anatomy of a roof will help you understand what needs to be done in case roofing repairs are needed or there are roofing emergencies.

Additionally, when you know the roof structure terminology, it helps you better understand and communicate with the local roofing contractor about your expectations and vision, which helps you get your desired outcome. 

If your roof is old or damaged and you’re looking for roof repair services or want to consult with a roofing expert, please give us a call. We can help you to know if it’s time to get your roof replaced, or if some simple repairs are all you need. We can help repair any of these individual parts of a roof, and we also provide complete roof replacement services, too.

However, we always suggest our clients book our free roof inspection services to get a detailed analysis of your roof’s health. It helps you gain clarity about your roof’s condition and empowers you with the information you need to make the right choice. 

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