While roofs are built to last for a long time, especially new roofs, they will eventually succumb to combined wear and tear through the years. So as a homeowner, whether you like it or not, you’ll encounter the need for a roofing project at some point. And when you need to know whether you’ll use rafters or trusses or you need a whole new roof, it’s better if you understand the terminology used in the industry.

And if you want a comprehensive resource to learn more about roofing, this is exactly what you need. Keep on reading to learn both common and specialized terms–and become a roofing term expert!

Why You Should Learn These Roofing Terms

Understanding the terms used in the roofing industry can make your roofing project easier in several ways:

Better communication: When you understand roofing terms, you can communicate better with your contractors, suppliers, and everyone else involved in your roofing project. This will ensure everyone is on the same page and that the project runs smoothly.

Informed decision-making: Since you also understand what the roofers are talking about, you can diagnose issues for yourself. That means you can make better decisions about materials, designs, and the overall project scope. This can help you save money and get the best possible outcome for your roof.

Increased confidence: You may not know how to shingle a roof, but understanding roofing terms can make you feel more confident talking to your suppliers and making decisions. This can help you feel more in control of the project. You’ll also be more satisfied with the end result.

In short, when it comes to roofing projects, understanding the terms is a must. It can help you achieve the results you want and be happy with how your roof looks and functions.

Roofing Terms Glossary

This Roofing Terms Glossary is a helpful guide in understanding the words and phrases used in roofing. It provides clear definitions and explanations for common and specialized terms, which can make it easier for you to talk with contractors, suppliers, and other professionals working on your roofing project. Here’s a compiled list of commonly used roofing terms and their definitions.

Asphalt shingles

Roofing material made of asphalt and fiberglass that is used to protect a roof from weather damage.


A layer of material that is installed between the roof deck and the roofing material. Its use is to provide additional protection for your deck, especially if water gets under your shingles.


The highest point of a roof where two sloping sides meet.


The external angle formed by the meeting of two sloping sides of a roof. It runs from the ridge all the way to the eaves.


The lower edge of a roof that overhangs the wall of a building and runs horizontally.


The gable is the triangular portion of a wall between the edges of a sloping roof. It’s a well-known ventilation spot.


The internal angle formed by the meeting of two sloping sides of a roof. Valleys allow water to flow freely down your roof.


Flashing refers to the material used to seal and protect joints and intersections on a roof, such as around chimneys or vents. They are usually pieces of metal and can be aluminum, steel, or copper.

Drip edge

A metal or plastic strip that is installed at the edge of a roof to direct water into gutters and prevent water damage. The strip is non-staining and resistant to corrosion. It keeps your decking dry.


The term refers to the flat board that covers the ends of the roof rafters, typically where gutters are attached. It’s usually decorative but can serve as your drip edge–practical!


The underside of a roof overhang. It is often vented to allow air circulation and prevent moisture buildup. It’s installed right below the fascia.


Nope, it’s not the garden tool. It’s the sloped edge of a gable roof that meets the end wall of a building.


Thankfully, this isn’t that complicated to understand. Ventilation is the process of circulating air through a roof or attic space to regulate temperature and moisture.

Roof Deck

This is the base layer of a roof that provides support for roofing materials. All your roofing components are nailed on this one.

Tar Paper

A moisture-resistant material that roofers place on the roof deck before roofing materials to provide additional protection.

Ice And Water Shield

A self-adhesive membrane that is installed on a roof to prevent water penetration in areas prone to ice damming. These shields are installed in multiple parts of your roof. There are three types.


A structural component that is composed of interconnected triangles that support a roof’s weight and distributes it to the walls. They can be pitched or flat and can also get more specific depending on the construction project.


Joists are horizontal structural components that reinforce floors and ceilings in a building. They are connected to wall studs to create a sturdy framework for the structure.


Rafters are sloping pieces of wood that support a roof’s weight and transfer it to the walls of a building.


A natural and very durable stone material. It makes for long-lasting roofs. Slate will never rot or decay and can last between 50 to 200 years. It’s quite expensive, though.

Clay Tiles

These are roofing tiles that are flat or curved. They are made of baked clay and are primarily used for their durability and aesthetic appeal.

Concrete Tiles

Yup, concrete, as in just like streets and sidewalks. These tiles are very economical and get more durable as they get older. They’re also great at resisting the weather.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing means using materials like steel, aluminum, and copper. They’re long-lasting, too! While they’re more expensive than asphalt roofing, they require less maintenance.

TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin)

A type of single-ply roofing membrane made of synthetic materials, used for its durability and energy efficiency.

EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer)

A type of synthetic rubber roofing membrane known for its durability and low maintenance. It’s very resistant to outdoor conditions.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

A type of single-ply roofing membrane made of plastic, known for its durability against chemical and fire damage and its energy efficiency.

BUR (Built-Up Roofing)

A type of roofing system that involves the application of several layers of asphalt between ply sheets or felts on the roof deck and insulation.

Modified Bitumen

A roofing membrane made of polymer-modified asphalt that is applied using a roller. It is known for its flexibility and resistance to weather damage. A fiberglass or polyester mat usually strengthens the membrane.

Green Roof

It is a roof system that has waterproofing, root repellence, drainage, filter cloth, growing components, and plants. They can be modular or built separately, providing public and private benefits. Green roofs can be installed on top of human-made structures.

Roof Pitch

This term simply refers to the steepness of a roof. It’s expressed as a ratio of rise to run.

Roofing Nails

Special nails that roofers use to secure roofing materials to the roof deck.

Starter Strip

A row of shingles or other roofing material installed at the edge of a roof to provide a secure base as well as protection for the first course of shingles.

Ridge Cap

The finishing piece installed along the ridge of a roof that provides protection against water damage and gives the roof an attractive finish or appeal.

Roofing Felt

A type of roofing underlayment made of asphalt-impregnated paper, wood cellulose or fiberglass. It is placed between the roof deck and the roof shingles. This adds another layer of protection to the roof, especially against water.


Granules are crushed, colored rocks that are coated in ceramic and applied to the surface of roofing materials. They help give color to the roof and protect against UV rays..


Nope, not the insects. Crickets are small peaked structures installed on a roof to divert water, snow, and ice away from chimneys or other roof penetrations.

Roofing Cement

Roofing cement is made of asphalt, mineral spirits, plasticizers, and fibers. It’s used to fill in cracks and create water-resistant seals around chimneys, vents, and roof valleys. It can also be used to stop leaks in gutters and hold down loose asphalt shingles.

Seam Tape

Seam tape is a tape used to seal and reinforce seams between roofing materials, preventing water from entering. After taping the seams, the roof can be covered with roofing felt, synthetic, or self-adhering underlayment. The self-adhering tape sticks firmly–no need for additional adhesives!


They are openings or channels installed in a roof or gutter to allow water to drain away from the building.

Key Takeaways

Those are just some of the most-used roofing terms. While you don’t need to memorize and know all of them, think of it this way. The next time roofers present you with a roof inspection checklist, at least you’ll know if they are talking about the proper installation of the eaves or if they’re looking for signs of wear and tear on the ridge cap–and what those are!

  • A basic understanding of roofing terms can help you communicate better with roofing professionals.
  • You’ll also be able to make better decisions about your roof and not just rely on your contractor.
  • This will make you happier and more satisfied when it comes to the finished project since you were able to give your input.

Looking for roofers in New Jersey? Contact Trenton Roofing today and get a free, no-obligation quote for your roofing project.

Alex Valentino

Alex Valentino – Vice President

Leading the way for the company’s second generation of family and employee ownership, Alex’s mission is to create lasting relationships built on trust and respect by providing uncompromising workmanship and unparalleled customer service. With a focus on safety and consumer education, Trenton Roofing strives to set the bar for the advancement of the roofing industry and the betterment of our local communities. When he is not working, Alex can be found traveling with his fiancée, watching football or playing a relaxing round of golf with his friends.