What Are the Parts of a Roof? (2024 Guide)
Compare quotes from local roofing experts.
If you’re a homeowner, it’s smart to understand the different parts of your roof. Whether replacing shingles, fixing a leak, or adding insulation, knowing the terms for each roof component will make the job easier. Get ready to ace roof repair and maintenance with this A to Z guide on the parts of a roof.
The number of parts that make up a roof can vary based on the style, but most roofs contain 25–30 distinct components. This roofing terminology guide covers everything from essential structural elements, such as rafters, to outer layers, such as shingles. Read on for more information about each roof component.
The abutment is the section where the roof surface connects with a vertical wall or another roof surface. The primary function of a roof abutment is to create a waterproof seal at the junction. However, abutments also provide structural support and can improve a home’s aesthetics. Caring for an abutment requires regular inspections and sealing maintenance.
The attic is the open space located below the roof framing and above the ceiling of the highest floor of a house. Attics provide storage and accessibility to roof structures, as well as temperature regulation and roof longevity through proper ventilation. Proper attic care requires the best roof insulation and periodic inspections for moisture or damage.
Battens are narrow strips of wood or metal installed horizontally across the roof sheathing or boards. Battens provide support and stability for multiple roof covering materials, including shingles and tiles. They also promote ventilation, prevent moisture buildup, and contribute to overall roofing integrity.
Chimney flashing consists of sheet metal installed around the base of a chimney where it intersects with the roof. Flashing provides a watertight barrier that prevents rainwater from leaking through the chimney-roof joint, directing it around the chimney instead. As part of your regular inspections, check your flashing for cracks or deterioration and make any necessary repairs as soon as possible.
A collar beam is a horizontal structural component that connects a pair of opposing common rafters near the upper portion of a roof. Collar beams reduce roof sagging, spreading, and distortion by providing additional support and structural rigidity.
Roof decking, or sheathing, is the solid foundation installed on top of roof trusses or rafters to form the base layer. Decking provides a stable, even surface for attaching roof shingles or other roof coverings.
A dormer is a windowed structure that protrudes vertically from a sloped roof. Dormers add living space to an attic or upper floor, providing additional natural light and architectural interest to the space. You should regularly inspect dormer roofs and windows for leaks or damage.
A downspout, or rainspout, is a vertical pipe that transports rainwater drainage from the roof gutters down the side of a building and away from the foundation. Downspouts prevent water from pooling on the roof. Homeowners should ensure that downspouts extend away from the foundation to prevent water damage.
A drip edge is an angled piece of metal applied along the edge of a roof to direct water runoff away from facades and overhangs, preventing water damage. As a result, a drip edge can extend a roof’s life span.
The eave is the lower overhanging edge of a roof that extends past the walls of a building. Eaves provide shade, channel rainwater runoff, and help protect walls from extreme weather. Rot or pest infestations are common in eaves, so routine inspections are crucial.
The fascia is a vertical board attached along the lower edge of your roof to the ends of the rafters where they meet the eaves. The fascia lends support and creates a finished look. You should regularly inspect fasciae for signs of rot, damage, or pests.
Flashings are sheet metal components installed in roof valleys, joints, and protrusions to form weathertight seals that prevent water seepage and moisture damage. Correct roof flashing installation is essential for effective water diversion.
Unlike a pitched roof, a flat residential roof is almost level and appears to be horizontal. Flat roofs and similar roof types require specialized waterproof membranes and careful drainage design to prevent ponding and structural damage from moisture.
A gable is the triangular portion of an exterior wall enclosed by the two sloping sides of a ridged roof. Gables can provide additional attic space, improve ventilation, and enhance roof aesthetics. You should inspect gables for leaks during regular roof maintenance.
The gable end is the vertical triangular wall segment underneath the gable of a roof. Gable ends enclose and protect the attic space or area beneath the gable. Gable ends are part of a building’s exterior design and require proper insulation and weatherproofing.
Gutters are troughs mounted along the edge of the roof that collect and channel rainwater runoff to downspouts, preventing water from dripping along walls and foundations. You should clean your gutters regularly to prevent clogs and ensure proper water drainage.
A hip is the external angle formed by the intersection of two sloping roof planes. Hips are important for optimal drainage and can add visual appeal, especially on different roof shapes. They also offer increased stability and resistance to wind.
The hipped edge refers to the external obtuse angles formed between adjoining roof planes on a hipped roof. To ensure that water doesn’t seep underneath them, you should implement effective sealing along hipped edges.
Ice and Water Shield
An Ice and water shield is a membrane layer installed in cold climates beneath roof coverings to provide extra waterproofing along eaves, valleys, and problem areas prone to ice dams or heavy rain.
Roof joists are horizontal structural members that support the roof deck and framework, transferring the load into the walls below. Proper joist sizing and spacing ensure structural integrity. When investing in a new roof, check the joists, as you may need to repair or replace them over time.
Rafters are angled roof beams extending from the ridge to the eaves. They provide primary support for the roof’s structure, establishing its shape and pitch. You should inspect rafters for cracks or sagging during routine roof checks.
The rake is the sloped edge of a gabled roof that runs parallel to the roof ridge. Rakes slightly overhang the walls and offer weather protection and improved aesthetics.
The ridge is the horizontal line at the top of your roof’s peak where two sloping sections meet to form the highest point of your roof. Ridge vents run along this crest to ventilate the attic.
The roof covering is the uppermost layer, or roofing material, designed to make the roofing system weather-resistant and waterproof. Common materials for a roof covering include shingles, tiles, slates, and metal roofing panels. Roof coverings will be one of the costlier elements of your budget when replacing your roof.
Skylights are specialized roof windows that allow natural light into attic spaces and interior rooms below the roofline that would otherwise be dark. A skylight can reduce energy costs while boosting aesthetic appeal.
Derived from the Latin word suffixus, soffit means “something fixed underneath.” The soffit is the underside of a roof overhang or eave, and it covers the gap between the wall and the roofline. Soffits provide an aesthetic finish while also ventilating your attic.
Roof trusses are pre-engineered triangular frames that span large distances while supporting and evenly distributing the roof’s weight. You should conduct period inspections of trusses because they are vital for roof stability.
Underlayment is a moisture barrier beneath roof coverings, including asphalt shingles and tiles, to protect against wind-driven rain and water infiltration. Underlayment enhances a roof’s weather resistance and requires regular inspections to make sure it isn’t damaged or deteriorating.
A valley is the internal angle formed by the intersection of two sloping roof planes. Valleys use flashed metal liners to divert rainwater runoff and prevent leaks. During roof inspections, you should check valleys for debris and proper sealing.
A vent pipe is a vertical pipe connected to a home’s plumbing systems or certain appliances. It prevents indoor air pollution by allowing gases and odors to vent outside safely. Check your roof vents on a regular basis to make sure they’re properly connected with no obstructions.
Although your roof looks like a simple sloped structure, it has many components that work together to keep your home safe and comfortable.
From rafters to skylights, you now know the purpose of the many different parts of a roof. This can make DIY roofing projects easier or help you better understand a professional roofing contractor’s work.
FAQ About Parts of a Roof
How do you know when you need to replace your roof?
If you notice missing or damaged shingles, water leaks, and sagging, then you should consider replacing your roof. But before scheduling a demo, reach out to a roofing professional for an assessment.
What is the end of a roof called?
The end of a roof is called the “gable end.” To locate it, look for the triangular wall that encloses the roof’s gabled section. It plays a structural and aesthetic role in roofing design.
What is the difference between a flat roof and a sloping roof?
The primary difference between a flat roof and a sloping roof is their pitch or slope. A flat roof has a minimal slope and may appear level. On the other hand, a sloping roof has a noticeable incline. The pitch on a sloping roof allows water to drain off more easily. While flat roofs are more modern, sloping roofs are more traditional.
What is the word for the part of a roof that is over the door?
The word for the part of a roof over the door is the “awning” or “door awning.” A door awning provides shelter from the elements and can be both functional and decorative.
To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews team at email@example.com.