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Roofing Lingo Defined

Do you feel like you have no idea what your roofers are talking about? When estimators come out to assess a project, does it seem like they’re speaking a foreign language?

Obscure shoptalk may leave you feeling puzzled and unsure of the services you’re about to receive. You may even begin to doubt the legitimacy of your contractor.

Good estimators will provide clear information about the scope of the project. They will explain the entire roofing process and project details. But ultimately, it’s your responsibility to know what you’re buying.

To help, here’s a glossary of commonly used roofing terminology.


An ornamental structure that crowns a roof. Sometimes used for ventilation.


A peaked divider generally installed behind roof projectiles. Used to divert water around projectile structures.


The foundation of the roof. The solid surface over the rafters where one applies shingles and roofing materials. Usually made from plywood or oriented strand board.


A casement structure that extends beyond the roof’s pitched planes. Used to add windows and create headroom.


A pipe installed to gutters to guide water runoff from the roof to the ground level. Sometimes referred to as a leader.

Drip Edge

A metal lip installed around the eaves and rake to guide water runoff into gutters.


The horizontal edge of a roof that extends out past exterior walls. Usually makes up the first three feet across a roof.


Wood or vinyl trim mounted to the exterior ends of the rafters. Usually fastened to the gutter system and protects the home from weather damage.


Nails or staples used to attach materials to roof decking.


A fibrous underlayment placed between the decking and roof covering. Protects the roof deck from water damage and sheathing resins.


Materials used to block water around projectiles like chimneys or plumbing vents. Usually made from pieces of metal or rolled roofing.


A triangular sidewall that rests between the edges of a dual-pitched roof.

Gable Roof

A dual-pitched roof that slopes downward from a central ridge. Capped by gables.


A shallow trough installed beneath the eaves to channel water runoff from the roof to the downspout.


An exterior angle running from the ridge to the eave. Formed by two intersecting slope planes.


A slanted opening for ventilation.


The degree a roof inclines, determined by the ratio of rise to span. Measured in feet.


The sloping support frame located directly below the deck. Usually made from metal or wood beams.

Rake Edge

Inclined perimeter edge that extends out perpendicular to the ridge and eave.


The highest point of the roof. Uppermost horizontal edge formed by intersecting sloping planes.

Ridge Vent

Vent installed along the top of the ridge. Allows air flow and heat exchange.


The vertical space between the eaves and ridge.

Roll Roofing

Roofing membrane formulated with the same materials as asphalt shingles.


The horizontal space between the eaves and ridge.


The degree a roof inclines, determined by the ratio of rise to run. Measured in inches.

Soffit Vent

Vent installed under the eaves to promote attic air circulation.


The horizontal space between two eaves.


Recessed angle formed by two intersecting sloping plans. Creates a trough for water runoff.

Waterproofing Underlayment

Similar to felt. Seals roof decking and provides a moisture barrier.

Don’t be intimidated by cryptic insider terms. Instead, familiarize yourself with some of the more common roofing lingo.

You’ll have a better understanding of the roofing process and know what to expect when the work is complete. You’ll also have the ability to discern the terms of your service contract and know exactly what you’re agreeing to.

If you’re still uncertain, don’t be afraid to contact your roofing contractor directly. He or she can offer a more detailed explanation and additional help.