slate shingle roof material

Types of Roof Materials and Their Purposes

For the average homeowner, understanding roof materials and their unique purposes is not an easy task. There are many pieces that go into a roofing system, with some pieces being visible, while others are not. Understanding your roof’s anatomy is a crucial first step in understanding what goes into your roof replacement or repair. All roof materials serve different purposes on the overall system, with many variations for each piece. For example, when beginning a project, the first step is deciding what shingle or covering material will be the centerpiece, be it, asphalt, slate, or even rubber. These pieces are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the entirety of a roofing system. Follow along for most of the popular roof materials present in the average system, and the unique purposes they serve.

Roofing Shingles, the Most Important of Roof Materials


As we discussed, shingle choice is the most aesthetic of all of your roofing materials. These are the coverings that you can see from the top of your home. There are many choices when it comes to shingles, with the most popular being asphalt, slate, rubber, and metal. These four are vastly difference in their looks, price, and lifespan. At the end of the day, all overlayment materials serve the same purpose, to shed water and protect the vulnerable materials beneath them from weather and debris.

Underlayments and Watershields


Underlayment is the term for the felt or synthetic layer that separates the roof deck from the shingles. Much like what is put behind siding, underlayment adds another layer of protection from damage and weather to the vulnerable wood or composite roof deck. While not always installed, this is another insurance piece to ensure that your roofing system performs to its best ability to protect your home. At the same time, another important roof material is watershields, which act as described. Often placed in areas where water entry or ice dams are a concern, this is an impervious membrane to aid in weather protection and watershed of the most vulnerable areas of the home.

Roof Decks and Roofing Materials


Much like your home’s deck, roof decks are the layer of wood or similar material that make up the structure of your roofing system. These provide a stable base to attack the water-shedding components, while also creating and maintaining stability. Much like underlayments, roof decks should be covered because they cannot handle any form of weather or debris.

Soffits and Flashing


Proper roof ventilation is key to a happy healthy roof. Soffits are the ventilation that can be seen between the bottom side of a roofing system and the home. By allowing air to enter and exit from the soffits and roof vents, you can be sure that your roofing system will not have excess moisture built up inside. Also, proper airflow keeps the entirety of the roofing system at an even temperature to prevent the buildup of ice dams. As a result, over time, local weather conditions in the Northeast can require soffit repair and/or replacement. Additionally, flashing works like watershields. Flashing helps shed water from vulnerable areas such as seems and around holes in a roof for skylights and vents. Flashing is often a metal material to ensure against debris from damaging this crucial part of a roofing system.


Ranch Roofing has been an expert in Boston area roofing since 1996. If you have any questions regarding your roofing system, or want to schedule a free estimate, contact us today.