Your roof is the single most important resource for safeguarding your family’s comfort and safety. It’s easy to take a roof over your head for granted, but a watertight roof is critical for keeping you dry, warm, protected and even financially secure. Flashing consists of thin strips of metal or other materials that channel water away to protect from leaks. Your whole roof is subject to leaks when the flashing fails, but failures are most common around the chimney where it meets the roof.
Chimney flashing is a common term that’s often used for vent pipes, skylights, chimneys and other roof installations where the roofline joins with them. All these sections of roof are at risk or water damage. Shingles overlap to channel water off the roof, but a hole in the roof typically doesn’t have this protection unless it’s properly flashed.
You can find flashing leaks around skylights, windows and holes for vent pipes and wiring. Flashing repairs don’t last forever, and a leak around your chimney or other roof installation can result in extensive damage to the roof and your home’s structural integrity. Ideally, you should get your chimney flashing inspected annually to catch problems in the early stages before major damages occur.
Chimneys Are Critical Parts of Your Home
In past generations, more people burned coal and wood for heat, and chimneys were a critical part of the heating system. However, they still serve that function by venting dangerous gases like carbon monoxide. Many chimneys aren’t attached to the frame of the house, so when the house settles or expands and contracts in different weather, leaks around the chimney become more common. Other causes of flashing failure around the chimney include:
- Missing shingles
- Rotted wood
- Loose shingles
- Cracked tar or crumbling mortar
- Interior attic damage
- Drywall damage
- Major weather events
- Tremors and earthquakes
These causes of flashing leaks are also the primary symptoms that you might need flashing repair or at least an inspection. Damaged flashing can be patched or cemented, but that’s a temporary fix. Your roof might need replacing, but repairing the flashing around your chimney often solves the problem for years.
Leaks around your chimney aren’t always obvious, but they can cause catastrophic structural damage if not repaired. Moisture enters your home and can damage your drywall, wood, ceiling and lighting fixtures – and not just in the attic. Mold and mildew often grow as result of water penetration, and they can further damage your home and generate health risks.
It’s important to hire someone who is professionally skilled in flashing repairs. You want the job done safely and correctly. The best roofing contractors fabricate the right size of metal strips to flash the chimney professionally.
The Flashing Process
The good news for homeowners is that a leaking roof is often caused by failures of the chimney flashing or other areas where the roof meets outdoor connections. Flashing can be repaired without installing a new roof. Cracked flashing is the most common cause of a leaking roof because flashing wears out faster than roofing materials.
A professional roofer will clean your chimney area and remove any existing tar and metal. The roofer will inspect your roof for rot, leaks and damage before making any necessary repairs.
Cracked flashing is common, and your chimney may have shifted over the years. The same holds true for skylights and vent pipes. The most common method of repair is to measure the old metal strips and arrange to cut new strips of the same size. Even experienced roofing experts will take most of a day to install new flashing.
The flashing consists of two metal strips. The base flashing is installed on the roof and bent upwards against the chimney in an “L” shape. The second part is called counter flashing, and it’s used to seal off the top part of the step flashing. That prevents water from penetrating.
Inexperienced or novice roofers don’t usually install properly flashed chimneys because the process involves masonry work. An experienced flashing expert might offer you a choice of aluminum, lead or copper flashing. You should beware of anyone who uses tar alone to flash around your chimney. Tar only lasts 5 years, but an asphalt roof can last 30 years. Aluminum and copper flashing will usually outlast your asphalt.
Why You Should Choose a Professional Roofing Contractor
Roof flashing is an important part of the roofing process, but it’s not always done when inexperienced roofers or amateurs install a roof. Every chimney is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all template for cutting the metal strips for flashing. Storms can damage your chimney, flashing and other parts of your roof, so you should schedule an inspection after a major storm – especially if you observe missing shingles.
A professional can check your roof for leaks, flashing failures and other problems created by improper water flow. Your chimney might be improperly flashed or just sealed with tar. Damaged flashing always grows worse over time as more and more water penetrates. Even a minor leak can soon generate standing pools of water and bigger leaks.
If your roof is covered with wood or asphalt shingles, you could install chimney flashing yourself if you’re good at construction work. However, the problems are increased if your roof is covered by tile or slate. The flashing techniques for these materials are more complicated and should be left to a professional.
Flashing strips need to be measured, cut, bent and fitted to prevent water from getting below the flashing assembly. For all these reasons, the best option is to schedule professional roofing service. Choosing a licensed, bonded and insured roofing professional relieves the worries of accidents, major expenses caused by poor repairs, and the possibility of experiencing a health issue while dozens of feet off the ground.
Flashing Repair Saves Money
Despite the fact that flashing repairs are an unexpected and unwelcome expense, the alternative is bigger repair bills and home safety risks. Water and roof damage can result in major repairs, expenses for mold remediation and safety risks caused by improper venting of dangerous gases.
An annual inspection can deliver peace of mind. Stormy weather can bend and break sheet metal strips used in flashing. Water can also cause metal corrosion, and even the strongest metal will begin to rust over the years. Wild animals can also damage your flashing when trying to get into the chimney. Simple shifting in your home can also throw flashing out of whack.
Keeping on top of your roof’s integrity saves money over the long run. You won’t face a major repair bill and can put off installing a new roof – maybe for as long as you own your home. A weatherproof home uses less energy to heat and cool, so you save on utility bills. Chimney flashing repair is a bargain when you consider all the possible expenses generated by neglect.