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Speak Like a Roofing Pro: Roofing Terminology Basics

Understanding the different terms that describe your roof can be a difficult challenge for many homeowners. Since the average roof in the mid-Atlantic needs to be replaced every 15 years or so, most people don’t think about it until something goes wrong.

But not knowing enough about your roof could cost you. Without roofing knowledge, it’s harder to catch a small problem before it becomes a more costly issue. Also, unfortunately there are some roofers out there who could take advantage of your lack of knowledge. Understanding common roofing terms will help you speak with your contractor with confidence and help ensure smooth communication.

Here are the basic roofing terms homeowners hear most often:

Roof Pitch & Slope

A measurement of the steepness of your roof calculated by how much it rises for every 12 inches of depth.


Instead of using the more common measurement of “square feet,” roofers talk in “squares” as a basic unit of measurement. One square is 100 square feet in area or a 10 by 10-foot square. For example, the roof of a typical two-story, 2,000-square foot home with a traditional roof will have around 1,800 square feet of roofing area or about 18 squares. The number of squares you are quoted can vary depending on the pitch and shape of the roof, how much waste the contractor needs to consider, and other factors.

decking-1 drip edge eaves


The bottom most layer of a roof are the wooden trusses that support the roof surface. Attached to those trusses is a layer of wood called “decking” or “sheathing.” It’s typically made from plywood or OSB (which is similar to particle board) and provides a structural foundation for more layers of roofing materials.

Drip Edge 

An L-shaped strip of flashing installed along the eaves and roof edges at a 90-degree angle to let water runoff into the gutters and away from the fascia.


The part of the roof that hangs over the rest of the home. It extends past the exterior wall at the bottom of a slope.

fascia flashing-2 hip


Fascia is usually comprised of wooden boards that are located directly below your shingles, along the perimeter of a building, that cover the ends of the rafters at the eaves. Fascia boards are usually what your gutters are attached to, and they prevent moisture from entering the roof and causing damage. They are also sometimes called “gutter boards.”


The metal pieces used to direct water away from where roof elements intersect, such as chimneys, hips, and valleys. Flashings are usually made from metal of some kind, with galvanized steel, aluminum, and copper being the most common. Flashing’s job is to prevent leaks in vulnerable parts of your roof. However, it often fails earlier than shingles so it is an important element to inspect regularly.


The high point in the roof where two adjoining sections meet.

ice/water barrier ridge vent shingles-1

Ice/Water Barrier

This self-adhering, water-proof, and self-sealing membrane is applied to the roof deck. It is designed to protect against water infiltration from ice buildup or wind-driven rain.

Ridge Vents & Caps

The highest point or peak in the roof. Usually the peak of the roof will have a special kind of shingle called a “ridge cap” which bends over the apex in the roof and completely covers the gap between the shingles on both sides. Ridge caps also cover “ridge vents” which allow hot, moist air to escape from your home.


Shingles are what we see from the street, the outermost part of the roof that sits atop the underlayment. Shingles form the first and most durable barrier against the elements, such as wind, fire, and snow. They are available in different types (three-tab or architectural) and materials (asphaltwoodslatemetal) that have varying lifespans and unique looks to complement the aesthetic of your home.

soffit vent underlayment-2 valley

Soffit Vent

An intake vent located on the underside of the eaves that enables attic venting at a lower portion of the roof deck. It provides good air intake and works together with ridge vents to allow the air to exhaust.


Attached to the decking is usually a layer of what is known as “roofer’s felt,” which is a black felt paper or higher-performance synthetic that provides an additional layer of protection to your roof. Underlayment helps reduce blow-off by allowing your shingles to lay flatter and more uniformly. Additionally, it prevents wind-driven rain from getting under your shingles and causing damage to your roof structure or the inside of your home. The underlayment is applied in overlapping sheets to keep water moving in the direction of gravity – down and away from your home.


The area where two sections of the roof slope downward and intersect.

For over 30 years, Brothers Services has helped Maryland homeowners with many roofing projects. While we’ve grown our company in many areas, roofing continues to be our specialty. Take it from the guys who’ve seen and done it all—from ridge to eave and everything between. Schedule a consultation with one of our roofing experts to get started on your project today.