Unfortunately, at this point in building construction history we have yet to develop a roofing system that will last forever. Therefore, it is very likely that each of us will have to deal with a roof replacement.

After all, the roof is the most important structural component of any building. Without a quality waterproof roof, all the other components of a building will be destroyed in no time. Paint, drywall, framing, and flooring materials simply aren’t designed to withstand Mother Nature. Indoor spaces and people need protection from their elements.

Below are some roofing terms that may be helpful during the decision-making process:

Square – A unit of measurement commonly used in roofing and siding that equals 10 feet by 10 feet or 100 square feet (1 square equals 100 square feet). Most roofing material is sold by the square, and roofers generally calculate costs and price based on the total number of squares.

Decking or Sheeting: The flat layer of material attached to the ceiling joists. Many old houses and buildings have wooden plank roofs. Most modern residential buildings have plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) decks that are manufactured in 4′ x 8′ sheets (sometimes called sheets). The most common roof deck thickness used today is 7/16″. The base and shingles are attached to the roof deck.

Asphalt Shingles – Organic based shingles that were discontinued in 2006 due to poor performance and many class action laws. The term asphalt shingle is often still used today as a misstatement. Many roofers refer to post-2006 shingles as asphalt shingles, where the correct technical term is actually composition shingle.

Composition Shingle – Modern shingles made from a mixture of asphalt and fiberglass. The asphalt/fiberglass body of the shingle is covered with a protective granular wear layer.

Granular Wear Layer – The ceramic topcoat of a composition shingle provides rigidity (hail, debris, and puncture protection), UV protection, and also provides color.

Architectural/Laminate/Dimensional Shingles – All terms refer to modern popular shingles made from multiple layers of asphalt/fiberglass material (laminated) that provide increased strength, longevity, and a shake-like appearance.

Underlayment – ​​The layer of material that is applied to the roof deck before shingles are installed. The most common underlayment is felt (tar) paper in 15 or 30 pound options. There are many new synthetic products available that are made with waterproof/breathable material (similar to house wrap). Synthetic underlayment has been proven to have longevity and performance advantages over traditional roofing felt.

Ice and Water Barrier or Weather Barrier: An adhesive-backed, one-sided subfloor used to protect the eaves and valleys of roofs from ice dams and water dams. Installing an ice and water barrier is an essential step to prevent water and/or ice from collecting in gutters and going under shingles and damaging the roof deck. Most municipal building codes require that a minimum of the first three feet of the roof eaves be covered by an ice and water barrier.

Roof Exhaust Vent: The exhaust space left open at the top of the roof to provide adequate ventilation and release of hot air. Roof vents can be of the old-style box type, power vents, or a modern ridge vent system. The structure and style of your roof will determine which style of vent will work best.

Roof Inlet Vent: The inlet space left open at the lowest part of the roof to provide adequate ventilation and the infusion of fresh outside air. Inlet vents can be gable vents or soffit vents. The structure and style of your roof will determine which style of vent will work best.

It is important to do your homework before discussing your project with a roofer or roofing company. There are a myriad of options for shingles, subfloors, vents, and decking, and a wide variation in cost for each type of material. Each component of a roof is critical, as each piece must work together as a system once properly installed. The failure of one component could result in the failure of the entire system.

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