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What Is a Soffit: 10 Roofing Words to Help You Understand Your Contractor

When you’re unfamiliar with an industry, hearing the jargon thrown around may make your head spin. What is a soffit? What’s a cricket? Maybe you’ve heard of gables, but how do they figure into roofing work? As your local roofing experts, we get it. Sometimes it’s all you can do to wrap your mind around what work you need done, and picking up the industry terminology just adds another layer of complication.

That’s why we’re here to arm you with the information you need to fill in the gaps. Whether it’s having a professional assess a damaged roof or just answering what a soffit is, we’re here to help. Here are 10 words you might find helpful in understanding your contractor.

1. Soffit

A soffit is an easily overlooked part of the roof, but one you’re likely to notice from here on out. If your home has eaves, you can go look at one right now. Just walk underneath the overhang and look up. The soffit is the underside of your eaves, sometimes sealed with additional panes and sometimes left exposed. Some soffit areas even incorporate open ventilation elements to work in tandem with a ridge vent, giving your attic airflow for ideal ventilation. While it may not be the first part of a roof that draws your attention, it’s just as important as everything else.

2. Cricket

No, it’s not a noisy insect! At least, not in terms of roofing. On top of your house, a cricket is a small ridge structure that’s put in place in order to redirect water around the sides of chimneys, walls, or anything else that might rise upward out of your roof. The cricket helps ensure that falling water keeps moving around the obstruction, preventing it from pooling in one area on top of the roof. Pooling water is never good for roofs, making crickets important structures to have.

3. Flashing

Flashing, while not very flashy, serves yet another important purpose on your roof. It is typically a flexible sheet of metal that is used to better seal the roof, preventing leaks around projections or intersections by offering a little extra protection where materials meet.

4. Gable

You may be familiar with the term gable, whether just from hearing it in conversation or in relation to Anne and her green ones, but what exactly is it? The fact of the matter is that you may have gables and not even know it. In short, a gable is the triangle or A-shaped part of your wall that forms the peak of your roof. You’ll usually hear the term gable in relation to gable roofs in general, the simple style of a roof with two sloping planes of the same pitch on either side of a ridge. Gabled roofs are quite common, not only in America but also in other parts of the world.

5. Hip

The hip of a roof is an inclined external angle formed by the intersection of two roof panes, both sloping down toward the eaves. A hipped roof has no gables. Instead, it has additional panes that gently slope downward from the highest point of the house. A hipped roof can have an almost tent-like appearance, with all the panes leading up to one central peak. Like a gabled roof, they are popular throughout the world and can be found in many different countries and architectural styles.

6. Eaves

An eave is simply the lowest part of the roof’s edge. They may end at the wall of the house, or they may extend out beyond it. They feature prominently in architecture throughout the world, although they all serve the same uniform purpose of dropping running water clear of the walls.

7. Fascia

Sometimes referred to as gutter boards, fascia is roof trim that runs along the lowest edge of the roof. The fascia helps connect the lower ends of the rafters or roof trusses as well as supporting the gutters on its top and the front edge of the soffit on its bottom.

8. Rafters

Without rafters, you can’t have a roof. They are the angled timbers that form the basic framework of the roof, providing a structure on which it can be built. Your rafters extend out from the ridge, or hip, all the way to the eaves. They’re the bones of your roof, and keeping them in good condition is vital to its long-term health. That’s why using all your available options to keep them warm and dry, especially in our rainy climate, goes without question.

9. Rake

For some homeowners, a rake is just a gardening tool you break out in the fall. In roofing, though, it has another meaning. There, it refers to the sloped sides on either end of a gabled roof, just above the gable itself. There is some variance in rake structure—some are flush with the gable while some hang over it similar to eaves.

10. Ridge

Much like how a mountain ridge rises up from the lowlands around it, your roof’s ridge rises up above the rest of the structure. It’s the highest horizontal external angle formed by the intersection of two sloping roof panes. It’s also the highest point on your roof, from where the rest of the panes slope downward.

On the inside of your roof, the ridge is also where your rafters meet to form a kind of spine for the roof. Some ridges are raised even higher through the use of ridge vents, which raise the top of the ridge to open up the attic to air and allow for ventilation.

Interested in using your new vocabulary and see how it all works together? Give us a call! We’re more than happy to talk you through any questions you might have and help you with any roofing work that needs doing. We promise the next time you hear someone asking what soffit is, you’ll be the one with the answers.