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Why It’s Important To Understand The Different Roofing Layers

What are the different roofing layers and why do they play a major part in keeping you safe at home? Learn more below.

Why It's Important To Understand The Different Roofing Layers - ACR

Think your roof is just the shingles that you can see from the outside? Think again. Your roof is actually a complex system, made up of several different roofing layers. These layers all work together to keep your roof safe from the elements and protect your home.

Here’s how your roof is constructed, so you can know exactly how it works.

Roofing Layers

Firstly, let’s look at the makeup of a typical roof. Your roof is going to be made of the following layers:

Decking: This is the lowest layer of your roof, being installed directly over the roof framing. It will ensure the integrity of the structure, by holding the trusses and joints together. Usually, your decking will be made out of plywood. This plywood is what you can see when you’re in your attic.

Ice and water barrier: Ice and water and the number one enemy of any roof. If water is able to get in, it’s going to cause leaks, lead to mold growth, and start contributing to wood rot. Leave it long enough, and it’s going to damage the entire structure of the roof.

That’s where the ice and water barrier come in. This is applied on top of the roof decking. It’s a self-adhering membrane, that protects against any water that gets into the roof.

Flashing: This is a thin metal material, and you’re typically going to see it where the roof and roofing elements, such as chimneys, intersect. They’re designed to direct water away from these joins, as they’re a vulnerable spot for leaks.

Typically, they’ll be made from metal like copper, galvanized steel, or aluminum. These need to be inspected along with the rest of your roof regularly, as they can start to wear out or fail before the shingles do. If that’s the case, they’ll need to be replaced quickly.

Starter strip: The starter strip is a line of specialized shingles, designed to sit along the edge of your roof. They go on before the underlayment and seal it against the weather. They can help stop leaks in their tracks, and stand up to strong winds.

Underlayment: Next on your roof the underlayment will be installed. This is typically made of felt or rubber, and it’s extra protection between the shingles and the roof deck. It’s also useful as it helps shingles lay flatter and uniformly, stopping them from being ripped off by strong winds. It’ll also help stop water from getting through to the roof structure.

Shingles: These are the part that all homeowners know about. As well as being the last layer of protection, they’re also going to be the aesthetic part of your roof. There’s a vast array of colors, shapes, and styles that you can get these days, so you can be sure you’re getting a roof shingle that suits your home.

There are different styles of asphalt shingles to be aware of. The most traditional style is the 3-tab shingle. These are less expensive, but they have less wind resistance and are less durable. There’s also the architectural style, that’s becoming more popular. These have a stronger design and aren’t much more expensive than the other styles that are out there.

Ridge caps: A ridge cap is a specialized type of shingle that sits along the ridge of your roof. It essentially looks like an extra long shingle and will work to seal the roof against wind and rain. It will also be able to allow ventilation for the roof, too.

Maintaining Your Roof

Now you know how your roof is made up, you’ll have a better idea of how to maintain it. Maintaining your roof is essential. Even with all this protection, the weather can take its toll.

Here’s how to check your roof over and keep it in good shape:

Take a look: You can do a visual inspection from the ground, and that will show you a lot about the shape of the roof. For example, you’ll be able to see if any shingles have been pulled loose, or are missing. Look for granules on the ground too, as that’s a sign that the roof is losing its protective coating.

Take a look at the roof from the inside too. You can check for any mold or moisture, as well as any sunlight making its way in. If you do find any of these issues, you’ll want to call in the experts.

Replace any missing shingles: If any shingles are damaged or missing, they can be replaced. You can do this yourself if there are only one or two missing. If there is a lot missing, you may want to call the experts to help you. 

When you first have your roof installed, it’s a good idea to have an extra box of shingles that you can store away. That way, you can ensure that you have extras that match the color of your existing shingles, should you need them.

Clear the gutters: The guttering is essential for keeping water off your roof. When they’re clear, they can direct the water away and ensure that it makes its way to the drains. When they get blocked by leaves, or by an ice dam, then that lets water overflow back onto the roof and cause leaks. 

It’s easy to avoid this, though. Simply use a trash bag to scoop any debris out, and clear them out. You also have the option to add a gutter guard in, to help keep everything but water out of the gutter. 

Call your roofer: In some cases, you’re going to need some extra help. That’s especially true if your roof is nearing the end of its lifespan, or has sustained major damage. Always call if you’re unsure, and they’ll be able to help you.


Now you know exactly what your roof is comprised of. There’s more to it than you’d think, and all those roofing layers are working together to keep your home safe from the elements.