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The Roof System Explained: A Guide for Homeowners

By Kravelv @kravelv

For most people, their homes could be one of their biggest and most important investments. Naturally, they want to protect and take care of it as much as possible. If you are among those people, the first step that you should take towards doing so is to get yourself educated about what makes up your home–its components and how each of them works and what roles they play. In this post, I will walk you through everything that you need to learn about the roof system.

What Composes a Roof?  

The Roof System Explained: A Guide for Homeowners

THE BASIC PARTS OF A ROOF. The roof is an entire system on its own, and it has parts or components that each play an important role.

 The roof is an entire system on its own. And for a system to work, each part or component must fulfill its role. Here are the parts of a typical, sloped roof:

  1. Roof shingle, tile, or panel layer. The top layer of a sloped roof is composed of roofing shingles, tiles, or panels. Basically, this is the part we see from the outside. They give the roof and home character while providing the first layer of protection against weather and other elements.
  2. Battens. These provide roof tiles with attachment points. Battens should be evenly spaced so that the tiles will have correct and uniform overlap distances. The spacing will depend on the roof’s pitch, the tile’s type, the fastening method to be used, and the climate in the area. Take note that shingle roofs do not need battens.
  3. Roofing underlayment. If tile roofs have battens, shingle roofs have underlayment. This is the felt (or another) material laid on the roof structure before the shingles are installed. The underlayment provides a waterproof barrier. It is laid in an overlapping, horizontal manner over the sheathing.
  4. Sheathing. Sheathing is the boarding installed over the rafters. It gives the roof frame additional support and rigidity, and a nailing surface for the roof fasteners. It is typically made of plywood, particleboard, or other similar material.
  5. Rafters. These basically lift the roof structure. They work to resist the downward force of gravity. They also give the roof its shape and slope, as well as its ability to shed water, letting it dry faster and prevent water pooling.

The Roof Pitch or Slope

The Roof System Explained: A Guide for Homeowners

LOW TO STEEP. The roof’s slope determines what type of material can be used for roofing. It also factors in how effectively the roof can shed water.

The roof’s pitch or slope is a critical aspect and major deciding factor, especially when building a new home. For one, the desired roof slope must first be determined before a roofing material can be chosen. This is because not all roof materials are applicable for all roof pitches. Aside from this, the roof slope also factors in the planning and building of attic space and drainage system. It also directly affects the roof’s durability and resistance to weather, as well as the complexity of construction and maintenance requirements.

A roof may have any of these three slope categories:

  1. Flat. Anything below a 2/12 pitch.
  2. Low. Anything between 4/12 and 2/12.
  3. Steep. Anything higher than a 4/12 pitch.

The Roof System Explained: A Guide for Homeowners

Most Common Types of Roofing Materials

Once the roof slope has been decided upon, you can now choose the roof material. Note that some materials are more often recommended for use in certain areas than others and that there are materials that are ideal for certain roof slopes that won’t necessarily work as well with others. Below are the most common roofing materials available on the market.  

The Roof System Explained: A Guide for Homeowners

THE RIGHT MATERIAL. Some materials are better for certain areas than others, while some materials are ideal for certain roof slopes and will not work with others — so choose carefully!

  1. Asphalt. Currently the most commonly used material for steep-sloped residential roofing, asphalt shingles come in two basic types: three-tab and architectural. They are cost-effective, being affordable to purchase and install, and providing adequate protection against common wear and tear. They can last up to 25 years if maintained well. They are used for steep-sloped roofs.
  2. Metal. Gone are the days when metal roofs were only used for barns and industrial buildings. Metal roofs are now also very common among residential constructions. A metal roof may be made of steel, copper, aluminum, zinc, or tin. They are also generally affordable, easy to maintain, and are considered energy-efficient. Metal roofs can last up to 40 years or more, as long as not installed on homes in coastal areas. They can be used on both steep- and low-sloped roofs.
  3. Slate. Typically available in the form of shingles, slate is a naturally occurring material. Slate shingles are created out of quarried sedimentary rocks. This makes them one of the most durable roofing materials to ever be developed. They are impervious to anything: whether it is wind, fire, heat, cold, snow, or rain. They can last not only for decades but for centuries. They are used for steep-sloped roofs.
  4. Tile. Offering a look like no other, roof tiles are commonly made from clay, but may also come in metal, concrete, or other synthetic material. The tiles themselves are very durable and can resist common damage factors. A tile roof can last up to 40 years, given that the battens may need to be replaced after such time. They are used for steep-sloped roofs.
  5. Membrane roofing. Generally used for low-pitched and flat roofs, membrane roof materials come in a number of types. Some of the options available today are thermoplastic membrane, modified bitumen, EPDM, and PVC, among several others. They have an average lifespan of at least 30 years.

True enough, there’s a lot to cover when it comes to learning about what goes into roofing a house, from the roof’s parts to the pitch and materials to use. Even though it involves some pretty tricky terminologies, which can be a bit overwhelming, it is still very important for a homeowner like you to learn about them as doing so will help you make better decisions and choices for your home. I hope that through this post, you are now more informed than you were before you read this. If you want to learn more about the basics of roofing or if you have a related concern such as a leak or an old roof that needs replacing, don’t hesitate to consult a trusted roofer in your area.

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Author Bio:

Colin Clark is the principal owner and president of Dynamic Roofing Concepts Inc., a company that offers affordable and high-quality roofing services in Brandon, Tampa and nearby Florida cities. Family owned and operated, the company was built on a foundation of honesty, integrity, professionalism, and dedication. Over the last 40 plus years, they have always made sure that every job they do is focused on that mission statement.

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