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Residential Roof Components Explained By Experts

Posted on August 23, 2022

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Residential Roof Components Explained By Experts

Roofing is complex work. Whether you are building a new home or replacing your old roof, there’s no shortcut to a flawless job. Your local roofing contractors can explain all the major roof components to you, but it is always a good idea to do some research before discussions and commitments of any kind.

There are many parts of a roof and dozens of materials to make each part. As a homeowner, you may find it overwhelming to choose suitable roofing materials, so we are here to give you a start.

In this article, our roofing experts describe the critical components of a pitched roof, including the roles they play and how they protect your home. It will help you understand which roofing components and materials are the right fit for your home.

The first roof component is its structural foundation- the wooden framework called roof sheathing or decking.

Roof Sheathing

It is the foundation of a roof. It’s usually a structure of plywood or OSB (oriented strand board) boards that lay the framework to install all the other roof components. It contains a network of rafters and trusses.


Rafters are the main horizontal beams of your roof, spanning from one side to another. They support the roof’s weight and distribute it downwards to your home’s foundation. They also transfer wind forces from one point to another. The rafters are attached to each other by joists or girders. The size, length, and number of rafters vary according to your area’s building code and climate.


Trusses are more elaborate supporting beams than rafters. They are a structural framework with a triangular web-like structure that can span large distances without needing additional supports such as columns or beams, like traditional rafters. They offer more support and strength to the roofing materials and are more common in today’s homes.

Waterproofing And Roof Sealing Components

Waterproofing is integral to your roof’s lifespan. Roofing contractors can waterproof a roof by installing water-resistant materials over the sheathing. When a home’s waterproofing system is compromised, the result can be devastating: leaks, mold, algae, and rot can cause serious damage to your home. All of this leads to structural damage and costly repairs. It also protects from leaks around the roof’s topmost attachments like chimneys, skylights, and vents. The most common waterproofing roof components are underlayment, flashing, and drip edge.

Roof Components
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Underlayment is a sheet layer between roof sheathing and shingles. It includes a mix of asphalt, rubber, and fiberglass that functions as a moisture barrier, protecting the roof sheathing from water damage. Most underlayments are self-adhesive rolls or come with sealing tapes.


Flashing is a metal strip that fastens two different roof components, filling any gap between them. It prevents water from penetrating the roof deck and building envelope. There are multiple types of flashing, such as R-flashing, counter flashing, step-flashing, and curb flashing. They protect the waterproofing membrane from weather damage.

Drip Edge

A drip edge is a long metal piece that covers the roof’s edge. This keeps moisture away from your home’s interior walls, preventing mold and mildew from forming inside the house. It also prevents leaks directing water down into gutters instead of pooling on the roof or leaking into the attic and rooms through the siding, soffit, and fascia.

Roof Covering

The roof covering is the last layer of your roof components, the first layer of protection from elements- the most visible part of your roof that gives your home the desired aesthetic feel. Most US homes have roof coverings made of shingles or metal.

Shingle Roofs

Shingle roofs are the most economical roof covering, and they are the easiest to install. Most shingles consist of asphalt and fiberglass, which makes them highly durable and sturdy. Shingle roofs are typical on most homes across the country, but they’re instrumental if you live in a region with extreme temperatures and high humidity.

Metal Roofs

Metal roofs are incredibly sturdy, weatherproof, and a great choice for homeowners. They last much longer than asphalt shingles, and they provide excellent protection from the elements. Metal roofs also come in various colors, styles, and textures that complement your home’s design and contrast. A metal roof is a good choice if you want to increase your home’s value, and don’t want to spend time maintaining your roof.

Most homeowners prefer aluminum, steel, and copper for their roofs. Aluminum is an affordable option that can withstand extreme temperatures without warping or cracking. Copper is an ancient luxury that is still the most durable metal roofing option. Metal roof components may sometimes differ from shingle roofs.


Pitch is the slope of your roof planes. It determines how steep your roof is. If you want to calculate the pitch of your roof, divide the plane’s height by its length. Your roof’s pitch contains important intersection points- ridge, hip, and valleys.


The ridge is the highest point of your roof. Good roofing contractors will cover the ridge with a protective cap to prevent wind blow-offs. Ridges also help determine where to place vents, chimneys, and skylights, so they don’t interfere with your roof or cause leaks. It is usually in the middle of a roof, but you may also see it on either side of your home if it has a hip.


If your roof has a top with four triangular sides, you can spot the hip of your roof. A hip is the intersection point where two sides of the triangular slopes meet. The sides of a roof hip are usually vertical, or form steps called hips and valleys. You can add more space to your attic and rooms with a hip roof.


The roof valley is the space between two roof slopes, where you will see a long, metal flashing. It helps prevent leaks and water damage to your home, siding, and walls by directing the rainwater to your roof’s drainage system.

Some roof components also form the front and underside of your home’s exterior. These are called the gable and eaves.


The gable is the triangular portion of a house at the attic’s front and back. In most cases, this is where you’ll find your main entryway into the home. Along with the attic’s exterior wall, it also includes the front trim of the roof where the two planes meet.


You have eaves if your home has a roofline that extends beyond the exterior walls. Many homes have longer eaves, so the roofs can shed water far away from the house. Eaves consist of soffits and fascia boards that protect the rafters and attic from moisture damage. You can get stylish and colorful options to decorate the eaves, and improve your home’s curb appeal and value.


Soffits are the underside of the eaves that cover the rafters. The soffit is a valuable part of your roof’s overhang.

  • It protects your house from water damage
  • Hides the plumbing
  • Offer space for ventilation
  • Provide support to fix the gutter system.


Fascia is the board that covers the space between the soffit and the roofline. You can see a fascia board right in front of the gable, along the roof lines, and at the eaves and dormer windows. You can choose metal or vinyl to make attractive fascia trims, paint them or leave them natural.

Paint may not necessarily be a roof component, but it is a roofing material that protects many parts of your roof.

Adhesive And Paint

People usually associate painting with the look and feel. But in the roofing industry, paint is not just a decorative component. It is a multipurpose component that can provide protection for metal roofs. An adhesive is a sealant that goes along with the paint so that it does not come off on its own, or due to any other element like water or impact. Paint is the end layer that shields the metal roof, siding, soffit, fascia, and gutter systems from water damage and premature withering due to extreme temperatures. Roofing contractors use a combination of tools to paint the roofs, such as a brush, paint gun, roller, blower, and sprayer.

Gutter System

A gutter system is your roof’s drainage system. It contains a series of rain gutters, downspouts, and other protective components. All the parts of the system work together to catch rainwater falling on the roofs and direct it away from your home’s exterior and landscaping.

Roofing professionals and homeowners typically choose aluminum, galvanized steel, or copper gutters. They are also available in PVC, a more affordable option that can often be less durable.


Gutters are the first point of contact for rainwater. These roof components catch the water, flushing it down through the pipes attached to the gutters. The gutter panels or boards run along the eaves, on the sides of roofs, and in the valleys between roof pitches. Traditionally, people were using sectional gutter panels. These were smaller boards joined together to make a long piece that extended along your roofline. However, these gutters were prone to leaks and did not last as long as most homeowners wanted. Today, you also have seamless gutters- an upgrade to sectional gutters. They are long and continuous gutters made with one single board with no joints. This makes them more efficient and less prone to leaks. Gutters come in different profiles, but the most common styles include K-style, U-shaped, Victorian Ogee, and fascia gutters.

Gutter guards

Gutter guards work as a filter for the gutter panels. They cover the gutters to prevent leaves and debris from entering the gutters by filtering them away. Gutters guards are a vital safety component for your roof’s drainage system because otherwise, everything else will collect into the gutter panels and go down the pipes along with water. This can lead to blocks and an overflow of water whenever it rains. When this happens, your gutter system will not fulfill its purpose- to prevent water damage in your home.


Downspouts or downpipes are part of a gutter system that carries down the water from the gutters to the ground. You must make sure your downspout length is adequate for its job. If they are too short the water may leak into your house. If they are too long, without a proper outpoint, you could get water pooling on your driveway or sidewalk. Consulting a roofing professional is necessary for your roofing project, no matter how big or small. They will tell you the exact measurements, materials, and other requirements that are best for your home.

In the end, you have two more roof components that may not feel like a part of your roof, but they are very much responsible for maintaining your roof’s condition and longevity. They are attic insulation and roof ventilation system.


Ventilation systems allow proper air circulation in the attic, which is vital to protect your roof and ceiling from moisture damage. It also improves your home’s energy efficiency, offering a more comfortable atmosphere to live in.

Exhaust vents

Exhaust vents are usually attic fans or ridge vents fixed at the roof’s ridge. They suck the moisture and warm air from the attic, keeping it dry and cooler in summer.

Intake vents

Intake vents allow cool air to flow into the attic. The best place to fix them is around the lower slope of the roof. Vented soffits are the most common and effective intake vents in US homes with eaves. If your home has no eaves, you will have a vented space in your attic, right at the gable’s front.

Now, there may be microscopic gaps and spaces in your attic from where the air and water may enter and exit. This will affect proper ventilation, so you must seal those attic areas. You can do this by installing insulation materials on the floor, doors, walls, and all the unfinished spaces of the attic. Insulation materials can range from fiberglass battens to spray foam. Your roofing contractor would be able to choose the right insulation for your attic after a proper roof and attic inspection.

End Note From The Experts

There are many more parts of a roof that may be optional for some homes, but they can be vital in areas with extreme temperatures or stormy weather conditions. At North Star Roofing, we can help you with a free consultation on roof components essential for your unique home.

If you live in North Wales, PA, contact us at (484)-302-7663. Our roofing experts have a reputation for being the most trustworthy professionals in the area, and we would be glad to answer all your questions thoroughly! If you feel we can help you, we will be happy to offer you roof installation services to you.

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