Planning to buy a new roof can be a bit overwhelming and stressful, particularly if you don’t know much about roofs, how they function, and what aspects to focus on.

While helping you choose the best roof, an expert from a roofing company will likely use many words and phrases that are typical to this industry. Understanding these phrases on the fly will make the entire process much easier for you.

For this reason, we created a little glossary with the most significant roofing terms that every homeowner should be familiar with. So read on and find out what they are.


Shingles are simply small pieces of building material located on the surface of your roof, above the underlayment and sheathing. They are meant to beautify and protect your house from the external elements. Shingles can be made from many different materials, and each of them has distinctive benefits and characteristics. Your roofer will lay out and explain all of them, helping you choose the ideal shingles that will best protect your home.

Gutter System

This is also a very significant segment of the roof that protects your home by directing water away from the roof. It prevents water damages and leaks to your property. A proper gutter system also protects your house’s exterior surfaces and foundations as it prevents water from seeping down the walls and into the foundations.


Decking, also known as sheathing, is the lowermost segment of the roof’s construction, directly connected to the attic. It works as the roof’s foundation and it’s perfectly flat. Its main role is to support your roof, making it stable, robust, and very strong. A roof deck can be made out of plywood, composite wood, or OBS.


The next thing that comes on your roof is the underlayment. This part is installed directly on top of your decking and below the roof shingles. Its main job is to protect the building from water damages. It works as an extra protection layer and always has to be water-resistant or waterproof. Most often, it is made out of rubberized asphalt or asphalt-saturated felt.

Roofing Square

It is the most common unit of measure used by roofers. You will often hear your roofers using squares when they calculate the number of shingles or other materials they need to cover your roof.

For example, a 1,600 square-foot roof equals 16 squares.

Ridge & Ridge Vents

Ridge is the uppermost segment of the roof, or to say it differently, it’s the peak of your roof where the slopes meet. Ridge vents are installed across this horizontal intersection of the two sloping parts of the roof, allowing the air to circulate naturally and preventing the roof from overheating.

Roof Valley

A roof valley is basically where roof slopes intersect at the roof’s bottom. However, because they are at the bottom of the roof, they are highly exposed to rainwater that gathers in them. Therefore, installing flashing here is also necessary to prevent water from flowing inside the property.

Slope vs. Pitch

Quite commonly, the slope and pitch terms are used interchangeably. However, they are not the same and they are expressed differently, even if they apply to similar facets of your roof. Below are the main distinctions between the two.



Slope is the degree or the angle of your roof’s incline, and refers to how many inches your roof rises vertically over its horizontal line.

For example, if your roofer says that your roof has a 4:12 slope or a 4-in-12 slope, it means that your roof rises 4 inches vertically for every 12 inches of the horizontal run.



This is also the roof’s incline but expressed as fractions.

The pitch measures how many feet the roof rises vertically, but in relation to its span from one wall to another. A roof may have a 1/3 pitch, for instance, which means it rises 8 feet over a 24-foot span or a 1/6 pitch, which means it rises 4 feet over a 24-foot span.

Now You Can Talk the Talk With Your Roofer

The above terms are what you will most often hear when talking to your roofer. 

As you would expect, there are many others, but recognizing the terms from this article will already positively impact the communication and make the process easier for everybody involved.

If you need additional help or a residential roof replacement, please get in touch with us at any time!