When it comes to a roof, knowing a few terms will help you talk to your roofer next time there’s a leak or you decide to reshingle. They’ll also help you discuss a remodel project that includes an addition, skylight or dormer. For the most part, these terms cover the principal parts of a roof and the openings we commonly find going through a roof — creating the possibility of leaks.
Two of the most basic and common roof types are the gable and hip. These are easy to build and economical. Because they shed water and snow easily, they’re well-suited to wet and cold climates around the world.
Aesthetically, gable roofs and hip roofs are quite different.
A gable roof wants to stress the vertical; it points upward to the sky. It’s identified by triangular gable ends and a single ridge between two sloping roof panels.
All four sides of a hip roof slope inward. Its lines stress the horizontal and float in parallel over the earth. These are important distinctions, because the way a house meets the earth and sky tells us a lot about its designer’s intent.
A few more basic roof parts are the ridge, rake and eave.
The ridge is the highest point where two roof planes meet and is generally going to be the highest part of the house. Because of its linear nature, a ridge is commonly referred to as a ridge line. The location of the ridge is important in many localities where there are height restrictions on building, as the height of a house is often measured from the ground to the ridge. For this reason, it’s important to know what the local restrictions are and how these will affect the design.
The rake is the angled element at the gable end of a roof and is composed of the trim and structure (rafters) that extend out from the house. The rake can be finished in a plain, simple manner or in a highly stylized and elaborate way.
The eave is that element of a roof that projects out from the wall of the house and consists of a soffit and fascia. The eave can either be close, or tight, to the wall of the house or quite a distance away. Since the primary function of the eave is to take rainwater away from the walls of the house, the farther out it is the better it can serve that function.
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