Roof of House by the Ocean

Roof Anatomy 101

Additions / Construction / Custom Homes / Remodels

Like the perfect frame on a beautiful painting, a roof does more than protect a home from the weather. Providing structural support, architectural detail and lasting value, the right roof is a major decision in the home building process. A.C.T. Builders knows which style, design, price range, look, and installation process is best for a custom home or remodel in your area of Washington and Oregon. But since a roof that will last for decades is a large part of your budget, knowing more about the components of the roof’s anatomy will help you to understand what goes into that type of project.

The following is a list of basic roof anatomy terms you may find helpful when discussing roofs and roof designs with your architect, designer, or A.C.T. Builders. Remember that what you see on other homes, as interesting as it may appear, may not work on your structure, your home style or for the climate in your area. As you drive around your locale or your dream neighborhood, see if you can spot some of the following features as you become, if not a roofing expert, at least a bit more roof savvy.

Roof Anatomy and Terms


When a framed window projects out past the sloped plane of a roof, it is called a dormer. Dormers add light, added interior space such as window seats, and architectural detail to a home. Styles include hipped, recessed, gable, shed, eyebrow, and barrel dormers.


Downspouts direct rainwater off a roof and away from the foundation of a house. The downspout pipe or chute connects to the gutters and is often at the corner of a house.


The part of the roof that hangs over the house or structure is the eave. A generous eave keeps a house or structure cool and shaded, while a shallow eave allows more light to strike the walls or windows.


Flashing is metal pieces placed around chimneys, pipes, dormers and valleys to prevent seepage of water. Experienced roofers are essential when installing flashing to ensure a waterproof roof.

Gable Roof

When a sidewall comes to a triangular point at the ridge, the roof style is called a gable roof. It is the opposite of a hip roof and creates much more attic space for a structure.


The channel or trough that carries rainwater to the downspouts is the gutter.

Hip Roof

This type of roof has all sides sloping downward to the walls from a central ridge. Allowing less attic space, a hip roof is a good option in areas prone to high wind, as it is better designed for surviving strong wind force.


Pitch is the degree of a roof incline, which is shown as a ratio of the rise of the roof in relation to the span covered. Mathematicians would consider pitch to be a calculation of the slope of the roof.


The horizontal top edge of two sloping roof planes is the ridge. Special shingles called ridge shingles or ridge caps are used to cover this angled surface.

Shed Roof

A roof that has only one plane is a shed roof. It has no valleys, gables, ridges or hips, and is often used in outbuildings such as tool sheds due to its simple construction. This can still be an elegant design and many modern installations employ shed roofs.


Made of wood, slate, ceramic, fiberglass and asphalt, shingles are installed across each other to form a watertight outer roof structure.


The finished underside of a roof, covering up the supporting roof rafters under the eaves, is a soffit (from the Latin suffixus, meaning “to fasten”).


Just like it sounds, the inverted angle formed by two intersecting roof planes is a valley. Good roof construction and expert waterproofing is vital at this point to prevent leaks. Valleys are often found in remodeling projects.

For questions about types of roofs, roofing materials and other parts of a roof you are planning to build, contact our on-staff experts at A.C.T. Builders. We’ve got you covered — literally — with quality roofing for your custom home or remodel project!

Since we were living in our home during the remodel, they maintained a clean area every night making it as non-invasive as possible. All of the work was beautifully done and visitors to our home are so impressed with the workmanship and attention to detail. The end results far exceeded our expectations.” ~ Terry and Donna Scott

From the beginning through completion, working with Aaron and Charlie Marvin with ACT Builders, was a wonderful experience. We were impressed by their desire to carefully plan for and accommodate our special needs in the remodel. They were open to our suggestions and were good at offering other options, as well.” ~ Terry and Donna Scott

About A.C.T. Builders

We are an award winning, premiere custom home builder & contractor serving Vancouver, WA; SW Washington; and the Portland Metro area. We specialize in custom home building, home remodels, and commercial construction projects. Utilizing our years of construction industry experience, we pride ourselves on providing quality solutions for each of our clients.

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