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Anatomy of a Roof Anatomy of a Roof

Anatomy of a Roof

With fall a few short months away now is the time to consider you roof. Crisp temperatures often bring higher utility bills, not to mention drafts. Once winter delivers snow and rain, leaks can become evident.  Ignoring a leak can worsen and could result in interior damage or even mold or roof deck rot.

While replacing a roof can be a significant decision, it also helps protect your biggest investment; your home. It gives you the chance to start fresh with a new exterior look and offering a great way to express your individual personality and add real value.

So, you are ready to consider it, but where to begin? We are here to help take the mystery out of the roof replacement process.

Roofing System Components

Before meeting with a contractor or salesperson, it is helpful to understand the basic roofing system components to better be able to understand the roofing jargon.


Deck: The structural base for the roof, usually made of wood or plywood
Dormer:  A structure containing a window that projects vertically through the slope in the roof
Eave:         The lower border of the roof that overhangs the wall
Flashing:  Sheet metal or other material installed into a roof system’s various joints and valleys to prevent water
Gable: The triangular section of the outer wall at the peak of the roof. Also a type of roof.
Hip:           The intersection of two roof planes that meet to form a sloping ridge running from the peak to the eave.
Off-ridge exhaust vent: Individual exhaust vents usually located on the upper half of the roof that allow warm, humid air to escape from the attic. May be round, square or resemble a pipe or stack.
Rake: The outer edge of the roof from the eave to the ridge
Ridge: An intersection of two roof planes forming a horizontal peak
Ridge vent: An exhaust vent that runs horizontally along the peak of the roof allowing warm, humid air to escape from the attic
Sheathing: Boards or sheet material that are fastened to roof rafters to cover a house or building
Square: One “square” of roofing material equals 100 square feet of roofing area. Many roofing materials are bought by the square
Under-eave Vent: Intake vents located under the eaves of the roof that help draw cool dry air into the attic.
Underlayment: A layer of protective material between the deck and the shingles
Valley: The intersection of two sloping roofs joining at an angle to provide water runoff


Understanding Ventilation & Insulation

One of the most critical factors in roofing longevity is proper ventilation. Without it, heat and moisture can build up in an attic area causing rafters to rot, sheathing to rot and mildew and even mold. An ideal attic has:

  • A layer of insulation that that is gap-free along the attic floor to regulate heat loss and gain
  • A vapor retarder under the insulation, and next to the ceiling to stop moisture from rising
  • Open & vented space to allow air to pass in and out freely
  • Minimum of 1” between insulation & roof sheathing

What Roofing System Is Right For Me?

This is the million-dollar question for many homeowners. It really depends on how much you are willing to invest in your roof. The right answer for your home is the one that answers these 5 considerations:

  • Cost
  • Durability
  • Aesthetics
  • Architectural Style

While asphalt shingles take up more than 50 percent of the market share, there is an emergence of new and alternative materials on which people are willing to spend the money, due to style and longevity benefits. If you are looking to break away from the “sea of sameness” found in most residential neighborhoods, explore these options:

Synthetic Slate:

A newer product on the market, synthetic slate has gained popularity. Some features of synthetic slate are that it is lightweight and easily customizable in color, which is not possible in natural slate materials.

One drawback to synthetic slate is that due to its relative newness to the marketplace, the warranty is largely unproven. The materials could last upward of 50 years, but that has not been proven at this time.



Cedar shingles are a very durable product, and are very resistant to wind. Western Red Cedar is the most popular style of this type of roofing material, typically seen in Northwestern states like Washington.

While cedar is beautiful, there are several things to be aware of with this type of roofing material. They largely cost significantly more than asphalt roofing, have a poor fire rating and often need breathing room to swell and dry out in seasonal weather.


Asphalt Shingle:

The most widely used roofing material is asphalt. Most typically, the shingles are a mix of fiberglass and cellulose mix. They can be easily customized to various color schemes and generally can be found for a quick DIY project. They offer a moderate lifespan of 15 years if properly maintained throughout the year.

They are most commonly a B fire rating, which means that they are combustible. In the event of a fire, they are likely to burn and implode into the burning building.

Another concern with asphalt shingles is that they often will loosen around chimneys and pipes, as well as they can curl, buckle or blister in the elements like snow, wind or sun.


Metal Roofing:

It is a common misnomer that all metal roofs look like those found on a barn or warehouse. In fact, if you like the look of the above-listed roofing options, without the drawbacks, metal roofing may be for you.

Metal shingles come in a variety of styles reminiscent to their asphalt and cedar-shake counterparts. They can be customized to a wide variety of colors, offer a Class A fire rating and offer a lifetime transferrable warranty. They will not buckle, curl or peel, and can withstand all that Mother Nature has to offer.

Additionally, metal roofs are energy efficient and can lower your utility bills year-round.


Call us today to see how we can save you money! 1-800-563-4200

12 Comments Leave a comment!

  1. Tony The Roofer Commented on Aug 20, 2016 at 10:09 am

    Appreciating the time and energy you put into your blog and detailed information you offer. It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material. Great read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  2. Heather Reeves Commented on Aug 22, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Thank you so much Tony! We enjoy thinking outside the box while offering guests the tools to make informed decisions, even if that may not include our products.

  3. Stevie Commented on Oct 19, 2016 at 12:49 am

    Great article, I think metal shingles are great for the longevity and good call on the saving with the energy bill. They may cost more upfront but I think think you make it back in the end.

  4. Steve Commented on Nov 28, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Hey Heather,

    Informative article. It seems like you hit lots of points about the anatomy of a roof most people miss on… particularly synthetic slate. I see new roofing articles all the time that fail to mention this. But quick question… What do you think about Tesla/Solar City’s new “solar powered roof shingles”? I wrote an article about my thoughts and can send it over if you’d like (just let me know) but would love to hear your opinion on how this may change the roof industry.

  5. Joe Miller Commented on Nov 28, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Hi Steve! Great thoughts and question regarding the new launch of Tesla’s solar powered roofing shingles! I am actually in the process of researching these more fully given that with any new innovation there are always a series of issues. I would be curious to see how these might fare in rainy climates with minimal sun like Seattle and Alaska during their period of darkness. I would be interested in reading your article, and discussing the possibility of having you as a guest blogger. My email is:

  6. Kaylin Commented on Dec 2, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    I want to send you an award for most helpful innteert writer.

  7. Matt Commented on Dec 7, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    Steve! This is my first time getting to your blog. I own a roofing company, and am always looking to separate myself away from the competition. We primarily do asphalt/shingle roof replacements and roof repairs. We are looking into metal roofing. I personally like metal roofing just because I enjoy the sound when it rains, but that is just me. I appreciate you speaking in moderate terms of an asphalt shingle roof. I typically say around 15 years as well depending upon the amount of weather we get. Great information. Looking forward to reading more! Thanks!

  8. Heather Reeves Commented on Dec 12, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Good Morning Matt,

    We love having new followers! Here at Erie Metal Roofs, we strive to provide well-rounded information to help people make an informed decision- even if that means a metal roof may not be for them. Looking forward to your thoughts on our upcoming posts. Have a great day!

  9. Leviticus Bennett Commented on Mar 17, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    You mentioned that flashing is sheet metal installed to prevent water damage. I’ve heard that flashing is also used around chimneys. That way you’re not vulnerable to moisture entering the roof by the edges of the chimney.

  10. Heather Reeves Commented on Mar 21, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    Thank you for the comment! yes, flashing is also installed around the chimney and other areas that are at potential risk for moisture or exposure to the elements.

  11. David Mckeage Commented on May 18, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Appreciated work. Wish you best of luck.

  12. Mark Craney Commented on May 20, 2017 at 12:47 pm


    I think metal roofing is best because of its durability, longevity, flexibility and one of the most thing it is very cost effective.. For residential buildings metal roofs are excellent they provides strong protection.

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