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Roofing 101: The Roofing Basics Every Homeowner Should Know

February 9, 2023

6 minutes read

As a new homeowner, you need to acquaint yourself with roofing basics. While roofing is a particular skill that requires a lot of training to perfect, learning the roofing 101 basics is not hard. You can get comfortable with basic roofing terms and what signs of damage to look for in little time. Here are the roofing basics that every homeowner should know:

Importance of Roofs

roof maintenance protection from the elements

A roof is not just an aesthetic home component. While your roof can make your house look better and increase its value and curb appeal, that is not its primary purpose. The roof makes up 40% of your home’s exterior. It protects your home from the elements like wind, rain, and snow. Roofs also keep you safe from intruders and harsh weather conditions. The shape of the roof is often designed according to the area’s climate. 

Your roof also determines the energy efficiency of your home. Some roof shapes and materials can make your energy bill double or triple, while others bring it down. Additionally, old roofs cost you more in energy bills, which is why homeowners are encouraged to repair them often and replace roofs every 20 years.

The Parts of a Roof

As a homeowner, your first lesson in roofing 101 is to know the seven key components of a roof. 


The roof shingles are the overlapping components you see when outside on your roof. They are the parts that make up part of the aesthetic look of your roof. Their primary purpose, however, is to protect the rest of your roof and even your house from the weather. Traditionally, shingles are measured and cut in squares. They can be made of metal, asphalt, or slate. You can also have tiles instead of shingles.


Underneath your shingles is roof sheathing. Also called roof decking, roof sheathing is the layer of durable wood or metal boards attached to the joints and trusses. These planks or pipes are where roof boards or sheets join. The shingles are also attached to your roof deck.


Trim is what seals the joints of your roof together. It protects the seam of your roof from water. Trim redirects water away from the home, as gutters do. It also brings your shingles together to create a polished, uniform look.


roof maintenance roof parts rafters

Rafters support sheathing and shingles. You may see them on the inside if your roof has no ceiling boards. These series of sloped wooden beams or metal slats extend from the ridge to a wall plate. They form the skeleton of your roof.


Roof underlayment is a layer between your shingles and sheathing. This layer of water-resistant paper-like material seals provides extra protection from the elements. It blocks air and water from leaking into your roof.


Usually made of sheet metal, flashing is installed on top of roof joints to prevent water damage. It can be made of any other resistant material as long as it seals off the joints and protects them from the elements.


The drainage system prevents water from collecting on the roof. It redirects the water to a storm drain or sewer and allows your room to remain free of water damage for longer.

You can look at your roof from outside and inside to note each of these parts so you can familiarize yourself with them. Please do so safely and avoid removing, shaking, or stomping on any part.

Common Roof Design Elements

Now that you know the different critical parts of a roof, you need to familiarize yourself with common design elements. When talking to a roofing contractor, you may hear these words tossed around and it is good to know what they mean.

  • Ridge: Also called a peak, it is the highest point of your roof.
  • Eaves: The part of your roof that hangs over your outside walls is known as an eave.
  • Abutment: Anywhere that your roof meets a vertical structure like a wall or chimney.
  • Gable wall: You see that triangle-shaped part of the wall that extends from the eaves to the ridge? That is a gable wall.
  • Verge: Also called the centerline of the ridge, it is the part of the wall where the gable ends. It is under the edge of your roof.
  • Valley: Wherever two sections of your roof meet and slope downwards.
  • Hip: The opposite of a valley, it is a high point on your roof where different sections intersect
  • Dormer: These hold windows and bring natural light into the upper stories of a home. Dormers are sections of the home that stick out from the roof and not every house has them.

Signs You May Need To Repair or Replace Your Roof

As a homeowner, you need to know what signs of damage to look for on your roof. When caught early, damage can be fixed with repairs to a small area. Here are some tell-tale signs of roof damage to look for.

Shingles With Curling Edges

roof maintenance replace curling shingles

Your roof’s shingles should lay flat, stacked neatly on top of one another. If you notice any bowed shingles or curling edges, your shingles are old or damaged and need replacing.

Cracked or Missing Shingles 

Check your roof for any missing tiles or shingles. There should be no empty spot on your roof. Your shingles should also have no cracks as this can allow for water penetration.

Mold or Algae 

If you notice algae on your roof, you can wash it off easily or have professional roof cleaners do it. However, excessive algae growth is indicative of excess moisture. It can be a precursor to shingle failure. Mold is trickier as the mold you see can be a small section of a bigger infestation. Get a roof inspector to ensure it is not a widespread mold problem and replace any parts with mold.


Any sagging is cause for concern. Check that every part of the roof is level and sitting as it should. Roofing contractors can inspect your roof before you move in to ensure there is no sagging. Sagging is indicative of rotting wood due to water damage.

Damaged Flashing

Damage to your flashing can quickly cause damage to structural parts of your roof. Since flashing protects your roof’s edges and intersections, any damage to it allows water to seep into the roof and home.

Check Your Roof’s Age

One rule of thumb in roofing 101 is that roofs act their age. Older roofs often need replacing, not repairs, to ensure they are safe. Thus, it is important to confirm the age of your roof. Ask the previous owners when they installed or replaced it. You can also look for records in your local government office. If your roof is not old, consider repairing elements or parts that are breaking down.

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