The Ultimate Guide to Roof Construction Terms: Master the Vocabulary of your Roof!

Kind Reader, if you’re planning on building a house or renovating an existing one, you’ll come across many different roof construction terms. From rafters and ridge boards to decking and underlayment, understanding these terms is crucial for a successful roofing project. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common roof construction terms and their meanings in relaxed English language.

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Roof Structure Terms

roof-construction-terms,Roof Structure Terms,

When discussing roof construction, it’s important to understand the different terms associated with the roof’s structure. Knowing the correct terminology can help you better communicate with your contractor and ensure that you get the roofing system you desire. Here are some of the most common terms used:


Rafters are the sloping beams that support the roof’s structure. They run from the ridge or peak of the roof down to the eaves and help to distribute the load of the roof. Rafters are typically spaced 16 to 24 inches apart and are crucial to a roof’s stability.


Trusses are pre-fabricated, triangular structures that provide additional support to the roof. They are made up of a series of smaller triangles and can span up to 60 feet without needing any interior supports. Trusses are often used in larger homes and commercial properties, and they can save installation time and money compared to traditional rafters.

Ridge Board

The ridge board is a horizontal beam that runs along the roof’s peak. It provides support to the upper ends of the rafters and helps keep the roof stable. Ridge boards are typically made of wood, steel, or engineered materials.

Collar Ties

Collar ties, also called collar beams, are horizontal beams that run parallel to the ridge board. They help to keep the roof’s rafters from spreading apart and provide additional support to the structure. Collar ties are typically found in homes with steep-pitched roofs, where there is a risk of the roof’s structure spreading apart under heavy snow loads or high winds.

Truss Bracing

Truss bracing is a system of metal or wooden supports that help distribute weight and prevent the roof from collapsing under heavy loads. Bracing is used to prevent the roof from swaying or bending and is essential for homes in areas with high winds or heavy snowfall.


Purlins are horizontal beams that run perpendicular to the rafters. They help to support the roof’s structure and prevent sagging. Purlins are often used in commercial and industrial buildings, but can also be used in residential homes with large roof spans.

Fascia Boards

The fascia board is a long, straight board that runs along the lower edge of the roof. It supports the guttering and provides a finished look to the roof. Fascia boards are typically made of wood, but can also be made of UPVC or aluminum.


The soffit is the underside of the roof’s overhang. It provides ventilation to the attic space and helps to regulate the temperature and moisture levels in the roof space. Soffits are typically made of wood or UPVC, and can be vented or unvented.

Roof Pitch and Slope

roof-construction-terms,Roof Pitch and Slope,

In roofing construction, roof pitch and slope are two commonly used terms that can be easily confused. Both of these terms are used to describe the inclination or angle at which a roof is constructed, but they have different meanings.

Roof Pitch

Roof pitch is the measure of the angle of a roof’s slope, typically expressed as a ratio of the rise to the run. A roof with a pitch of 6:12, for example, rises 6 inches for every 12 inches of horizontal distance (run). Roof pitch is an important factor in determining the type of roofing material that is best suited for a particular project.

Roof Slope

Roof slope, on the other hand, refers to the steepness of a roof’s pitch and is typically measured in degrees. The slope of a roof is important for drainage and can determine the type of roofing material that should be used, as some materials are better suited for steeper slopes than others.

It’s important to understand the difference between these two terms to ensure that the proper materials and construction techniques are used for your roof.

No Term Definition
1 Pitch The angle at which a roof rises
2 Gable The triangular portion of a wall that is enclosed between the sloping portions of a roof
3 Hip Roof where all sides slope down to the walls
4 Valley Internal angle formed where two sloping roof surfaces meet
5 Ridge The highest point of a roof where two roof planes come together
6 Eaves Lower edge of a roof overhanging a wall
7 Fascia Trim board used to cover the ends of rafters or roof trusses
8 Soffit Underside of eaves that overhangs a wall
9 Roof deck The structural substrate of a roof to which the roofing system is applied
10 Roof vents Ventilation devices installed in the roof that allows air to circulate through the attic

Roof Pitch and Slope

roof-construction-terms,Roof Pitch and Slope,

Roof pitch and slope are two significant measurements that determine the overall shape of the roof. The pitch of a roof is defined as the angle of the roof’s surface relative to its horizontal base measured in degrees. This angle determines how fast the water flows off the roof and into the gutters. Roof pitch often referred to as the roof slope, shares a close relationship with the roof’s style and design.

Roof Pitch

A roof pitch represents the inclination of a roof, which is typically expressed as a ratio between its vertical rise and its horizontal span. Steep-sloped roofs, at around 9:12 or higher, imply that they have a high pitch, while low-sloped roofs, at around 2:12 or lower, indicate a low pitch. While designing a house or replacing a roof, the roof pitch is taken into consideration. It affects the roof’s stability, style, water handling system, and overall appearance.

Roof Slope

Roof slope is calculated as a ratio of the total rise to the total span, expressed as a percentage. It refers to how much a roof is tilted or sloped. A slope of fewer than 2:12 is considered a flat roof, between 2:12 and 4:12 is a low slope, between 4:12 and 9:12 is a medium slope, and anything above 9:12 is a high slope roof. The slope determines the type of roofing material used, the weight it can handle, and the installation method.

Roof Truss System

roof-construction-terms,Roof Truss System,

The roof truss system is a significant component of the roof that supports the load of the roof and transmits it to the supporting structure, such as load-bearing walls or pillars. A truss is a structural framework of timbers or steel bars, commonly in the shape of triangles, that creates a stable and strong roof structure. The system is designed to provide maximum support and balance the load of the roof evenly.

Types of Roof Truss Systems

There are different types of roof truss systems, each with unique designs and functions. Each design is well suited to handle various roofing projects and needs. The following are some basic roof truss types:

No Roof Truss Type Description
1 King Post Truss A single central vertical post, two angled rafters, a tie beam, and struts that use a “W” shape
2 Queen Post Truss Two vertical posts that span the length of the roof, one central horizontal tie beam, two angled rafters, and struts
3 Scissor Truss Two sloping sides, usually of equal length, with side supports, a tie-beam, and central braces creating the shape of a scissor
4 Parallel Chord Truss Two horizontal beams, one at the top and bottom of the truss, joined by angled rafters

Advantages of Roof Truss System

The roof truss system has several advantages over traditional angled rafter roofing systems. The following are some of its benefits:

  • Cost-effective as they are pre-fabricated
  • Easy and faster installation than traditional methods
  • Flexible designs and will fit any type of roof
  • Durable and long-lasting even when exposed to harsh weather conditions

Roof Pitch and Slope

roof-construction-terms,Roof Pitch and Slope,

Roof pitch and slope are two important roofing terms. They are used to describe the steepness or angle of a roof. Pitch refers to the slope or incline of a roof while slope refers to the angle or steepness of a roof. It is essential to understand these terms as they impact the design, cost, and durability of roofing installations.

Roof Pitch

Rooftop pitch or slope refers to the steepness level of the roof. To decide the pitch of a roof, the roof is measured from its highest point to the lowest point. The ratio of the vertical rise to the horizontal distance, also known as the pitch, is expressed in inches. A flat rooftop has a pitch of 0/12, while a high pitch roof has a pitch of 8/12 or more. Pitch is crucial because it influences the amount of water that may be drained from the rooftop and directly affects the durability of the rooftop material utilized in the design.

Roof Slope

Roof slope is calculated as a ratio of the amount of vertical rise (height) per foot of travel horizontally, whereas roof pitch refers to the steepness of a roof in terms of a scaled representation. Because of this, we sometimes refer to the terms interchangeably. A steep slope roof has a better drainage capability than a flat roof and thus is less exposed to water deposition that could lead to leaks.

Understanding and choosing the right pitch or slope for your roof can help you save money and get the best out of your roofing installation.

Roof Ventilation Systems

roof-construction-terms,Roof Ventilation Systems,

The proper ventilation system in a rooftop ensures satisfactory airflow and efficient temperature control. It’s critical to understand the ventilation methods available and the advantages they give in different climates and structures.

Different Ventilation Techniques

Various types of ventilation systems are available, including ridge, gable, dormer, turbine, and soffit vents. Soffit or overhang vents and ridge vents are common ventilation methods in most modern buildings. Soffit vents bring cold air into the attic through the eaves of the roof. The air outside is funneled up the roof through the ridge vent, resulting in a continuous circulation that keeps your attic dry and your roof durable.

Benefits Of Roof Ventilation Systems

The two most significant benefits of ventilation systems in a rooftop are the effect on energy bills and roof longevity. A properly installed ventilation system can lower heating and cooling bills, improve roof lifespan, and lower mold growth and humidity. Heat buildup inside the attic can damage insulation, framing, and shingles, while extreme cold temperatures can cause condensation problems and ice dams.

No Ventilation Technique Advantages
1 Ridge Vents Continuous ventilation; Energy efficiency; Aesthetically pleasing; Easy installation;
2 Soffit Vents Inexpensive; Provides proper ventilation; Good air flow; Easy installation.
3 Turbine Vents Force air through attic; Enhance cooling effect; Improve air quality;

Roof Shapes

roof-construction-terms,Roof Shapes,

A roof’s design is determined by its purpose, available materials, and local architectural traditions. A roof shapes a building’s appearance and has a big impact on its energy efficiency. There are many different roof shapes to choose from. These roof shape may help project a sense of style and curb appeal for distinct architectural styles, whether it’s a contemporary or traditional. Roof shapes are distinguished by their elevation profile and how the planes intersect to make roof forms. Additionally, the roof’s shape affects the type and quantity of materials required to build a roof, as well as the pricing. A couple of the most popular roof shapes are:

Gable Roof

The gable roof is a simple, popular design that’s commonly seen in American suburbs. The gable roof slopes down from two sides and meets in the center of the roof in a ridge. A gable roof may have a low or steep pitch, with a range of pitches. The gable roof is relatively simple to construct and adaptable, making it a classic design for many house styles. One major advantage of the gable roof is that it provides excellent ventilation, which is important in hot regions. Additionally, the gable roof allows rain, snow, and debris to roll off, preventing them from accumulating on a flat surface and causing damage.

Hip Roof

The hip roof is a type of roof where each side slopes slightly and meets at flat edges or hips. A hip roof might have all four sides sloping down, or it might have two with the other two being gables. A hip roof provides superior stability and can endure strong winds better than other roof shapes. Furthermore, the slope and structure of hip roofs allow for better water drainage, reducing the likelihood of water leaks or damages. In general, hip roofs are more expensive to construct than gable roofs, but the difference in cost is usually modest when compared to the increased advantages.

Types of Roof Trusses

roof-construction-terms,Types of Roof Trusses,

Roof trusses are typically used to support the roof structure. Here are some of the most common types of roof trusses:

1. King Post Truss

The king post truss is a type of truss that has a central vertical post running through its center. It is used to support the weight of the roof and to provide stability to the structure. This type of truss is commonly used in simple roof designs.

2. Queen Post Truss

The queen post truss is similar to the king post truss but has two vertical posts instead of one. This type of truss is commonly used in larger and more complex roof designs.

3. Fink Truss

The fink truss is a type of truss that has an M-shape. It is commonly used in residential and commercial building projects because of its simplicity and affordability.

4. Howe Truss

The howe truss is a type of truss that has an X-shape. It is commonly used in longer spans because of its ability to handle greater loads.

5. Scissor Truss

The scissor truss is a type of truss that has a sloping, triangular shape. It is commonly used in cathedral ceilings and other areas where a vaulted ceiling is desired.

Roof Flashing Terms

roof-construction-terms,Roof Flashing Terms,

Roof flashing is a material used to waterproof the joints or seams of a roof. Here are some roof flashing terms you should know:

1. Eave Flashing

Eave flashing is a roof flashing that is installed along the eave of a roof. Its purpose is to prevent water from seeping in under the shingles and causing damage to the roof deck.

2. Drip Edge

Drip edge is a type of eave flashing that is installed at the edge of the roof. Its purpose is to direct water away from the fascia and into the gutter system.

3. Step Flashing

Step flashing is a roof flashing that is used to protect the intersecting joints between the roof and the wall. It is typically installed in a step-like pattern and is secured to both the roof and the wall.

4. Counter Flashing

Counter flashing is a roof flashing that is installed over the step flashing to create a weather-resistant barrier. It is typically made out of the same material as the roof and is designed to blend in with the rest of the roofing system.

Roof Pitch and Slope

roof-construction-terms,Roof Pitch and Slope,

One of the essential measurements in roof construction is pitch and slope. Roof pitch is the incline of the roof, and it can range from flat to very steep. Roof slope is the ratio of the roof’s vertical rise to its horizontal span. Roof pitch calculation depends on many factors, such as the roof design, climate, and building codes. A steeper roof pitch will shed rainwater faster, which reduces the possibility of water leaks and increases durability.

Roof Pitch Calculation

To calculate the roof pitch, you need to measure the rise and the run. The rise is the vertical distance between the top of the wall and the ridge or peak of the roof. The run is the horizontal distance from the edge of the roof to the centerline of the ridge. Roof pitch is expressed as a ratio of rise to run, with the run always being 12 inches. For example, a roof pitch of 6:12 means that the roof rises 6 inches in a horizontal distance of 12 inches.

Roof Slope Degrees and Angles

Roof slope can also be expressed in degrees or angles. The roof slope degree is the angle between the roofline and the horizontal plane. The most common method for roof slope measurement is to use a roofing square or speed square, which has tables and formulas for calculating the roof pitch, slope, and rafter length. The roof slope angle is measured in degrees, and a slope of 4/12 means the roof rises 18.43 degrees above the horizontal plane.

No Roof Pitch Roof Slope Degree Angle
1 1:12 4.76° 2.14%
2 2:12 9.46° 4.28%
3 3:12 14.04° 6.41%
4 4:12 18.43° 8.33%
5 5:12 22.62° 10.32%
6 6:12 26.57° 12.19%
7 7:12 30.26° 14.04%
8 8:12 33.69° 15.87%
9 9:12 36.87° 17.69%
10 10:12 39.81° 19.47%

Roof Truss Types

roof-construction-terms,Roof Truss Types,

Roof trusses are pre-fabricated structural components used in roof construction to support the roof’s weight and transfer the load to the walls or columns. Roof trusses have many advantages over traditional rafters, including cost savings, design flexibility, and easy installation. There are several types of roof trusses available, each with its specific design and application.

Common Truss

The most common type of roof truss is the triangular-shaped truss. It is also known as a King Post or Howe truss, and it is the simplest to construct and most cost-effective. This type of truss is often used in residential and commercial construction for roofs with spans up to 24 meters.

Fink Truss

Fink truss is another common truss type used in residential and commercial construction. It is a light, economical, and versatile truss that consists of parallel top and bottom chords connected by a web of angled braces. This truss type is suitable for roofs with a span of up to 12 meters and has a pitch of 30 degrees.

Scissor Truss

Scissor truss is an aesthetically pleasing truss design that creates a vaulted or cathedral ceiling effect. This type of truss has two sloping sides that meet at the center high point, where they form a peak or ridge. Scissor trusses are used in residential and commercial construction where open roof spaces and high ceilings are desired.

Roof Construction Terminology FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions about roof construction terms in relaxed English language.

1. What are some common roof construction terms that I should know?

Some common roof construction terms include roof pitch, flashing, shingles, underlayment, ridge vent, and eaves.

2. What is roof pitch?

Roof pitch refers to the angle or slope of the roof. It is usually expressed as a ratio of the vertical rise to the horizontal run, such as 4/12 or 6/12.

3. What is flashing?

Flashing is a thin sheet of metal or other material that is installed around roof penetrations, such as chimneys, vent pipes, and skylights, to prevent water from seeping in.

4. What are shingles?

Shingles are overlapping roof coverings made from a variety of materials, including asphalt, wood, metal, and slate. They are designed to shed water and protect the roof from the elements.

5. What is underlayment?

Underlayment is a layer of material that is installed on the roof deck before the roofing material is installed. It provides an extra layer of protection against moisture and helps to keep the roof deck dry.

6. What is a ridge vent?

A ridge vent is a type of ventilation opening that is installed at the ridge of the roof. It allows hot air to escape from the attic and helps to prevent moisture buildup.

7. What are eaves?

Eaves are the edges of the roof that overhang the walls. They can provide additional protection against rain and snow runoff.

8. What is a gable?

A gable is the triangular portion of a wall that is formed by the intersection of two roof pitches.

9. What is a valley?

A valley is the lower portion of the roof where two sloping roof surfaces come together. It is often prone to leaks and requires special attention during construction.

10. What is a soffit?

A soffit is the underside of the eave, or the area between the wall of the house and the overhanging edge of the roof.

11. What is decking?

Decking is the layer of material that is installed over the structural supports of the roof to provide a flat surface for the underlayment and roofing material to be installed on.

12. What is a drip edge?

A drip edge is a small piece of metal flashing that is installed along the edge of the roof to prevent water from seeping under the roofing material.

13. What is a hip?

A hip is a sloping ridge that connects two sloping roof surfaces. It is often found in roofs with four or more sides.

14. What is a dormer?

A dormer is a small roofed structure that projects out from a sloping roof and contains a window or other opening.

15. What is sheathing?

Sheathing is a layer of plywood or other material that is installed over the decking to provide additional support for the roofing material.

16. What is a cricket?

A cricket, also known as a saddle, is a small peaked roof structure that is built at the high side of chimneys and other roof penetrations to divert water around them.

17. What is a valley flashing?

A valley flashing is a piece of metal flashing that is installed in a valley to prevent water from seeping under the roofing material.

18. What is a rake?

A rake is the sloping edge of the roof that runs along the gable end of the house.

19. What is ventilation?

Ventilation is the process of allowing air to flow into and out of the attic space to prevent moisture buildup and maintain a comfortable temperature.

20. What are ice dams?

Ice dams are ridges of ice that form along the eaves of the roof. They can cause water to back up under the roofing material and lead to leaks.

21. What is a pitch pocket?

A pitch pocket is a small opening or hole in the roofing material that is used to allow for the passage of a mechanical device, such as a pipe or wire.

22. What is a roofing contractor?

A roofing contractor is a professional who specializes in the installation, repair, and maintenance of roofs.

23. What is a warranty?

A warranty is a guarantee that the roofing material and installation will be free from defects and will provide a certain level of performance for a specified period of time.

24. What is the cost of a new roof?

The cost of a new roof can vary depending on a number of factors, including the size and complexity of the roof, the type of roofing material used, and the cost of labor in your area.

25. How long does a roof typically last?

The life expectancy of a roof can vary depending on a number of factors, including the type of roofing material used, the quality of the installation, and the climate in your area. On average, most roofs last between 15 and 25 years.

Learn about the various roof construction terms you need to know when designing or repairing a roof.

Happy Roofing!

Kind Reader, we hope you’ve enjoyed learning about these roof construction terms. Remember to always consult with a professional roofer if you have any questions or concerns about your own roof. Thanks for stopping by and we hope to see you again soon for more home improvement tips and tricks!

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