Roofing Terminology 101

Whether purchasing a house, selling a house, or simply maintaining one, the integrity of the roof is a basic concern for all owners or would-be owners. Who has not heard the phrase "providing a roof over their heads" in relation to parental responsibilities? Yes, we are familiar with the phrase, but what exactly comprises a roof?

A roof is a system; hopefully one that is energy efficient and designed to keep inclement weather out and air-conditioned or heated air in, along with, of course, keeping your belongings and loved ones secure.

The roofing system consists of many components. Let's see if we can bring some familiarity to the different parts that make up a roof.

Although there are many different types of roofs, we will discuss the most common type for residential homes: the Composition Shingle Roof.

Some Key Words

  • Roof truss- the structural framework designed to support a roof, triangular in shape.
  • Rafters- one of several internal beams extending from the eaves to the peak of a roof and constituting its framework. Sometimes rafters are used in lieu of trusses. Rafters do not provide the same support and strength as trusses, but provide for more space, since a rafter is a single board versus the trusses, which are triangular.
  • Roof decking- the roofing material layer between the framing and the weather proofing layers in a typical roofing system, normally made of plywood.
  • Roof shingles- a roof covering consisting of individual overlapping elements. Shingles are flat and rectangular in shape and are laid in rows from the bottom edge of the roof on up, with each successive row overlapping the joints in the row below. The shingles are impregnated with asphalt and have a mineral surfacing.
  • Fascia - a type of roof trim or edging that runs horizontally and sits under a roof edge. It has an aesthetic function and protects the roof and the interior of the house from weather damage. Most often the gutter systems are attached to the fascia.
Raccoon peeking its head out between fascia and decking
Raccoon peeking its head out between fascia and decking

Let's Talk Warranties

A warranty is a written guarantee issued to the purchaser of a roof by its installer and/or manufacturer, promising to repair or replace the roof if necessary within a specified period of time. The warranty MUST be in writing, and it is best to remember that it is a contract, and that its terms will vary from contract to contract. The common issues of the warranty are generally as follows:

Requirements to enforce

Roof ShinglesA homeowner should always notify the roofing company of a claim. It is important to highlight that the typical roof "warranty" is usually two warranties. There is the warranty from the manufacturer of the shingles, and then the warranty from the roofing company that installed the roof. The homeowner, therefore, in the exercise of caution, would be prudent to notify both entities after discovering a problem with the roof. This "two company" situation will have to be taken into account as we discuss other warranty issues such as transferability and waiver.


For the homeowner who has purchased the long-term warranty, being able to transfer its benefit is a marketing advantage should the house be up for sale. A good warranty will be transferable, but the owner should strictly adhere to the requirements for transferring the warranty.


Generally the waiver situation occurs when a homeowner undertakes to make repairs on his own. Unless it is an emergency, the homeowner should not engage another roofing company to do any work without first notifying the installation company and providing them the opportunity to do the work. Remember, notices must be in writing. If notifying by phone call, follow up with a written message.


The typical warranty of a roofing installer will exclude certain elements of the roofing system. It may well be that the warranty will not cover, for example, roof decking or elements inside the decking, and consequential damages which could include damage to your TV from a leak. A roof warranty will not cover unusual events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, and windstorms. A warranty will also not cover leaks caused by settlement or movement of the home's foundation.

Your Roofing Knowledge

Being familiar with some roofing basics will give you an advantage when communicating with contractors. You can feel confident in knowing what a roofing system is, as well as having the knowledge of what a warranty entails. The next time you are confronted with a roof repair or inspection, you will be able to "talk the talk!"

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Leigh Young

Leigh Young

Realtor - Veteran Specialist
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