Anatomy of a Roof: Learn the Vocab

anatomy of a roofWhen you need to have a roof replaced or repaired you may find that your St. Paul roofing contractor is speaking with a vocabulary you don’t understand.  To make sure you completely understand what is going on and can ask effective questions, it is good to have a basic roof vocabulary.  Knowing the anatomy of a roof can be very helpful.


The Anatomy of a Roof

  • Shingles: One of the most basic pieces of a roof are shingles.  They are the top visible layer.  Shingles are frequently made of asphalt, but you may also have cedar shingles, clay tiles, or another composite material.

  • Dormer: The small framed projection, likely holding a window, on the slope of your roof is a dormer.  Many times dormers offer natural light into upper floor bedrooms.

  • Gable: A gable is on the end wall of your house.  It is the triangle shaped portion under your roofline.
  • Gable Vents: As the name implies this is a vent located near the very top of your gable.  You can see this vent from the outside.  Vents bring fresh air into your attic.  This fresh air is important to keeping your attic from overheating.   Vents prevent the damage that could result from the excess heat or buildup of gasses inside your attic.

This would be a good time to have your St. Paul roofing contractor check your ventilation system to make sure everything is still working properly.  Even if your ventilation system was properly installed at the time you built your roof, it may not be working correctly any longer.  Like all aspects of your roof regular maintenance is important.

  • Eaves: Eaves are the portion of the roof that overhangs your exterior wall.


  • Soffit: The soffit is the underside of the eaves.  What you see as you stand underneath the eaves  and look up.  Soffits are another area that contains many of the vents bringing fresh air into your attic space.

The anatomy of a roof includes three main areas where the roof intersects itself.  These three edges all have different names. From the top of your roof down they are:

  • Ridge: This is the highest point of your sloped roof.  It is the edge that runs the length of your roof.  You may also find vents along this ridge.

  • Hip: The hip is an external angle that is formed by two slopes of your roof meeting.

  • Valley: Just the opposite from a hip, the valley is the internal angle formed by two slopes of your roof meeting.

Your St. Paul roofing contractor can also update your gutters.  Gutters not working properly can dump water on to your home and into your foundation and basement.

  • Gutters: Gutters are a channel attached to the lower edge of your roof line.  They move water to your downspouts or leader pipes.  Gutters range from seamless custom copper or other metal choices to less expensive vinyl  gutters. 

  • Downspout, or leader pipe: This is the pipe that will take water from your gutters down to the ground and away from your home. 

There are a number of protrusions out of many roofs.  You roof is installed around these things and they often come into play when doing repairs.

  • Chimney: A chimney exhausts smoke and other fumes from your home for this reason it is usually made of brick or stone.  Chimneys typically are located in one of two places.  They either run up next to your roof or protrude out of the slope of your roof.
  • Chimney Cap: A chimney cap is placed on top of your chimney to avoid snow and rain coming down your chimney.

When you’re reroofing your home or having repairs done it is helpful to speak the same language as your St. Paul roofing contractor.  Knowing the anatomy of a roof can make it easier to understand the work you are having done.  Never hesitate to ask if you are unclear about part of your roofing project, a great St. Paul roofing contractor will have plenty of time to explain anything you don’t understand!


Tradition Roofing and Exteriors MN will explain the anatomy of a roof to you when you get you free no obligations estimate. Contact us today!


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