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Unless you have a background in roofing, construction, or carpentry, you probably don’t realize how many roof layers make up a well-constructed roofing system. When you look at your roof, you see the finish.

What Are Your Roof Layers?

Whether you choose asphalt shingles or durable slate tiles, you probably aren’t aware of how many layers it takes to make your roofing system functional.

If you are preparing for a new roof installation at your home or want to be more aware of how to look out for roofing problems, it’s important to understand the different layers that comprise your roof.

Roof Decking

Roof decking, also referred to as “roof sheathing,” serves as your roof’s foundation. Your roof has joists, which attach to your walls to create the roof’s pitch. Roof decking attaches to those joists.

The presence of roof decking provides a sturdy, level surface for every layer of your roof to attach to. In the same way, your home has a foundation, your roof requires a foundation. Roof decking is the foundation for the rest of your roof.

Drip Edge

Protecting the roof decking from water is one of the most important aspects of a quality roofing system. Drip edge, which attaches to the perimeter of your roof, helps make that a reality.

Many local governments require contractors to install a drip edge when installing a roof. The drip edge prevents water from getting under the layers that we will discuss in a moment. It also protects the sheathing, adding years to the lifespan of your roof.

Ice and Water Shield

While a drip edge protects the outer perimeter of your roof, an ice and water shield protects valleys and peaks. In roofing, valleys are areas where two slopes meet. Without the presence of an ice and water shield, water may pool up in those areas.

You should have an ice and water shield installed in every valley on your roof. Also, having at least one row of ice and water shield on each side of your roof’s peaks prevents water from damaging your decking.

Roof Underlayment

Roof underlayment forms a type of membrane that further protects your roof decking from the elements. When choosing a roof underlayment, you can select between 15-pound felt, 30-pound felt, and synthetic underlayment. Each type of underlayment has its own list of pros and cons, so the roofing contractor you choose can help you make the best choice for your roof.

While you should never choose the cheapest roofing materials, this is even more true when dealing with underlayment. Quality underlayment protects every inch of your roof decking, which further protects your ceilings and the contents in your home.

Starter Shingles

It is important to note that starter shingles are only necessary if you have asphalt shingles installed on your home. If you choose an alternative roofing finish, such as copper, there is no need for starter shingles.

While similar to asphalt shingles, these shingles have different dimensions and provide a starting point for traditional shingles. It is vital to have starter shingles installed in a uniform manner, as they dictate the overall look and performance of your shingled roof.

Roofing Finish

Once your roofing contractor installs all the base layers, he or she can install the roofing finish you have chosen. You can choose from dozens of roofing types, from basic asphalt shingles to complex concrete tiles.

Each type of roofing finish comes with its own list of benefits. When choosing a roofing finish, consider the overall design of your home, the amount of weight your house can support, and how long you want a roof to last.

Roof Flashing

Flashing refers to a piece of metal that roofing contractors install at specific places on your roof. For instance, if your roof has a chimney, the contractor will install flashing around the sides. The flashing deflects water away from areas prone to water damage.

There are different types of roof flashing. The type you choose will largely depend on your roof finish. In all cases, roof flashing should outlive the roof.

Ridge Caps

Protecting your roof’s valleys from water damage is important. But it’s just as important to protect the peaks. At every point that your roof peaks, the contractor you choose should install a ridge cap. This cap, made of the same material as your roof’s finish, covers the ridges of your roof, ensuring water can’t get through.

Roof Vents

Roof vents are an essential part of ventilating your home. These vents are necessary if you have an attic or crawl space above your ceiling. Your contractor will allow you to choose between active and passive ventilation systems, each with a list of benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What is the most important layer of a roof?

Each layer of a roof plays a role in protecting your home. With that in mind, no layer is more important than the others.

How much does it cost to have a new roof installed?

Determining the cost of a new roof depends on a variety of factors. The materials used, the size of your roof, and local labor costs will all dictate the final price of your roof.

Do I really need roof vents?

Roof vents provide proper ventilation for your attic or upper crawlspace. Ventilation helps prevent bacterial growth, such as mold and mildew. It also keeps your roof decking from suffering damage from the inside.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the different layers of a roof is an important part of home ownership. Not only does it allow you to plan for roof repair or replacement, but you can also keep an eye out for problems with more detail.
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