Recent years have seen significant research being carried out into peer-to-peer (P2P) systems. This work has focused on the styles and applications of P2P computing, from grid computation to content distribution; however, little investigation has been performed into how these systems are built. Component based engineering is an approach that has seen successful deployment in the field of middleware development; functionality is encapsulated in ‘building blocks’ that can be dynamically plugged together to form complete systems. This allows efficient, flexible and adaptable systems to be built with lower overhead and development complexity. This paper presents an investigation into the potential of using component based engineering in the design and construction of peer-to-peer overlays. It is highlighted that the quality of these properties is dictated by the component architecture used to implement the system. Three reusable decomposition architectures are designed and evaluated using Chord and Pastry case studies. These demonstrate that significant improvements can be made over traditional design approaches resulting in much more reusable, (re)configurable and extensible systems.