Roofing Materials Basics

Roofing Material Basics

Roofing your own home can be a challenging a rewarding way to save money on your home improvement project. But you have to know what everything is first if you want to learn how to roof a structure. Even if you’re planning on hiring a contractor, knowing these terms and words can help you understand exactly what is going on. Roofing material basics will help you get started in the right direction for any roofing project, large or small.


This is a term that is applied to materials that separates the plywood roof from the actual roofing product. Shingles, metal and other roofing materials all need an underlayment to rest on. An underlayment also serves as a water barrier by adding another layer of protection to the roofing puzzle. Examples of underlayment include felt paper, tar paper, Tyvek, flashing, roll roofing and ice-and-water barriers. The underlayment is the first roofing material to be put down.

Drip Edge

Trim or drip edge is the metal flashing that surrounds the outer edge of all sloped roofs. Typically made from aluminum, it covers the bottom edge of the sub-fascia and roof, allowing the fascia and soffit to overlap for water-proofing.


This roofing material is used to prevent water from entering vertical penetrations in the roof. These vertical penetrations are typically from chimneys, gables, balloon frame walls and dormers. Metal flashing is used to go against the wall and under the roofing product. A wall covering is then placed over the flashing to prevent water from entering.


Most everyone knows what a shingle is, but for those who don’t, it is an asphalt rectangle punctuated with granulated stone. Successive layers are placed on top of one another until complete water-proofing has been achieved. This is the most common for on residential roofing.


Most cementious roofing tiles are similar to shingles in design as they are layered on top of one another to create a water-proof barrier. Tiles are made from clay or other cementious materials. Hydraulic cement is used to seal any gaps between tiles.


A slate shingle is similar to an asphalt shingle; however it is made from natural slate. This stone is one of the oldest known roofing materials that are still in use today. Slate roofs can outlast the owners by hundreds of years. They are also the most expensive of roofing materials.


One of the most energy-efficient roofing materials, metal roofing is recyclable and is one of the greenest roofing materials available. It carries a higher price than shingles or tiles.