5 Types Of Roof Decking To Transform Your Home

Posted on June 26, 2023

5 Types Of Roof Decking To Transform Your Home

Roof decking isn’t just any old piece of wood or metal that gets laid across your home’s rafters. It serves as the foundation and support for all the other materials and finishes, making it a critical component of your roofing system. If you’re thinking of upgrading this essential element, we’re here to help.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of roof decking, exploring five types that cater to different needs and preferences. From traditional to modern, we’ll uncover some popular profiles that can seamlessly complement any architectural design.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Roof Decking?
  2. Five Types of Roof Decking
  3. Why OSB, Plywood, and Concrete Are the Perfect Building Materials

What Is Roof Decking?

Roof decking, also known as roof sheathing or roof substrate, is the unsung hero that lays the groundwork for a sturdy and reliable roofing system. Typically crafted from wood or engineered wood products like plywood or oriented strand board, roof decking is meticulously installed over the rafters, creating a solid foundation for the following layers of roofing materials. 

Here are some benefits of a well-constructed roof deck:

  • Protection: A well-constructed roof decking acts as the first line of defense against harsh weather elements such as rain, wind, snow, and hail.
  • Structural integrity: It helps maintain the house’s structural integrity by evenly distributing the weight of the roofing materials and withstanding wind uplift forces.
  • Energy efficiency: A properly installed and insulated roof decking can enhance your home’s thermal performance, reducing heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer.

Roof Deck Building Codes

The following are some of the most typical local jurisdiction requirements in the U.S. for roof decks:

  1. Structural requirements: The roof decking must be able to support the weight of the roofing material, snow, and wind loads. The specific load requirements will vary depending on the location of the building.
  2. Waterproofing: Ensuring the water drains away correctly is vital to prevent leaks and structural damage. This may include using proper waterproofing membranes, structuring the deck to slope slightly, and providing appropriate drainage systems. You’ll also want the correct type of flashing on your roof to protect the roof decking below. 
  3. Requirements for fire resistance: To protect the building from fire, the roof decking must be fire-resistant. Fire-retardant roofing materials, like treated wood or concrete, are effective at this. 

Additional requirements that are enforced by local authorities could exist in addition to the general criteria. These specifications may cover items like the permitted roofing material used for covering the roof decking, the roof’s slope, and rafter spacing. To ensure you follow the correct guidelines, look up your local building codes, or consult with a roofing professional. 

Signs Your Roof Deck Needs to Be Replaced

Though a roof decking typically goes unnoticed, it’s crucial to maintain this structural element to maintain the structural integrity of your home. Without proper maintenance, the roof decking may begin to show signs of damage. 

Roof Deck Needs to Be Replaced

Damaged roof decking often presents several telltale signs. Indoors, you might notice water stains or dampness on your ceilings or walls, a clear indicator of possible leaks. There may also be visible sagging in the roof structure, a serious sign of weakened roof decking. In more severe cases, light may even be visible through the roof boards. From the outside, missing or damaged shingles, exposed nails, or accumulated granules in gutters may be evidence of roof decking problems. 

If you detect these symptoms, it’s crucial to take immediate action. Start by calling a professional roofer to conduct a thorough inspection. They can assess the extent of the damage and recommend whether repairs or a full replacement are necessary. Remember, prompt action can prevent minor problems from escalating into more serious, costly repairs. But if the damage warrants an entire replacement, consider these five material options below for your next roof decking. 

Five Types of Roof Decking Materials

The best type of roof decking materials for a particular building will depend on a number of factors, including climate, budget, and desired aesthetic.

#1 Oriented Standard Board (OSB)

An oriented standard board is a panel of engineered wood made from strands of wood oriented in different directions. OSB is popular as a roof decking material due to its structural strength, affordability, and moisture resistance.

OSB panels are typically installed over the roof trusses or rafters when used as a roof decking material. The panels are secured to the framing using nails or screws, creating a solid base for the roofing material to be laid down, such as asphalt shingles or metal sheets. The seams between the OSB panels are often staggered to provide additional strength and to prevent any weak points along the roof decking.

OSB Offers Several Advantages:

  • It provides good dimensional stability, meaning it resists shrinking and swelling due to changes in temperature and humidity.
  •  It helps maintain the integrity of the roofing structure over time.
  •  OSB provides a smooth and consistent surface for the roofing material, ensuring a more even installation.

Note: OSB is not as resistant to moisture as some other materials, such as plywood. While this material has some inherent moisture resistance due to the manufacturing process and the type of adhesives used, prolonged exposure to water can cause the panels to degrade and lose their structural integrity. Therefore, it’s important to ensure proper waterproofing measures, such as the use of a quality roofing underlayment and appropriate flashing, to protect the OSB roof decking from moisture infiltration.

Overall, OSB is a commonly used material for a roof decking due to its strength, cost-effectiveness, and availability. It provides a sturdy base for the roof covering and contributes to the overall durability and stability of the roof structure.

#2 Plywood 

Plywood is a substance created from thin wood layers and is another commonly used material for roof decks. It is a type of engineered wood made by bonding together multiple thin layers of wood. These roofing materials are typically arranged in a way in which the wood grain of a previous layer is placed in the opposite direction of the layer above it, which enhances the panel’s strength and stability.

It is often chosen for its durability, moisture resistance, and versatility for roof decks. It is available in different thicknesses, typically ranging from ⅜  inch to ¾  inch, allowing for flexibility in selecting the appropriate thickness based on the specific requirements of the roof.

Like OSB, plywood decking is installed over the roofing structure. The panels are then secured to the roof trusses or rafters using nails or screws, and the seams between the plywood panels are typically staggered for added strength and stability.

Basic Comparison of Plywood to OSB:

OSB vs Plywood
  • Plywood offers advantages in terms of durability, moisture resistance, dimensional stability, and versatility for a roof decking.
  • Plywood is generally more expensive than OSB, but the cost of plywood varies based on the type of wood and grade selected.
  • Plywood provides a strong and reliable base for the roof covering, contributing to the overall stability and longevity of the roof’s structure.

#3 Concrete

Concrete is a widely used material for roof decks in the United States, particularly for commercial buildings. It offers excellent durability, strength, and weather resistance, making it a popular choice for flat or low-slope roofs.

When it comes to roof decks, concrete is typically used in the form of reinforced concrete. Reinforced concrete consists of a mixture of cement, aggregates (such as sand and gravel), water, and reinforcement materials, usually steel bars or mesh. The reinforcement provides added strength, helps control cracking, and improves structural integrity.

concrete roof deck

Concrete offers several advantages for roof decking applications:

  • Concrete roof decks offer exceptional durability, withstanding the test of time and resisting damage from weather conditions, including UV radiation and moisture.
  • Concrete provides excellent load-bearing capacity, allowing for the installation of heavy equipment or structures on the roof, such as HVAC units or rooftop gardens.
  • Concrete roof decks have good thermal mass, which helps regulate temperature fluctuations within the building by absorbing, retaining, and releasing heat, potentially reducing energy consumption and providing thermal comfort.

#4 Plank 

Plank decking is a type of roof decking that is made up of long, rectangular wooden boards that typically come in 2 different sizes, such as 1×6 or 1×8. While it’s not as commonly used, you’ll still find this kind of decking used on roofs today. It is typically made from pine, cedar, or redwood. These woods are naturally resistant to rot and decay, making them a good choice for roof decking.

Plank decking is also available in a variety of finishes, such as stained, painted, or clear coated. It is a good choice for roofs that need to be strong and durable. The boards are typically about 1/2 inch apart, allowing for ventilation and drainage. Plank decking is also a good choice for roofs that need to be insulated. The boards can be filled with insulation, which helps to keep the home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Here are some pros of plank decking

  • Strong and durable: Plank decking is made from wood that is naturally resistant to rot and decay, making it a good choice for roof decking.
  • Available in a variety of finishes: Plank decking is available in a variety of finishes, such as stained, painted, or clear coated. This allows you to customize the appearance of your roof decking to match your home’s style.
  • Easy to install: Plank decking is relatively easy to install, making it a good option for DIYers.

Overall, plank decking is a good choice for roofs that need to be strong, durable, and insulated. It is a bit more expensive than other types of roof decking, but it is a good investment for homes that are exposed to harsh weather conditions.

#5 Metal

Metal roof decking is a type of decking that is made from metal sheets and is available in a variety of materials, including steel, aluminum, and copper. It is often used in commercial and industrial applications but is also becoming more popular for residential use.  Metal is a very strong material that can withstand heavy loads and extreme weather conditions. It is also very durable and can last many years with little maintenance.

It is also a good choice for roofs that need to be fire-resistant. Metal is a non-combustible material that will not catch fire. This makes metal roof decking a good choice for roofs in areas that are prone to wildfires.

metal roof decking

Here are some pros offered by metal roof decking:

  • Strong and durable: Metal is a very strong material that can withstand heavy loads and extreme weather conditions.
  • Weather-resistant: Metal is resistant to rust, rot, and decay, making it a good choice for roofs in harsh climates.
  • Fire-resistant: Metal is a non-combustible material that will not catch fire.
  • Low-maintenance: Metal roof decks require very little maintenance, making them a good choice for busy homeowners.
  • Long lifespan: Metal roofs can last for many years with proper care.

Why OSB, Plywood, and Concrete Are the Perfect Building Materials

OSB, plywood, and concrete are the top choices for roof decks for a variety of reasons, including being robust, cost-effective, long-lasting, and adaptable. They can be applied to a range of buildings, from modest house renovations to substantial commercial buildings.

Here are some of the benefits of using OSB, plywood, and concrete:

  • Strength: All are incredibly sturdy materials and are resilient to force and weight. They are, therefore, perfect for use in robust, long-lasting constructions like homes, offices, and schools.
  • Durability: They are all very strong materials. Their ability to endure adverse weather conditions and resist deterioration makes them well-suited for outdoor applications.
  • Affordability: Each is cost-effective, making them a great option for budget-minded homeowners and builders.
  • Versatility: They are all very versatile materials and can be employed for an array of projects, regardless of their scale. This attribute renders them an excellent option for any construction endeavor.


If you feel that your roof decking needs repair or replacement, look no further than our team at Empire Roofing & Exteriors. We can help you update your current roof deck and make your home safe and structurally sound. We offer a 10-year warranty on our work, have 90+ 5-star reviews, and provide insurance claim assistance, and financing options to help with your roofing project. Call us at (225) 347-8877 to get started today!