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  • Writer's pictureMatt O'Dore

Roofers Glossary: Common Roofing Terms You Need To Know

Updated: Feb 23

labeled roof parts and materials diagram


3-tab Shingles – Single layer asphalt shingles with two cuts giving the shingle 3 individual tabs. This is a less common material used for roofing these days because they are thinner and don’t last as long as the newer architectural shingles.


Active Venting – Attic ventilation that is designed to naturally allow air to enter and exit the attic without the use of electric fans.

Algae – Not only does algae create dark stains on a roof but it’s also food for moss that can cause more severe damage if not maintained.

Architectural Shingles – An asphalt shingle, also called dimensional or laminated shingle, is made up of multiple layers. The tabs on these shingles are designed to give the roof a more three-dimensional appearance by the shape of the cuts

Asphalt – Also called bitumen, its main purpose is to serve as a waterproofing agent used in roofing shingles as an effective seal that prevents moisture intrusion.

Asphalt shingle – By far the most common roofing material in the United States because of the lifespan compared to the cost. Almost all asphalt shingles manufactured today are made with fiberglass. 3-tab and architectural shingles are both made with asphalt.

Attic Vent – A protected hole near the peak of the attic that allows hot air and moisture to escape to increase the lifespan of the roof and improve the energy efficiency of the home.


Barge Board - Trim installed along rake edges underneath the decking.

Bird Block – An intake vent located at the top of the siding under the eave that generally has holes with a screen to protect from animals entering the attic.

Blistering – When small pieces of the shingle become brittle and chip off due to excessive heat in the attic. This is sometimes confused with a manufacturer defect.

Box Vent - See Exhaust Vent.

Buckling Shingles – When shingles appear to have a wave or ripple due to movement in the decking because of moisture or improper ventilation.

Bundle – A plastic wrapped package of shingles weighing between 60 and 80 pounds.

British Thermal Unit (BTU) – The amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. A BTU is also the energy used to run a 100-watt light bulb for 10 hours. BTUs are often used to measure how much heat is given off by something, like a furnace or fireplace.


Caulk – To fill a joint with mastic or asphalt cement to prevent leaks.

Channel flashing – A type of flashing used in steep-slope roof construction at roof-to-wall junctures and other roof-to-vertical plane intersections where an internal gutter is required to handle runoff.

Closed Cut Valley – A method of valley treatment in which shingles from one side of the valley extend across the valley while shingles from the other side are trimmed 2” from the valley centerline. The valley flashing is not exposed.

Counterflashing – Also referred to as cap flashing, it’s considered the first line of defense against water entering your home or commercial property. It is installed to prevent any water from getting behind the vertical flange of headwall or sidewall flashing.

Course – A row of shingles lay end to end across the decking surface, one shingle high.

Cricket – A peaked saddle construction at the back of a chimney to prevent accumulation of snow and ice and to deflect water around the chimney.


Decking – Plywood that is installed on top of the framing which is then covered with underlayment and shingles. The minimum thickness of plywood is a 15/32” exterior grade plywood (CDX) or 7/16” exterior grade (OSB) as required by code.

Dormer – A framed window unit projecting through the sloping plane of a roof.

Downspout – A vertical pipe that carries runoff water from a gutter. Also sometimes called a conductor or leader.

Drip Edge – 1" x 3" powder-coated steel flashing that slides under the shingles and hooks over the gutter to prevent water from wicking behind the gutter causing rot.


Eaves – The horizontal and lowest edge of a sloped roof. It extends past the exterior wall.

Eave Flashing – An additional layer of material that is applied at the eaves in order to assist in preventing damage from water backup.

Exhaust Vent – Usually a square vent located near the ridge of the roof to allow hot air and moisture to escape the attic.


Fascia - A thin board installed on some homes behind the gutter.

Felt – Fibrous material saturated with asphalt and used as an underlayment or sheathing paper.

Flashing – Metal components used to weatherproof or seal the edges of a roof system. It prevents water seeping in areas such as chimneys, vent pipes, valleys, and joints at vertical walls.

Frieze Board - Horizontal trim boards at the top of your siding up against the eave or soffit.


Gable – The vertical triangular wall created by two roof facets.

Granules – Typically ceramic-coated colored crushed rock that is rolled into the top surface of asphalt roofing shingles.

Gutters – The trough that's fixed to the lowest edge of a roof facet that channels water from the eaves to the downspouts.


High-Profile Ridge Shingles – Thicker shingles installed on the hip and ridge that provide a more appealing decorative look.

Hip – The inclined external angle formed by the intersection of two sloping roof planes. Runs from the ridge to the eaves

Hip Roof – A type of roof containing sloping planes on each of four sides. Contains no gables and a small ridge.


Ice dam – The buildup of ice on a roof that is formed where a warm surface transitions to a cold surface. It often occurs when melting ice refreezes at the overhang of a steep roof.

Ice & Water Shield – A peel and stick rolled roofing underlayment used to prevent leaks caused by ice damming and around all roof penetrations such as skylights, chimneys, and vents.

Impact Resistant Shingles – Shingles that are designed to be more resistant to damage from hail storms. Impact resistant shingles are typically tested and classified in accordance with UL 2218, and may be classified as Class 1 through Class 4, with Class 4 indicating the highest and best impact resistance classification.

Intake Vent - An opening that allows cold air to enter into an attic at the lowest part of the roof.


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

Low Slope Application – Method of installing asphalt shingles and underlayment on roof slopes ranging from 2” to less than 4” per foot.


Mansard Roof – A type of roof containing two sloping planes of different pitch on each of four sides. The lower plane has a much steeper pitch than the upper, often approaching vertical

Matador Exteriors – The #1 roofing company in Vancouver, Washington.

Membrane – A flexible or semi-flexible covering for a roofing system that functions as waterproofing material. It can be composed of one material or more materials laminated together.


Nails – The most common sizes of roofing nails are 1-1/4" for shingles, 3/4" for open soffits, and 1-3/4" for high profile ridge shingles on top of ridge vents.

Neoprene Washer - A gasket on exposed nails used to fasten down different vents.


Open Valley – Method of valley construction in which shingles on both sides of the valley are trimmed along a chalk line snapped on each side of the valley. Shingles do not extend across the valley. Valley flashing is exposed.

Organic Shingles – Shingles made from organic paper products.

Organic Felt – An asphalt roofing base material manufactured from cellulose fibers. Synthetic materials are more common today.

Overhang – That portion of the roof structure that extends beyond the exterior walls of a building.


Pallets – Wooden platforms used for storing and shipping bundles of shingles and other roofing accessories.

Passive Venting – Attic ventilation that is not powered by a fan and pumps air naturally with the help of convection.

Pitch – A numerical measurement of how steep a roof is. See Slope.


Rafter – Wooden support beams that run along the slope of a roof on the underside of the roof decking.

Recover - Installing an additional layer of roofing shingles without removing the existing layer. Some structures are not designed to hold more than 1 layer and some codes do not allow more than 2 layers depending on the region.

Reroofing – The process of removing existing roof coverings and replacing with a new roofing system.

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

Ridge Vent – An exhaust vent created by cutting a gap at the highest point of a roof to allow hot air to escape the attic.

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

Roll Roofing – Asphalt roofing products manufactured in roll form designed for low slopes.


SBS – Styrene-Butadiene-Styrene, which is a synthetic polymer that is mixed with asphalt in some products to increase the flexibility and other attributes of the products.

Sheathing – See Decking

Shingle – A roofing material designed to be overlapped when installed. They are usually flat and rectangular, and come in many different materials, including asphalt, wood, metal, plastic and other composite materials.

Slope – A ratio of inches used to measure how steep your roof is where the denominator is always 12 inches. Rise over run.

Soffit – A sheet of material between the edge of the roof and the wall on the underside that covers the rafter tails.

Soffit Vent – Openings on a closed soffit used as an intake vent for the roofing system.

Solar panels – Rectangular panels that are placed on top of an existing roof to generate electricity.

Solar roofing – A roof where the shingles have built-in solar cells linked to each other creating a system that charges a battery or feeds electricity back into the energy grid.

Square – ten feet by ten feet (100 square feet) of roofing area. How roofing and siding is measured.

Staples – A piece of wire used to fasten underlayment to a roof deck. Staples are no longer used for installing shingles.

Starter Strip – A special type of asphalt shingle designed to be installed along the perimeter of the roof before installing the first row of shingles designed to create a better seal along the edge.

Step Flashing – metal flashing bent at 90 degrees to install behind siding and on each row of shingles where a wall meets a sloped roof.

Synthetic Underlayment – An alternative to felt underlayment made of polyethylene or polypropylene that comes in a variety of thicknesses.


Tear Off – Removing an existing roof which includes all components other than the decking.

Three-Dimensional Shingles – See Laminated Shingles.

Truss - a wooden framework shaped like a triangle with a structural purpose, such as supporting a roof . They are connected by horizontal beams known as purlins and are normally installed every two feet.


Underlayment – A rolled material placed between the roof decking and shingles. Underlayment acts as a second line of defense for your home but its main use is for keeping the structure dry and creating a better grip for walking while installing shingles.


Valley – An area on the roof where two different roof facets slope toward each other. Valleys are best protected with a layer of ice and water shield combined with w-shaped valley metal flashing.

Vent – Any air outlet, such as a pipe or stack, that extends through the roof deck. any fixture put in place on the roof, gable, or soffit with the intention of ventilating an attic space.


Waste Factor - An approximate percentage of shingles that must be thrown away after being cut. Roofs with more hips and valleys have a higher waste factor which increases the cost of the project.

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