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Roofing 101: A Guide to Roofing Terms

Your roof is one of the key components to your house. It affects the look, the safety, and the maintenance of your house. However, when it is time to work on it or replace it, you might realize you really know little about your roof or roofing terms.     

If you think that your roof was damaged due to weather such as snow, ice dams, hail, or wind, contact Paramount Exteriors for a FREE inspection. Paramount can help you decide if repair or replacement is right for you. 

Rooftop in a newly constructed subdivision in Kelowna British Columbia Canada showing asphalt shingles and multiple roof lines

Roofing Terms

If you think that your roof has been damaged by weather or by an accident it can be difficult to know exactly what happened. These are some of the roofing terms you may need to know as you select a roofing company or roof contractor to repair or replace your roof. 

Knowing more about your roof will allow you to select a company that is knowledgeable and that you can trust to care for your home. 


Starting from the inside out, the first layer of the roof to consider is the roof deck. These are the boards that form the sturdy foundation of your roof. In unfinished attics you can see the other side of these boards by looking upward. 

Holding these boards and the structure of the roof up are the joists of the house. There may also be insulation on the inside of the decking. If your roof has a leak you may be able to see the area where water is penetrating by looking for areas that appear moist, discolored, or moldy. 

Ideally these boards should be in good condition and look similar to how they did when they were originally installed. If they look discolored or moist this is a good indication that there is a leak in the roof.  If the leak is bad enough these boards can need to be replaced as the roof is repaired. 


The underlayment is the next roofing term and the next layer of your roof. This layer is applied to the outside of the decking. Underlayment provides a layer of waterproofing against the rain and snow. 

Because this layer is not visible from the outside of the roof when it is finished, or from the inside of the roof it may not seem as vital to the roof, but it is an important component of the roof, and should be applied carefully to ensure it serves a proper vapor barrier for the home. 

The underlayment is typically applied in a long roll horizontally across the roof, and completely covering the surface of the roof. This material may be a felt saturated with asphalt, or another synthetic material that can effectively block moisture. 


Flashing is another roofing term that may not be as well-known as the shingles, but is still important for longevity and function of the roof. Flashing is the metal trim that is attached to any vertical surface on the roof. Vertical surfaces include things like chimneys, skylights, and portions of the house rising from the roof like dormers. 

When rain or snow-melt runs down a chimney or other vertical surface, it has the potential to find its way into the edge of the shingles where they meet the chimney. Eventually this water could work its way through the roof and into the home. What flashing is designed to do is funnel the water away from shingles and down the roof.

Improperly designed or damaged flashing can result in big damage, not only to the roof, but also to the rest of the home as water leaks into the ceiling and walls. Damage from a misplaced nail or hole in the flashing can also lead to leaks.
selective focus of handsome handyman repairing roof with coworker


Shingles are often the outermost layer of the roof and gives the home its appearance and finish. There are a wide variety of shingle colors available that are designed to compliment a variety of house colors and style. 

There are also alternatives to asphalt shingles that can be applied and may add style, but will also likely add extra cost. Traditional Spanish tiles or metal roofing are options that look beautiful, but many homeowners find that asphalt shingles are in keeping with their home and community. 


Where the different areas of shingles join together forms seams. These areas are called hips and ridges and must be protected against being exposed to the weather. Shingles can be cut to form trim to cover the ridge of the roof, or a roof cap may be used. 

Damage or improper installation of trim can result in leaks and damage to your house and roof. Improper installation can also affect the overall look of your roof and house. 


One further critical roofing term is the vents that sit atop your roof. These vents must be placed carefully and in specific locations. Too many, too few, or improperly placed vents can result in moisture build up, or trouble with heating and cooling your house.            

Slate roof against blue sky, Gray tile roof of construction house with blue sky and cloud of the sunset background

Additional Options

There are many additional options to consider in terms of roof repair or replacement. When the shingles are off of the roof it may be a good time to consider additional work to the house. For any renovations that include work to the roof, this may be a convenient time.

Skylights, vent fans in kitchens and bathrooms, and new dormers are all additions that impact the roof and can be added to work to the roof. These may involve different contractors working inside of the house, and so the timing of any additional work must be carefully planned.                                                                                         

If you know that you need to repair or replace your roof, or even if you are just questioning the condition of your roof and when it might need to be replaced, contact Paramount Exteriors for a FREE, no obligation estimate.

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