Can You Patch Roof Flashing?

Repairs | Roofing
July 28, 2023

It may just be made up of a few strips of galvanized metal, but roof flashing is one of your home’s unsung heroes. It’s actually one of the most critical components of a well-constructed roof. By redirecting water away from vulnerable areas of the rooftop, flashing prevents leaks and reduces the chances of catastrophic water damage occurring in your home.

Of course, in doing so, it is constantly exposed to the corrosive effects of rainwater. Over time, your roof flashing can begin to weaken as rust begins to form, ultimately leading to holes developing in the metal. When it comes to roof repair, flashing is not one of the largest material costs, although the expense of replacing it every single time a hole appears could certainly add up. That’s why one of the common questions we receive at Interstate Roofing is if roof flashing can be patched without replacing it entirely. The answer to that question depends on the level of damage that has already occurred, as well as the materials that are available for performing the repair.

In this article, we’ll help you to determine when you can patch roof flashing and when it’s time to contact a professional roofer for a more extensive repair (or even a full replacement).

Roof Flashing: What It Is and What It Does

If you look at your roof, you’ll most likely notice the flashing protecting the ridges, valleys, and edges of your roof. These areas, where separate parts of the roof are joined together, are more vulnerable to leaks due to the space between them. This is especially true during the wettest parts of the year, when water can pool during heavy rains, allowing it to slip through improperly shielded areas of the roof. As water creeps past the shingles and underlayment of the roof, it can encourage the growth of toxic mold in the wooden structure below. This mold not only poses a health hazard to the inhabitants of a home, but it can also severely weaken the roof and necessitate an extremely expensive emergency repair.

Your roof flashing protects the most vulnerable areas of your roof by redirecting water away from them, either to spots that are more heavily fortified or toward the gutter and off of the roof entirely.

As we mentioned above, roof flashing is usually made of galvanized metal. It’s often steel, although sometimes other lightweight metals, such as aluminum, are used as well. The term galvanized refers to a process in which the steel (or other metal) is coated in a thin layer of zinc. Zinc has the remarkable property of corroding at a rate that is nearly 100 times slower than other metals, while also protecting other nearby metals from the chemical reaction that leads to rust. This means that even if the zinc layer is damaged or otherwise compromised, it will still largely ameliorate the effects of rust on the more vulnerable metal underneath.

Flashing Degrades Over Time

Of course, even though it rusts far more slowly than other metals, galvanized zinc will still eventually wear away as it is exposed to the relentless onslaught of the elements. Usually, rust begins slowly: it may begin as a tiny patch, which eventually spreads, causing holes to appear in the flashing. These holes are weak points that water can slip through, ultimately allowing moisture to make its way into your home.

Rust isn’t the only thing that can damage flashing either. Hail, falling branches, and other environmental hazards can easily punch through the thin metal that makes up roof flashing. Particularly heavy winds can even grab it and rip it off of the roof.

As you’re probably aware, damaged areas have a tendency to get larger and larger over time, until the flashing wears away completely. When that happens, the most vulnerable parts of your roof will be entirely unprotected from rain, snow, and other sources of moisture. For this reason, if you want to avoid a costly roof repair or replacement, flashing needs to be repaired quickly when it begins to deteriorate.

How To Repair Damaged Roof Flashing

Obviously, if it has worn away completely or been removed entirely by a windstorm, you will have no choice but to call a professional roofer to replace the flashing for you. However, in many cases, the damaged area is small enough that a roofer can repair the flashing without replacing it. Usually, this is done with a material called roofing cement and a patch made from the same material as the flashing itself.

When corrosion begins, it usually starts with a very small area, sometimes no larger than a pinhole. At Interstate Roofing, we recommend having your roof inspected at least once a year because if it’s caught early enough, minor damage in your roof flashing can often be repaired with roofing cement alone, without even necessitating the use of a patch.

In either case, when we are contacted to perform roof repair, flashing can be patched by first grinding away the rusted area. Following this, roofing cement can be applied around the hole, and a custom-sized patch made from the same galvanized metal can then be affixed over the hole.

The Importance of Regular Roof Maintenance

Of course, damaged flashing isn’t the only problem that can be diagnosed as part of a regular roofing inspection. There are many issues that, left unchecked, can compound on one another and ultimately force you to shell out for a very expensive repair or even a roof replacement. If it’s properly cared for, your roof should last for decades. However, maximizing its life span depends upon regular care and maintenance.

To schedule a roofing inspection or maintenance, contact us at Interstate Roofing. By addressing any problem areas early, including damaged flashing, you will potentially avoid catastrophic—and costly—roof repairs later on.