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A Homeowner's Guide To Their Roof's Anatomy

Your roof consists of several components, each a vital part of a well-functioning roof. By understanding these components, you can be better equipped to inspect and maintain your roof for the long term.

Roof Deck

The roof deck is the main base for your entire roof. It consists of plywood boards that are attached to the roof trusses and rafters. As your roof's foundation, the deck must be in good condition so it can support the shingles and other roofing components. Unlike other parts of the roof that do require periodic replacement, the deck can be used for many years if it doesn't become damaged.

Common Issues

Water damage is really the only issue to worry about with your roof deck. If the rest of the roof begins to fail, water will seep into the deck. If repairs aren't made quickly, that water will eventually cause the plywood decking to rot and give out. At this point, the deck will need to be replaced. Stay on top of roof maintenance, and your deck may never need to be replaced.


The underlayment may actually consist of two parts: the main underlayment as well as an ice and water barrier. The ice and water barrier is applied first. It has the job of preventing leaks in the event of an ice dam. Some products act as both ice barrier and underlayment, while in other cases you may have a separate underlayment installed to further keep out moisture.

Common Issues

Damage can sometimes occur to the underlayment. This most commonly happens when something punctures the roof, such as a falling tree branch. It may also occur if shingles are torn from the roof, which can cause holes where the nails are ripped out. Repair roof damages quickly to prevent underlayment damage, and have underlayment replaced if it becomes damaged.


Shingles can be made from many materials. Asphalt shingles may be the most common, but there are also slate and clay tile varieties, wood shakes, metal shingles, and even rubber shingles. You can also find specialty shingles, such as those that have integrated solar panels built into them.

Common Issues

Most roof problems affect the shingles, and replacement becomes necessary as the shingles reach the end of their life. Asphalt shingles, for example, can last 20-30 years, whereas metal can last 40-80 years. Damages from wind, moss growth, tree branches, and storms can also result in necessary repairs. Shorter-lived materials, like asphalt, are often more likely to suffer these sorts of damages.

Flashing and Vents

Flashing is typically made from aluminum and it is applied around rooftop protuberances, like vents and chimneys, to create a watertight seal between the roof and protuberance. The vents connect the attic to the exterior so that hot air doesn't become trapped in your attic where it can cause roof problems.

Common Issues

Flashing is often shorter lived than shingles, so it may need to be replaced if it becomes warped or damaged in a storm. Vents should last at least as long as your roof, unless they suffer storm damage. Occasionally they may get obstructed, such as by bird nests or other debris, which will require that the vents are cleaned out.

The vents in the eaves are screened to keep out pests, but you should inspect them occasionally to make sure the screens are damaged.

Gutter System

Gutters route water away from the roof and from your home's foundation so the runoff is deposited at a safe distance from your house. Not all homes have gutters, but those that do must have them properly functioning to avoid problems.

Common Issues

Clogged gutters are your most common issue. Clean them out a couple of times a year so water doesn't collect on your roof and cause ice dams or moisture damage. You should also inspect gutters for leaks at least once annually.

Contact HF General Contractor Inc. for more help with your roof issues.

19 Years of hands-on experience in the roofing business.    " THE FIRST COST, THE LAST EXPENSE "