Common Roofing Terms

Common Roofing Terms You Need To Know


Understanding the language of roofing

A roofing company gives you an estimate after determining how much damage your roof has and how much money you’ll have to pay for roof repairs or a new roof. You’ll want to do your homework before getting a roofing estimate. The best place to start is by learning common roofing terminology so you and the roofer can speak the same language. You’ll want to know what the roofing specialist is saying when they point out the problems or features of your roof.

This article defines and describes the most common roofing features and terms, so you can go into a roofing estimate informed and prepared.

Roofing Terms

  • Cornice: This is the metal finishing (sometimes wood) at the edges of a building. This includes the fascia, rake, or frieze.
  • Counterflashing: It’s flashing that is embedded or sealed at the top in a wall. It comes down over the base flashing.
  • Courses: These are horizontal rows of shingles.
  • Drip Edge: It’s a metal strip that extends beyond the eaves to prevent rain from going around the shingles and into the wood.
  • Eaves: This is the lower part of the roof or the overhanging part beyond the edge of the home.
  • Dormers: This is a roofed structure that projects beyond the plane of a pitched roof. Most of these roofed structures are windows. You’ve probably seen a dormer window on the bonus room of a two-car garage. Dormers increase usable space for lofts. Sometimes people confuse the terms dormer and gable, but they are different structures. A gable is a triangular portion of an external wall that is adjacent to two sloped or intersecting roof pitches.
  • Fascia: This gives the edge of the roof a decorative look. It’s actually a decorative board at the eave or rake.
  • Flashing: Metal sheet at the junctions of roof planes to prevent leakage. You’ve probably seen these at the edges of a chimney where it meets the house. This prevents water from seeping through the edges.
  • Frieze: This board is at the top of the home’s wall and forms a corner with the soffit.
  • Gable: A gable is a triangular portion of an external wall that is adjacent to two sloped or intersecting roof pitches.
  • Joist: You’ve probably heard this term on HGTV. The joist is a horizontal structural member to which sheathing is attached.
  • Pitch (slope): This is how many inches of vertical rise a roof has per 12 inches of horizontal distance. The pitch is the measurement of the roof’s angle of incline. It’s different from the roof slope. The roof pitch is in a fraction like ¼. Each number represents the coordinate of an angle. Which is based on the roof’s height or rise and the span (width). The roof pitch is the rise over the span.
  • Rafter: This is a slanted structural framework that supports the roofing and roof deck. It’s the angled timber where sheathing is attached. Sheathing is plywood sheets.
  • Rake: Slanted edge of a gable roof. It’s at the end of the house.
  • Roof frame: This is the shape that distinguishes what roof design you have. There are five types of roof designs: gable (most common), hip, shed, mansard, and gambrel. In the northern section of the U.S. the “saltbox” gabled roof is popular.
  • Sheathing: Plywood sheets nailed to the rafters. Shingles or outside roofing boards are secured to it.
  • Soffit: The soffit is the underside of the roof that extends past the side walls of the home.
  • Strut: Struts are in the roof frame and give support to the underpurlins and other beams to load bearing walls.
  • Square: When a roofer mentions a “square,” he or she is referring to one hundred square feet of roof.
  • Truss: A truss is a structural framework of timbers to bridge the space between a roof plane and a room plane. In other words it’s the bridge of timbers inside the space above the top of the room up to the roof plane. See for a detailed video description of a truss.
  • Underlayment: Roofing felt on top of sheathing before shingles are installed.
  • Valley: The point where two sloping roof sections come together or meet.


So, now that you’re aware of the common roofing terms, it’s on to the roof estimate. Check out our blog on What You Can Expect from a Roof Estimate.


Need Help?

TruBlue Roofing and Remodeling can help you with any roof repair needs. We’re locally-owned, insured, and highly experienced roofers helping people in the Raleigh and Durham Metro areas repair and replace their roofs. We also service coastal NC areas in Wilmington and Carolina Beach. Please see our website or  call us today at (919) 589-7290.

Scroll to Top