How to Speak to Your Roofing Contractor’s Language, Part One (Terms A – D)

If you feel like your roofing contractor might as well be speaking a foreign language to you when he is discussing your roofing issue, this article is for you! Below is some common vocabulary your roofing contractor may use. We suggest you keep this list handy if you find yourself confused by all of the unfamiliar terms. This is Part One of a Four-Part Series.

Asphalt: A waterproofing agent applied to roofing materials during manufacturing.

Attic Vent: An opening through which outside air can enter the attic space forcing moist air out.

Back Surfacing: Fine mineral matter applied to the back of shingles to keep them from sticking.
Base Flashing: The flashing portion that is attached to or resting on the deck, directing the flow of water. It is normally installed at all vertical to horizontal transitions.

Battens: 1"x 2"x 4" wood strips nailed to the roof. They are used to fasten concrete roofing tiles.
Birdstop: This formed metal or foam elevates the first course of tile so that it is positioned at the same angle as subsequent courses. It also prevents birds from nesting in the hollows of the tile.

Built-Up Roof: A low-sloped or flat roof consisting of multiple layers of asphalt and ply sheets. The surface is typically covered with asphalt emulsion, granulated cap sheet or gravel.

Bundle: A package of shingles. There are 3, 4 or 5 bundles per square. (One square =100 square feet of roof area.)
Caulk: To fill a joint with asphalt cement or mastic to prevent leaks.

Class A: The highest fire rating for a roofing system.

Class B: The fire-resistance rating that indicates roofing materials are able to withstand moderate exposure to fire originating from outside sources.

Closed-Cut Valley: A method of valley treatment in which shingles from one side of the valley extend across the valley while shingles from the other side are trimmed two inches from the valley centerline. With this method, the valley flashing is not exposed.

Coating: A layer of adhesive or asphalt applied to the base material. Granules or other surfacing is embedded in it. This term can also apply to fluid applied membrane.

Collar (or Vent Sleeve): Pre-formed flange placed over a vent pipe to seal the roof around the vent pipe opening.

Color-Through: During manufacturing, color is throughout the roofing material and becomes part of the product. The result is that when it’s cut, the cut area shows the same color as the surface.

Composition Shingles (or Comp or Comp Shingles): A pressed, thin roofing material made of organic mat or asphalt-impregnated fiberglass. They can also be covered on one side with colored stone granules.

Concealed Nail Method: Roll roofing method in which all nails are driven into the underlying course of roofing and covered by a cemented, overlapping course. Nails are not exposed to the weather.

Counter Flashing: That portion of the flashing attached to a vertical surface to prevent water from seeping behind the base flashing.

Course: A row of roll roofing or shingles extending the length of the roof.

Coverage: Amount of weather protection provided by the roofing material. This is determined by the number of material layers between the exposed surface of the roofing and the deck. It is referred to as single coverage, double coverage, etc.

Cricket: A raised area designed to help water flow to drains.
Cutout: The open portions of a strip shingle between the tabs.
Deck (or Substrate): The structural base for the roof which is made of wood or plywood.

Dormer: A vertical opening coming through a sloping roof.
Double coverage: Application of asphalt roofing with two layers of roofing material over the deck.
Downspout or (Leader): A pipe for draining water from roof gutters.

Drip edge: A non-staining, non-corrosive material used along the rakes and eaves that allows water run-off to avoid dripping on underlying construction.

See our other posts for definitions of additional terms!

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