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December 2023
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The Basics of Roofing

The primary function of your roof is to shield your home from snow, rain, and other weather elements. But it’s also an architectural element that can add a lot to the look of your house.

Before you hire 5R Roofing¬†for repairs or a full roof replacement, it’s important to understand the basics of roofing. Learn about rafters, sheathing, and more.

roofing

Rafters are the primary structure of a roof, providing a sturdy frame to support the attic and the roof deck and shingles above. They can be built on-site or prefabricated in a factory, depending on the type of roof and its specifications. Whether a homeowner is building a new house or working on a renovation project, it’s important to understand the basics of roofing to discuss plans with a professional contractor and get the best possible outcome.

Rafters can be built by hand on a site using stick framing or prefabricated and delivered to the construction site, where they’re craned into place. Typically, rafters are made from lumber, such as 2x10s. They’re fastened to a ridge board at the roof’s peak and ceiling joists and then connected to the exterior walls.

A ridge vent is often installed along the roof ridge to allow warm air to escape and prevent ice dams. Attic insulation also helps reduce heat transfer between rafters and the attic space. Finally, a drip edge protects the edges of the eaves from water damage.

The next layer of the roof is called the sheathing, which is usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB). It provides an even surface for placing the shingles and other materials on top. A protective membrane known as the black roofer’s felt or a synthetic underlayment is also sometimes attached to sheathing for additional protection.

The rafters and sheathing provide the basis of the roof, but it’s essential to add extra structures to ensure enough space for attic insulation and other items, such as baffles. These channels enable airflow from soffit vents to the attic, where it can escape and prevent condensation and mold. In addition, attic ventilation can help reduce the temperature in the attic and lower utility bills. In addition, it’s a good idea to install an insulated ceiling over the loft.

Roof sheathing is what creates the base for your roof system. It consists of large rectangular boards that lay across your home’s rafters and secure to them using nails or screws. It serves as the structure for your roof and helps ensure that the shingles you choose can support your home’s roof covering.

Plywood or oriented strand board (abbreviated OSB) is typically used as sheathing. These wood materials are strong and durable, with high dimensional stability and resistance to warping or splitting. However, they are more susceptible to moisture damage than other sheathing materials. That is why it’s important to prioritize proper installation techniques and use good construction practices when installing sheathing.

The sheathing helps distribute the weight of the shingles evenly across your roof. That helps prevent sagging or bowing of your roof’s trusses and rafters, which can lead to structural issues and damage to the rest of your house. The sheathing also helps ensure that your roof can support the asphalt shingles you’ll install.

In addition to providing structural support, sheathing can help insulate your home. It can help reduce heat transfer, which can lower your energy costs. There are several types of sheathing, including fiberglass, wood, and foam insulation. The kind you’ll use depends on the climate in your area and your budget.

While many people may overlook the role of sheathing, it plays a crucial role in the integrity and performance of your roof. When choosing the right sheathing material and prioritizing proper installation and maintenance, you can build a strong shelter that will protect your home for years. I have seen way too many homeowners dive into the roof replacement process without knowledge of roofing basics, leading to them being taken advantage of or making bad purchasing decisions based on bad advice. Don’t let that happen to you! Learn the nine main parts of your roof to understand and make informed decisions.

A shingle is a flat rectangular roofing material laid in a specific pattern. Its role is to provide protection from the elements and help to keep your home cool and dry. Shingles, made of asphalt, wood, clay, or slate, protect the roof deck from water, snow, and sun damage. The shingles themselves can also add a decorative element to the look of your home. Shingles are available in various colors, shapes, and sizes and are usually attached to the roof in overlapping courses.

The basic shingles used on most homes are 3-tab asphalt shingles. These shingles have cut-outs in them that create three individual tabs. That is the most common type of shingle and offers good water resistance. However, if you want your roof to have more of a decorative or architectural appearance, consider going with a premium/designer shingle. These offer a high-end aesthetic with additional performance characteristics like impact resistance.

Regardless of the kind of shingle you choose, the first course of shingles is called the starter course. These shingles are only half as wide as regular shingles and keep rain from running between the gaps where the rest are installed. A ridge cap, board, piece, or roll is then installed to cover the top of the roof, typically covered with a ridge vent.

Synthetic underlayment is applied to the roof deck to prevent water from seeping under the shingles and damaging the sheathing. This is often installed by nailing it into the rafters or sheathing with a special nail gun designed for use with synthetic underlayment.

Before a shingle is installed, it is typically treated with sealant to protect against moisture and to increase its longevity. This sealant may be a rubber-like substance such as mastic or an adhesive such as polyurethane or silicone. The treatment can also include a fire retardant, which is helpful in some areas where the roof may be exposed to wildfires.

The gutters on your roof are another important part of the roofing system. If they are full of debris or have clogged up, it can cause water to back up under the shingles and cause leaks and other problems. Regularly clean your gutters and remove branches or other items hanging over the roof edge.

The role of flashing is to prevent water from seeping into walls, roofs, and other structures. Generally, this is accomplished by creating a barrier that stops moisture from entering through joints and penetrations in the structure’s exterior. In roofing construction, flashing is used to waterproof areas around vents, chimneys, skylights, dormer windows, and roof valleys. It’s also used where the roof meets other surfaces, expansion joints, and corners.

Roof flashing is a strip of metal or lead (though other materials are used) bent into shape to fit over a joint or penetration in a roof. It’s installed under the shingles to create a tight seal. Without proper flashing, water would leak into these areas, causing structural damage and potential health issues in the home.

There are several different types of flashing, each designed for specific locations on the roof. For example, step flashing is used where a dormer projects from the top and meets a wall. Water could easily slip past the shingles and into the building without this flashing. With step flashing, however, the water is deflected away from the wall and into gutters.

Other types of flashing include pipe flashing, which is used where pipes enter the roof or wall. This one-piece collar fits around the pipe’s diameter and is sometimes made of rubber or silicone for easier expansion and contraction. Valley flashing is used where two roof slopes meet, which can be hidden under shingles or exposed, as shown here. Wall flashing is another flashing often used above doors and windows, and it’s a metal liner that runs along the edge of a wall to provide extra waterproofing.

Flashing is an important part of the roof and should be inspected regularly. If there is any corrosion or damage, it should be repaired immediately. Otherwise, it’s a great way to help keep your roof in good condition.