Roofing Terms Every Homeowner Should Know

A roof repair or replacement can seem like a daunting task to a homeowner, but here are some terms you need to know to sail through the process like a pro. 

The roof is one of the largest exterior investments you can make on your home, and understanding roofing lingo can get confusing at times.


Getting to know the basic roofing terms will provide you with the necessary knowledge to understand your roofing contractor easier. Below are 21 different roofing terms you can use with your contractor to help you make an educated decision about your roof.


  1. Roof Deck – This is the surface, usually plywood or OSB, to which roofing materials are secured.
  2. Rafters – The supporting frame to which a roof deck is attached.
  3. Truss - Are engineered pieces that supplement rafters in many newer homes and buildings. Trusses are designed for specific roofing applications and cannot be cut or altered.
  4. Eave – The roof edge at the bottom (downhill) of a roof plane.
  5. Gable – The edge of the roof that runs from the eave to the ridge; some within the industry also refer to this as the rake.
  6. Ridge – The very top section of the roof that runs the length of the roof, where the two roof slopes come together.
  7. Ridge Vent – Installed under the ridge cap, the ridge vent acts as an outtake vent for air. A ridge vent proper performance requires adequate intakes vents, usually in the eave soffits of the home. For most homes, this is the best method for venting their attics.
  8. Hip – Formed by the intersection of two sloping roof planes and runs diagonally from the ridge to the eaves.
  9. Ridge/Hip Caps – Accessories used to cover the ridge and hip.
  10. Valley – This is the internal angle formed by the intersection of two sloping roof planes to provide water runoff.
  11. Open Valley – A metal valley where the roofing material does not cover the entire valley area as in a closed valley.
  12. Closed Valley – The entire valley area is covered with roofing materials.
  13. Pitch – This is the slope of the roof plane, referred to as the height of rising over the run length, ex: 4:12. A 4/12 pitch would have the roof slope down 4” for each 12” horizontal run.
  14. Dormer – Structure projecting from a sloped roof, typically with a window.
  15. Endwall Flashing – A flashing used at the top of a sloped roof where the roof meets a wall.
  16. Sidewall Flashing – A flashing used at a wall that intersects the roof along the side on the downward slope.
  17. Underlayment – This is a synthetic sheet installed on the roof deck underneath the roofing materials. The underlayment provides a layer of protection for the roof deck.
  18. Peel and Stick Underlayment – This is a self-adhering membrane, sometimes referred to as an ice and water shield, is specifically designed to be used in heavy rain and snow areas where leaks can be a problem. In most cases, you would install peel and stick on the first three feet of the roof in addition to the synthetic underlayment.
  19. Ice Dam – This happens when the snow melts on an upper section of a roof surface and then refreezes at the eaves where the roof surface is colder. Ice damming causes water to back up, resulting in leaks in the roofing system. Ice damming is controlled through attic insulation and ventilation to reduce heat loss into the attic space.
  20. Cupola – A structure rising above the main roof. Usually ornamental, but could also be used for ventilation.
  21. Square – A unit of roof measurement that covers 100 square feet.

We understand that the roofing industry is extensive, and the terminology can be hard to remember - especially if you’re not a roofing professional. But, it’s necessary to know these terms to make a more educated decision when it comes to repairing or replacing your roof.

If you’re looking for your next roofing solution, consider the Bayview Roofing Collection! Click here for more details.