Q&A / 

Stop Roof Leaks with Flashings

You undoubtedly expect many things when you move into a new home. Fresh paint, trouble-free plumbing, new fixtures and a dry environment are surely high on the list. But you might be surprised how many new homes develop roof leaks in a very short amount of time. Unless you have nerves of steel and a tall ladder, I doubt you will have the chance to get up and inspect your roof during the walk-through inspection. You might simply hope the roof is okay.

It is possible to inspect the roof. You can hire an independent roofer or a certified whole house inspector to check out things you can't easily see. This individual should have the equipment and the experience to quickly see if the roof and all of its components are installed correctly.

Perhaps the most important parts of your new house roof are its flashings. A flashing is a transitional roofing material. Flashings connect roofing materials such as shingles, slate, tile, rubber roofing, etc. to things that are not part of the roof. Anytime an object or a thing abuts a roof or protrudes through a roof, you will find flashings. 90 percent of all roof leaks originate at flashings. You must make certain your builder's roofer has installed your flashings expertly.

Flashing material can be made from many things including tin, copper, galvanized steel, lead, aluminum and even rubber. The most common place a homeowner sees flashing is at the base of a chimney where it connects to the roof. Frequently you will see triangular pieces of metal that are actually mortared into the chimney. These are just one part of a complex set of metal pieces that weave into the roofing materials and the masonry chimney to form a watertight connection.

Another common flashing location is anywhere a roof butts up next to a wall. For example, your new home might have a single story garage connected to a two story house. Look closely where the shingles touch the house and you should see flashings. If the house has some sort of wood or vinyl siding, these siding materials will lap over the metal flashings. This method of construction produces leak-free performance as well.

Plumbing vent pipes also have a simple flashing that slides down over the pipe that sticks up through the roof. Typically newer flashings of this type are equipped with a rubber collar that fits tightly around the circular plumbing vent pipe. This flashing lays over the shingles below the lower half of the flashing and the upper half of the flashing is covered by the roofing shingles above the flashing.

Click here to watch a video on bathroom fan roof flashing.

 

Certain skylights have factory-built flashing kits that are superb when installed according to manufacturers' instructions. They will keep out the worst driving rain and keep any room leak free. These factory-built flashings require no soldering or caulk to provide years of leak-free performance. I have five of them on my own home and have installed hundreds of others.

I prefer to use flashing materials that can be soldered easily. Tin and copper meet this requirement. Tin coated steel is available in different weights: 20 and 40 pound. The 40 pound tin has more tin coating on the pieces of steel. Use this if at all possible.

Be sure your builder does not use aluminum flashing material in contact with any masonry walls or chimneys. The alkaline chemicals in the masonry can corrode the aluminum over time. Aluminum is also very difficult to solder or weld. Beware of roofers or builders who install aluminum and then caulk corners to make a leak-resistant joint. There are very few caulks that will provide the same trouble-free performance as solder.

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