Talk Like a Roofer: Most Important Roofing Terms Every Homeowner Should Know


Talking to your roofer about the roofing project that is going to be done on your home may sometimes be a bit confusing due to all the roofing expressions that you hear – and possibly don’t understand very well.

We, however, understand the importance of this investment that you are making, as well as the need to communicate more easily and clearly.

That is why we have prepared a glossary of some of the basic, most common, and most often used roofing terms.

Read on, find out what they mean, and your next conversation with your roofer will go over much more smoothly.

Roofing Terms 101: The Basics

Here you will find some of the basic terms concerning your roof and its main parts. Some of them you may already know, some of them you may have come across in the past but are not completely sure what they are, and some you may have never heard of.

Whichever the case, it will benefit you to get (more) familiar with them.

Roof Shingles

This is the first and most common roofing term we all come across and most homeowners already know what they are. However, it doesn’t hurt to recap.

Shingles are found on the top of your roof and they form the outer, i.e. the surface layer of your roof. This is the layer you see when you look at your roof.

Shingles are usually flat and rectangular pieces that overlap and cover the entire surface of your roof. They can be made out of different materials, such as tile, slate, asphalt, wood, and others, and their role is to protect your home from the elements.


Roof deck or decking is the foundation or the base of your roof and it is sometimes also called sheathing. It is a flat bottom part of the roof that is directly attached to the attic.

The main role of decking is to provide structural support for the rest of your roof, which is why it must be strong and stable. It is usually made of plywood or composite wood, such as OBS.


Underlayment is the next part of your roof, i.e. the part that is installed directly onto the decking and just below the shingles.

It is an additional layer of protection that can be either water-resistant or waterproof and the most common types include asphalt-saturated felt, rubberized asphalt, and synthetic underlayment.


As the word itself implies, penetrations include everything that penetrates, i.e. sticks out of your roof. These are usually chimneys, skylights, vents, vent pipes, and similar roof parts.

These parts are also the most vulnerable to leaks, which is why they are additionally protected by flashing.


Flashing, therefore, functions as additional protection from leaks around the previously-mentioned penetrations.

It refers to metal pieces or strips that are installed all around these protrusions on your roof and that are resistant to corrosion. They prevent water from getting under the shingles and/or the underlayment by directing it into the gutters.


Square is a measurement used by roofers to measure the surface of the roof, i.e. its size. This helps them determine the number of shingles they will need, along with other materials.

One square is equivalent to the size of 10 feet by 10 feet, which is equal to about 100 square feet.

Or, for example, if your roofer tells you that your roof is 20 squares, this means that the size of your roof is 2000 square feet


Eaves are the parts of the roof that overhang the walls of your house, i.e. the horizontal edges of the roof located just above the gutters.


Ridge is the highest point of a roof, i.e. the horizontal line on the top of the roof where two roof segments meet or intersect.

Ridge Vents

In order to keep your roof in good condition, it is important to facilitate ventilation for the attic, i.e. to allow hot air from the attic to escape outside. This is done through ridge vents that are installed across the entire length of the ridge.


Roof valleys are formed at the bottom of two roof parts, i.e. where two roofing slopes meet. These are vulnerable areas of the roof as water can collect there, which is why it is important to install quality flashing in these areas as well.


Gutters are an integral part of the roofing system and most homeowners are already familiar with them. They are installed along the eaves of the roof and their main role is to direct the water into the downspouts and away from the roof.

Roofing Styles Explained

There are several different styles that a roof can have and they usually differ in their shape, i.e. the number of sides and slopes that they have. Here are the three most common roofing styles.


A hip roof consists of four sides and each of the sides has a slope. The sides are all equal in length and there is a ridge on top. 


A gable roof is triangular in shape and has only two roofing sides that slope downward. The other two sides are walls that extend to the peak of the ridge.


A shed roof has only one side that slopes downward and, as the name itself implies, it is most commonly installed on sheds and similar smaller structures.

Slope vs. Pitch

The terms slope and pitch are very often used interchangeably. However, even though they refer to similar aspects of your roof, they are not the same and they are expressed differently. Here are the explanations, as well as the main differences between the two.


The slope of the roof refers to the angle of its incline, i.e. how much the roof rises vertically over its horizontal run. The rise is measured for every 12 horizontal inches.

So, for example, if your roofer tells you that your roof has a 6:12 slope or a 6-in-12 slope, this means that your roof rises 6 inches vertically for every 12 inches of the horizontal run.

And for the purposes of comparison, a 6:12 slope roof is steeper than a 4:12 slope roof, for example.


When roofers talk about the pitch of your roof, they are also talking about the incline of the roof but, this time, in fractions.

The pitch is determined by measuring the vertical rise of the roof in relation to its span from one wall to another. For example, a roof can have a 1/3 pitch, which means that it rises 8 feet over a 24-foot span or a 1/6 pitch, meaning it rises 4 feet over a 24-foot span.

Roof pitch as a measurement is less commonly used than slope, as the slope provides more valuable information.

In Conclusion

There are, of course, many more roofing terms but you don’t need to know all of them. These were some of the basic ones that you will potentially hear and use while discussing your roofing options with your roofer.

Knowing the basics of roofing will help make the communication simpler and the entire process easier for both parties involved.

If you have any additional questions, if you want to know more or need a residential roofing service, don’t hesitate to contact Fortified Roofing anytime.