Water damage is one of the biggest, most insidious threats not only to your roof but to the rest of your home as well. Of course, that’s what your roof is for in the first place: keeping water out while keeping a comfortable temperature inside. To this end, a roof is actually a fairly complex system, with many parts that need to be in good condition in order to guard the home optimally.
The shingles—the top layer—usually get the most attention, but the roof flashing is just as important, and when it becomes damaged, catastrophic problems can follow. Fortunately, we’re here to tell you what you need to know about how to fix roof flashing.
What Is Roof Flashing?
Roof flashing is a thin sheet of metal that connects various parts of the roof, and it’s placed where it is in order to prevent leaks through vulnerable areas. These might be the joints and valleys of the roof or around the chimney or to protect drainage pipes. The metal flashing must extend underneath the shingles and other parts of the roof so that it can prevent water seepage even if damage occurs to the upper layers.
Flashing can be made of several kinds of metals or other materials, although aluminum and stainless steel are the most common due to their ability to resist corrosion as well as their relative inexpensiveness. Occasionally, copper is used because of its ability to provide a decorative element, although it is much more expensive. Roof flashing is very durable, being more resistant to weather and temperature than other elements of the roof. However, heavy winds and other severe conditions can still damage it.
Types of Flashing
There are several types of flashing utilized, depending on which element of the roof needs to be protected. Continuous flashing is one single piece of metal that extends down the entire roof. While base flashing, also known as two-part flashing, is made of multiple pieces that connect to each other, usually in the form of a membrane with metal flashing on top.
If the flashing needs to go in multiple directions, counter flashing or step flashing might be used. In either case, caulk or sealant is used to prevent leaks from forming around the seams of the flashing.
Repairing Small Damage
Often, the damage that occurs to flashing is very small. For example, repeated dripping water may cause a small hole to form as a result of corrosion. This type of damage is relatively easy to fix. In most cases, you can simply use a small amount of roofing cement to plug the hole. If it’s a little larger—up to around three-quarters of an inch—you will first need to sand away the corroded part. You can do this with a wire brush or heavy-duty sandpaper.
You’ll then need to cut a small piece of aluminum (or steel or whatever material the flashing is made from) and then use roofing cement to use that piece as a patch over the damaged area. This patch should then be covered with another layer of roofing cement to seal it against further damage.
If the Damage Is More Extensive
Roof flashing is extremely durable and can last for many years with proper care. However, proper care is the key term here. Your flashing, as well as the rest of your roof, should be checked periodically by a professional roofer. They will catch problems before they become worse.
If, despite your best efforts, a larger area becomes damaged, you will need to replace the flashing entirely. Make sure that you take safety into consideration before you do this. Wear the proper attire, including gloves, closed-toe shoes, and a safety harness. Have a sturdy roofing ladder and don’t stand anywhere if you are not totally sure it is safe. Also, have at least one other person to serve as your spotter, assisting you as an extra set of eyes and hands.
You will need to start by removing the old flashing, which should begin by ripping away the old caulking that lines the flashing. You’ll then need to pry away the old flashing, using a hammer or other tool to remove the roofing nails.
You will then be able to replace the flashing with the new material, which can be a tedious task, especially with continuous flashing. As you go along, seal the flashing with caulking that is designed for use on roofs. You will also want to cover the nail heads with the same roofing cement you’ve been using for patching the smaller holes.
Similar methods can be used for replacing the flashing that surrounds chimneys and vent pipes. Bit by bit, you’ll pry them away and replace them with new flashing. As always, ensure that there’s plenty of sealant because any weak areas can allow water in, which can then shorten the life span of your roof as well as creep into your home and cause water damage.
Don’t Be Afraid to Call a Professional
Learning how to repair roof flashing is a big job and one that’s quite labor-intensive. That’s in addition to it potentially being dangerous if done improperly. So if you are uncertain about your ability to perform the task, contact a professional and ask them to do it instead.
Often, people attempt to DIY jobs to save money on a task, but if the task is done incorrectly, it may end up costing you more money in the long run. The fortunate thing about roof flashing is it likely won’t have to be replaced all that often—especially if it’s well cared for—because it can usually outlive the other elements of your roof.
Contact a reliable contractor who has been in the business for years, such as Interstate Roofing. They will be able to perform regular maintenance as well as larger tasks and even emergency tasks if necessary.