If you’re like most people, you know very little about your home’s roof parts names. When was the last time you even paid attention to your roof? You shouldn’t have to. Your roof is your home’s most significant barrier between you and the elements. When it’s doing its job, your house stays dry and comfortable. When it springs a leak, though, all hell breaks loose.
Your home needs a new roof about once every 20 years or so, depending on where you live, how the elements hit your home, and the quality of roofing material. The cost of a new, installed roof can vary from about $5,000 to close to $30,000. With an investment like that, you want to make sure you spend your money wisely.
Before jumping in, learn the roof part names and future out what kind of roof will be best for your home.
Roof Parts Names
There is a lot more to your roof than just want you see from below, or even from above. Your major roof parts names are sheathing, underlayment, flashing, shingles or tile and trim.
The first of the roof parts names mentioned is sheathing. This is the very bottom layer of your roof. It’s usually plywood, but there are some exceptions, which we’ll explain in a bit.
The second of the roof parts names we will talk about is underlayment. This is perhaps the most critical part of your roof. It is the black paper or other material that seals your roof from the elements. Below it might be just plywood, or better yet, a waterproof membrane between the sheathing and the underlayment.
Then there is the flashing. Even the most symmetrical roofs collect water in some areas more than in others. Flashing diverts the water from your roof’s crevices and valleys. Flashing is made of metal, usually galvanized flashing, a galvanized alloy, copper, lead coated copper or stainless steel. Another roof parts names talked about above are shingles or tile. This is the part of the roof that you can see with the naked eye. Shingles and tiles have protected people from the elements for thousands of years. A quality shingle or tile can last for decades.
Finally, your roof’s trim seals seams, and it outlines the ridge of the roof.
Roof Sheathing Material
Most sheathing is made from plywood. It comes in 4 x 8 foot pieces and is lightweight and very easy to work with. Plywood is graded from A to D. A-grade plywood is smooth and knot-free while D-grade can be full of cracks and knots. Obviously, A-grade is far superior roofing material.
When you go to the store for materials, you can ask for one of the roof parts names alternatively called oriented strand board (OSB). OSB takes layers of wood strands and compresses them at odd angles with water-resistant adhesives. Like plywood, it comes in 4 x 8 foot pieces. Since it’s made with scrap wood, it’s cheaper than plywood, and many roofers complain that it’s more challenging to work with.
As discussed above when we were mentioning your roof parts names, there is underlayment. You can’t see your roof’s underlayment, but with some aging roofs, it might be the only thing between you and the elements. The underlayment is made of either asphalt-saturated felt, non-bitumen synthetic, or rubberized asphalt.
If your roof is more than 15 years old, odds are the underlayment is asphalt-saturated felt, which is typically known as “felt paper” or “tar paper.” It can be made of plant cellulose, polyester, bitumen or asphalt.
Today most roofers use synthetic underlayment. Synthetic underlayment is made from materials like polypropylene saturated with asphalt. It may also contain fiberglass for added strength. Synthetic underlayment is lighter than traditional felt. It can even last much longer. The downside is that it’s much more expensive.
The most expensive kind of underlayment, though, is rubberized asphalt. It contains more asphalt and rubber polymers. It is entirely waterproof on its own. Not only that, its sticky back with a protective membrane creates a watertight seal against the sheathing.
When you are writing down the roof parts names you will need, don’t forget the shingles! Roof shingles are where we get to the fun part of your roof if there’s a fun part of a roof. Shingles come in materials as varied as your home. You can choose basic shingles to save money, or you can add customized beauty.
Asphalt shingles are among the most popular, for a good reason. They are inexpensive and come in a variety of styles. Asphalt shingles are made of materials such as paper or wood and coated with asphalt. They are also among the weakest roofing materials. If you live in an area with dramatic weather and temperature fluctuations, asphalt shingles might not be ideal for you. On the plus side, minor leaks in asphalt shingles are relatively easy to repair.
Many experts consider slate shingles the Cadillac of roofing shingles. Slate is beautiful, natural and durable. It comes in a wide array of colors and can last for a century or more. Slate is fire resistant and environmentally friendly. It’s also costly, but if you plan on spending a lifetime in your home, it might be worth it.
Another downside to slate is that it’s difficult to install. Because it’s a natural stone, it can crack if improperly handled. It can also crack or break if someone walks on the roof.
Slate is very heavy. Not all homes can support a slate roof. Consult an engineer before installing slate.
Fake slate roofing shingles
If the real slate is a bit out of your price range, fake slate roofing might be an alternative. Fake slate roofing is made from any number of materials, including plastic/polymer composition, clay, fiber cement, rubber, steel and asphalt composition.
As with natural slate, fake slate can accomplish a variety of looks. It can be fire resistant, or with some cheaper materials, you may need to upgrade the underlay to make it truly fire resistant.
Fake slate is a bit cheaper and quite a bit lighter than natural. Some are environmentally friendly, using materials like recycled tires. Phony slate is less likely to crack or break under weight than natural, but it’s also less likely to stand up to the weather. Expect to replace a fake slate roof after about 20 years.
Fiberglass shingles are made of a mat of wet fiberglass bonded together with resin. They are best suited to a warmer environment because extreme cold can make them brittle and they can break.
Fiberglass shingles are flame-retardant, but they are prone to attract algae because they are made from alkaline material. The algae can make them look dirty, and it makes them retain heat. Fiberglass is less expensive than many roofing materials. If you live in a relatively warm and dry place, such as Arizona, fiberglass could be very cost effective for you.
Tile shingles are among the most beautiful, but also the most expensive. They come in a variety of shapes and patterns, and they can last for decades. Tiles are common on Mediterranean and Spanish-style roofs. As with slate, though, tile is very heavy. You should contact an engineer before installing tile.
While tile is very durable, it can crack or break under pressure. If a tree, for example, were to fall on your roof, it could cause expensive damage.
Metal is a great alternative for people who have flat or steep roofs. Metal roofs, as you might imagine, are exceptionally durable and can last for 50 years. They can be made of solid metal, or they can be constructed. You can customize the look by choosing copper, tin, zinc or aluminum.
Metal can become quite noisy during the rain, however. So, if you have a house with upstairs bedrooms, you may not want this.
Wood shingles are a perennial favorite for a good reason. They are attractive and durable. They are more expensive and more attractive than asphalt shingles but less expensive than tile. Wood shingles can last up to 50 years.
Wood shingles are typically made of either cedar or redwood. They help keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They are not fire retardant, though, so if you live in an area that’s prone to forest fires, you might consider an alternative.
Why Install Roof Vents
Roof vents are an energy efficient addition to homes with attics and upstairs crawl spaces. They moderate the temperature in the attic, which helps keep heating and cooling bills down throughout the house.
Vents can also help protect your roof, especially if it’s made from a material that’s prone to moisture and condensation, like wood or asphalt.
One Last Thing
Your roof is key to protecting your home and everything (and everyone) inside it. Be sure to contact a reputable contractor. Remember that cheaper is not always better, but neither is more expensive. A quality roof will add value to your home, but only to a certain point. On average, a new roof would add about $12,000 to the sale price of your home. That’s less than the cost of many, if not most, roofs. Remember, though, that a new roof can save you money through lowered energy costs.
Please note that all cost estimates are based on average homes, and they can vary depending on multiple factors.