Roofing 101: Understanding the Residential Roofing System
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and didn’t understand a single thing they said? By chance, were you talking to a roofing company? I admit, like many industries, we have our own jargon we throw around expecting people to understand because they are nodding their heads. But that’s not fair to you. You have every right to know what a salesperson or project manager is talking about when it applies to your home.
Here are some basics for understanding the residential roofing system so you can be better prepared when talking to roofing contractors.
The roof structure is the frame for the roof. Depending on the structure of your home, it’s either made of rafters, trusses, or beams and defines the shape of the roof. Most residential roofs in our area are made of lumber (compared to steel used on commercial projects). The layout of a home and the final roof covering determines the roof’s structure. For instance, a house with concrete tiles is different than one with asphalt shingles because the roof structure must support the extra weight. Also, it is the roof structure that determines what the slope of the roof will be.
When you drive by a home under construction and see bare sheets of flat material on top of the house, that’s the roof sheathing. It sits on top of the roofing structure and is secured directly to it. The most common material used is oriented strand board (OSB) because it’s lightweight, affordable, and affordable. Plywood is also used but mainly for roofs that will hold more weight, such as concrete tiles.
In a perfect roofing world, every roof would have a small slope without any obstructions. But that’s not the case. Roofs have joints and structures like chimneys and ventilation. Flashing is what’s used to protect the roof around these areas. Its main job is to keep water from entering. Most flashing is a thin strip of material, generally metal. It’s placed in the valleys and around protrusions so water can be deflected and run off the roof. The roofing company typically decides the exact type of flashing.
Your roof ventilation system is critical. When done correctly, it extends the life of the roof, reduces energy bills, and lowers indoor temperatures. There are two parts to roof vents – the exhaust function and intake vents. Many roof vents are installed underneath the roof covering at the roof ridge and roof edges, so you don’t even see them from the street level. When designed well and working correctly, the ventilation system allows hot air to leave the roof area while cool air enters.
The top layer of the roofing system is your roof covering. Looking around, it’s not surprising asphalt shingles are the most popular roof covering in the United States because of cost, fire protection, ease of installation, and durability. However, there are other options. Here is a list of materials to consider, especially if your home is new construction.
- Asphalt or wood shingles
- Clay, slate or concrete tiles
- Flat roof coverings
- Spray foam
- Tar and gravel
As the term states, roof drainage is all about efficiently shedding the water off the roof. In residential roofing, where roofs are typically sloped, it’s about directing the run-off into the right areas of the roof and stopping water from pooling and remaining on the roof where it will damage roofing materials and cause leaks.
Advice for talking about roofing system
I’ve included a high-level description of the top-level categories, but there are hundreds of roof and construction-specific terms that contractors and builders use. When picking a roofing company, be sure to select one that is willing to take the time to explain things you understand and don’t feel bad for not knowing them. Your roofing system is a critical part of your home, and a significant investment, so take the time to make sure you understand what contractors are doing to your home and what approach they are using.
About Peak Roofing & Construction
Peak Roofing & Construction is family-owned, with 30-years of experience. Bonded, insured, and accredited, we provide roofing, gutter, fence, window, and exterior facelift services. Guaranteed. Call (972) 335-7325 in Dallas-Fort Worth (residential & commercial) or (512) 415-6888 in Austin (residential roofing).