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The Basics of Roofing Components

Age and extreme weather can wear on a roof and can, over the years, lead to its eventual. When faced with a weakened roof structure, the smartest and safest solution is to get a complete replacement. This way, you can ensure that your home’s structure remains intact and your quality of life remains satisfactory, if not excellent. Roof replacement, however, is a huge investment, so when you do commit to getting it done, you need to make sure that you get the most out of it. This doesn’t just include choosing the right material or roofer for your new system; you should also take the time to learn more about the nitty-gritty aspects of the project – down even to the parts of which your roofing system is made.

What Makes Up a Complete Roofing System?

Your new roof isn’t just the part of the tile or shingles; It’s actually made up of a number of vital components. Each one has a particular purpose that, when combined with other parts, helps provide superior weather protection and long-lasting performance. Overlooking even one of them may compromise the service life of your new roof, so make sure each is present and accounted for.

Here’s a breakdown of all the components that go into your home’s new roofing system:

1. Decking or Wood Sheathing

This refers to the panels that cover the rafters, serving as the foundation on which everything is laid. The roof deck may come in different materials. Some of the most popular options include plywood, particleboard and OSB (oriented strand board), but other materials like metal, concrete and polystyrene are also used. The decking is typically fastened by nails onto the rafters, where the roofing material, such as asphalt shingles, are attached. Local building codes require a well-built decking for every roof replacement project.

2. Underlayment

Ever wondered what that sheet of heavy black paper placed on the roof deck is? It’s called the underlayment, which usually consists of feeling –  -a durable paper saturated with asphalt – but other synthetic materials are also available. This is placed between the wood sheathing and the shingles, providing an additional, but a temporary layer of protection against snow, wind, ice, and rain. The underlayment is especially useful in case of torn or broken shingles. Because this section is installed from the bottom edge of the roof, with each layer rolled in overlapping strips, the underlayment effectively sheds water downward without leaking through the seams.

CREATE A WATERPROOF BARRIER. Take roof underlayment into account when investing in a replacement to ensure better weather performance.

3. Asphalt Shingles

These probably make up the most visible component of your roofing system – taking up a significant area of the roof, in fact. Asphalt shingles are one of the top roofing materials available today, gracing millions of homes across the country. They are lightweight, which makes them faster and easier to install. Because they don’t require an additional support structure to hold them up, shingles are also a more cost-effective option.

This roofing material comes in two categories: organic and fiberglass. The former uses paper coated with asphalt while the latter has a fiberglass base with an asphalt and protective mineral coating creating a waterproof material. Recent advancements in roofing technology have also augmented the performance of asphalt shingles. Some of the leading manufacturers offer options that are already pre-treated against mold and mildew. There are even shingles with cooling technology, which can help keep your home thermally comfortable and more energy efficient.


Aesthetics-wise, asphalt shingles are available in an impressive array of colors, textures, and thicknesses. Some can even mimic the rich look and feel of more premium roofing materials like slate and wood shakes. With the number of design possibilities they can offer, asphalt shingles can help increase your home’s curb appeal while adding more to its architectural or historical accuracy. Just make sure that your shingles come with solid warranties.

This should include protection against material defects, ensuring your investment is covered should the shingles start to fail long before they should. A workmanship guarantee provided by the roofing installer also covers you from sloppy workmanship, letting you avoid the stress and expensive task of correcting it. There are even roofing manufacturers that offer premium, lifetime warranties with both material and labor coverage.

PERFECT MATCH. Make sure your shingles’ color match beautifully with your home’s architecture and exterior palette for increased curb appeal.

4. Drip Edge

Also called eave flashing, the drip edge is a piece of metal, plastic or vinyl that is nailed along the edge of your roof. This helps water drain into the gutters or shed off cleanly from the roof instead of running down the fascia. By preventing water buildup, the drip edge eliminates the potential for leaks, rot and mold growth.

5. Flashing

These components cover the most vulnerable portions of your roofing system. Typically made of metal, the flashing is used to divert water from around your chimneys, vent pipes, dormers, skylights and roof valleys. Durable seals ensure your roofing and home remains leak-free.

6. Valley

This refers to the internal angle formed when two sections of the roof slope downward and meet. Valleys are among the most leak-prone sections of your roof, so make sure your roof installer keeps them properly sealed.

7. Fascia

This is the exposed horizontal board used to cover the underside of the eaves and where the gutters are attached. The fascia supports the lower edge of the bottom row of shingles and, along with the soffit, adds a finished look to your roofing and home.

8. Soffit

Located underneath the eaves, the soffit helps keep airflow between your roof and attic consistent. This improves ventilation, preventing heat and moisture buildup from causing mold and rot. Along with the fascia board, the soffit adds more visual interest to your home and roofing.

9. Gutters

They catch the rainwater running down your roof and direct it away. Gutters are often overlooked, but their draining performance helps keep your home safe from water damage. Because rainwater doesn’t find its way into your walls and foundation, your home can maintain its structural integrity. Additionally, gutters prevent flooding and soil erosion, so your landscaping and driveway remain intact.

PROFESSIONAL INSTALLATION. Hiring a pro to work on your new roofing system provides greater peace of mind.

10. Attic Ventilation

Don’t overlook this aspect when investing in new roofing. Proper ventilation helps remove excess heat and moisture from the space. This prevents premature wear and tear on the roofing materials above while keeping your home healthier and more energy efficient. In addition, proper attic ventilation is a crucial factor in roofing warranties. Without it, the material coverage included with your shingles may be voided.

Your new roofing should be installed by a reliable contractor.

Your choice of roofing contractors might be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in your replacement project. Given the complexity of your roofing elements, it pays to hire someone who can do an efficient, high-quality installation.

Make sure they are licensed to perform this kind of work in your area. Look for the necessary insurance, including workers’ compensation and liability coverage. This help protects you and your investment better should an accident occur on your property. Aside from license and insurance, look for manufacturer certifications. This allows you access to top-tier roofing materials from the leading manufacturers while letting you benefit from the generous warranties included with them.

Shingles alone don’t protect your home – the entire roofing system does. That’s why, when investing in a replacement, make sure you have all the essential components. Plus, hire a reliable roofer who can install these items perfectly right the first time.


Author Bio:

William “Bill” Krech is an expert in the home improvement industry, focusing on exterior upgrades like roof, window and siding replacement. He loves sharing tips with people in his free time. Check out more of his updates by visiting the Krech Exteriors blog. You can also follow him on Twitter, or check the company’s Facebook page.


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