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Roofing Components Basics [The Quick and Essential Guide]

Posted by Northface Construction  - Owner & Founder

There are many different components of roofing that can seem confusing to the everyday homeowner. Northface Construction is here to break it down for you. Whether you’re working on some roof repairs by yourself, or you’re hiring a roofing company and you want to understand just what the heck they’re saying, here’s your guide to the roof structure and framing basics.

Getting to Know Your Roof

Your roof’s main function is to protect the home from the elements like wind, rain, hail, snow, and ice, which is why you need a highly functional roof that keeps you safe from adverse weather. The way in which your roof is installed will ultimately determine how well water and other damaging elements are kept at bay. Now that you understand the essential function of a roof, let’s talk about the different components that make it up.

Basic Roof Components

Here are some of the basic components of your roof:

Underlayment

The underlayment of your roof is composed of a black paper-like material that’s placed over the plywood sheeting. This component seals the roof, protecting it from damaging elements like water or snow. A waterproof membrane, a sweat sheet or vapor barrier is required, with the underlayment paper serving these three functions.

Flashing

The purpose of roof flashing is to divert water from places where it might collect, such as hips and valleys, and is made up of small metal pieces. Flashing comes in a large number of different materials, such as galvanized flashing, alloy, regular and lead coated copper, and stainless steel. Any of these are good options to protect your home from water damage.

Shingles and Tile

Comprising the outermost part of the roof, the shingles or tiles are what sits on top of the underlayment and form a barrier against harmful elements. When it comes to residential roofing, the same types of shingles and tiles have been in use for hundreds of years. In fact, you can find intact tiles from civilizations thousands of years old. Despite their long history in protecting homes, however, shingles and tiles are only two types of material among many that you can use to cover the roof. Others include concrete, ceramic, wood, and metal.

Trim

While often overlooked, the trim actually provides a few crucial benefits. First of all, trim protects your roof’s seams, such as near a hip or a ridge, sealing joints where a transition is made in the slope and direction of your roof.  Secondly, it provides aesthetic quality that gives your home a finished look, helping boost your curb appeal.

The Seven Primary Design Aspects of Your Roof

  1. Ridge — The ridge is the highest point or peak of your roof
  2. Hip — The hip is the high point of your roof where two adjoining sections meet
  3. Dormer — Dormers are sections of the home that extrude from the roof. In general, they are added to bring light into an attic or the upper level of your home
  4. Gables — Gables are triangular portions of the ends of the home, which extend from the eaves to the peak of the roof
  5. Pitch — The pitch of your roof refers to the slope of the roof
  6. Eaves — Eaves are the component of the roof that extends past the rest of the home
  7. Valley — The valley is the point where two sections of the roof slope downward and join together

You Now Know the Basics of Roof Structure and Framing

Now that you have this guide to the basics of roof structure and framing, you’re in a good position to tackle basic problems yourself, or consult with a professional roofer and have a meaningful conversation about your project.

roofing basics

Roofing Basics for Contractors

When it comes to the basics for roofing contractors, everyone might do everything a little differently, but we like to share how we do things at Northface Construction. Everything from setting up to our final clean-up requires some steadfast work and just the right technique to get it done right.

How to Open a Bundle of Shingles

Before we start the job, we obviously need to set up our materials, tools, ladders, and safety equipment. With fast turnaround times every second counts, so we try to do everything, even the smallest tasks, in the most efficient way possible. That starts with opening up the bundles of shingles. When you’re up on the roof you don’t want to be fumbling around with plastic and packaging of the shingles. You want to get it open quickly, without damaging the shingles.

The Right and Wrong Way to Nail a Shingle

When you get a new roof installed, your main concerns are that it’s done right the first time, and it is built to last. Believe it or not, there is definitely a right way and a wrong to nail a shingle. Nailing shingles the wrong way can void warranties, cause early repairs, and limit the integrity of your shingles.

Nailing shingles the right way requires patience and accuracy. Lay the nail gun flat against the shingle nail strip and using normal pressure, insert the nail so it lays flat, and goes through both nail strips (in the case of GAF shingles in our video). Using too light of pressure or too hard, or moving too quickly, can overdrive or underdrive nails. Impatient use of the nail gun to “save time” can actually cause nails to go in crooked, too tight, or even miss the nail strip altogether. Nailing shingles the right way can save time and money in the long run because it was done right the first time and you won’t be back to fix your mistakes.

De-Nailing the Lawn

Proper clean up is a very important part of the entire roofing process. The last thing we ever want is to leave behind a mess, and especially nails or other materials behind in your yard. We use a special rolling magnet that looks like an old-school lawnmower, but it is incredibly strong and can pick up any nails hiding in your grass. When we have time we really try to use the rolling magnet while we are doing the job, just get the majority of nails picked up as we go.

We will of course do a final check at the end of our project, both on the roof and around the edges of your home and lawn to pick up any and all nails that may have fallen. One way homeowners can help us out is by mowing their grass and bagging it before we begin. The shorter the grass the more nails are visible and easily picked up with the magnet.


If you’re in the market for a new roof, remember that Northface Construction is the premier contractor in Minnesota, offering full-service roof repair, replacement, and installation. We’re committed to providing each and every one of our clients with exceptional roof services that add function and beauty to your home. If you’re ready to get started improving your home, call us today to speak with one of our dedicated construction specialists – they’re standing by ready to answer your questions.

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