The Roofing 101: Understanding the Anatomy of Your Roof


While most people reading this blog are probably not roofing professionals, it is still beneficial to understand the fundamental parts of your roof. Just like you know your basic human anatomy is able to pinpoint pain or damage in your body, the same is true for your roof. Having a basic understanding can help you pinpoint damage and know when it is time to have a professional take a look at your home.

The Framework: The Skeleton

There are two different types of framing that contractors use.
  1. A truss frame is a premade frame that is raised to the top of the building by a crane or even a helicopter, depending on the size. Following their placement, they are then secured. These are typically the most popular.
  2. The second type of frame is a stick frame. These consist of individually assembled rafters and ceiling joists. The frame is constructed by measuring, cutting, and connecting each piece of lumber. One of the benefits of a stick frame roof is that it allows the roofline to be customized. However, building the frame piece by piece increases the labor cost of a roof and is unnecessary for the average residential property.

 The Decking: The Fascia (a thin layer of the casing of connective tissue that surrounds everything)

Decking, also known as sheathing, is installed over the framing elements to provide a foundation for the rest of the roof. Typically, decking is made of wood or plywood. These boards are made to withstand heavy loads.

Underlayment: The Muscle

Roofing underlayment is a layer of material, usually synthetic or felt, that adds extra protection on top of the roof deck and under the shingles. There are different underlayments that work with different materials and climates. Most underlayments are not waterproof, but they do offer a water-resistant barrier against moisture. They also provide protection for the roofing materials from any resin released by the decking.

Top Layer: The Skin

The top roofing layer is what you see on your home. These are your shingles. They act as a barrier between your home and the outside elements. There are many different types of shingles, but the most common include asphalt shingles, concrete and clay tiles, and metal. Each has its own benefits, depending on your budget and preferences.

Extra Layers: Hair, Nails, Teeth, etc.

Homes typically have other elements that add to the protection of your home. These include, but are not limited to, flashing, drip edges, and gutters and downspouts. Flashing is a thin material that helps to prevent moisture and pests from entering the home around chimneys, vents, and other surfaces that cut into the plane of the roof. Drip edges protect the overhanging edge of the roof from moisture by directing the water toward the gutters. Gutters are essential to any home. They collect run-off water and direct it away from the home.


You do not need to be a roofing professional to understand the basic structure of your roof. Just like understanding your basic anatomy helps you know when you are sick or hurt, familiarizing yourself with the basic anatomy of your roof will help you know when you have a leak or potential damage.

If you start to notice any damage or leaks, please call your roofing specialists at Sterling Construction right away, because this could lead to a larger issue.