Roofing can seem like a brand new world with all the lingo roofers use. Because roofing is an investment, you need to know what is going on at any time you are replaced or installed. Roofing contractors appear to have their own language and it can be difficult to understand what exactly they are doing. Below are some of the most commonly used terms to help you stay in the know.

Learning Roof Lingo

  • Deck: The surface that is installed over the supporting framing members to which the roofing is applied
  • Rakes: The vertical edges of any gable-style roofing
  • Eaves: The lowest, horizontal edge of a sloped roof. This extends beyond the exterior wall.
  • Flashing: Pieces of metal used to prevent water seepage. Flashing is placed around intersections or projections like pipes, vents, walls, dormers, and chimneys.
  • Step flashing: This is an application method for flashing where vertical surfaces meet sloping planes. Individual pieces extend on the roof place to the vertical surface. These are overlapped and stepped up as shingles are applied.
  • Drip edge: A non-corrosive metal lip to keep shingles raised off the roof deck at the edges. The drip edges extend shingles out over the eaves and rakes.
  • Underlayment: Layer of asphalt-saturated felt that is laid on a bare deck before the shingles are installed. It provides additional protection for the deck. Tar paper can also be used.
  • Valley: The internal angle that is formed when the two sloping roof planes meet to provide water runoff.
  • Ice dam: The thawing and refreezing of melted snow form a dam at the lower edge of the roof. This dam can force water under the roofing and cause leaks.
  • Ice-and-water shield: A thin, self-adhering membrane made of rubberized asphalt that is applied before underlayment but over the drip edge. It helps to mitigate potential leaks from an ice dam.
  • Ridge: The uppermost horizontal external angle that forms where the two sloping roof planes intersect.
    Sheathing: The exterior-grade boards used as roof deck material.

Up on the Roof

You know the lingo. Now, you can understand just what they are doing up on your rooftop.


  1. The old shingles are removed first, then decking is swept as clean as possible.
  2. Any loose sheathing is reattached
  3. All sheathing is inspected before any new shingles are placed down.

Barrier placement

  1. A drip edge is installed at the eaves.
  2. Ice-and-water membrane is applied over this
  3. Metal flashing, as well as ice-and-water membrane, are applied to valleys and protrusions.
  4. Felt underlayment is applied to the entire roof, with each strip overlapping the previous layer.
  5. A drip edge applied to the rakes is applied over the ice-and-water membrane and underlayment.

Shingle placement

  1. Starter shingles are placed along the eaves.
  2. Shingles extend past the ice-and-water membrane, fascia, drip edge, and underlayment.
  3. Shingles are applied in overlapping rows.
  4. Metal step flashing is applied with shingles at joints where the roof meets a wall or chimney.


The roof is finished using special pieces for capping the ridge. One final pass is made across the roof to ensure each nail is sealed with professional-strength sealant.

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