Flashing is the metal that you can find along the joints and corners of your roof. The typical residential roof isn't entirely watertight but instead uses time-tested design elements to channel water away safely. Flashing helps to protect vulnerable areas so that water cannot find its way beneath the shingles.
Many contractors will reuse flashing when installing a new roof, which can save money, but may lead to premature failures. If you aren't sure about the age of your roof's flashing, then it's critical to inspect it occasionally for problems. These three signs may indicate that your flashing is old, damaged, or otherwise in need of replacement.
1. Difficult-to-Locate Leaks
Many homes suffer from leaks that occur around the flashing. Typical residential flashing methods rely on physics (rather than specialized sealants) to move water away from vulnerable areas. This design is robust and reliable, but it means that improper flashing installation or material failures can quickly allow water to seep into your roof. Once this happens, the water can often find its way into your home.
If your roofing shingles look good and yet you're still suffering from one or more leaks, then you may have an issue with your flashing. Water will follow gravity down the path of least resistance, so leaks won't always appear at their source. Instead, water will usually enter your attic or home at a weak point after traveling under the shingles for some distance.
2. Loose Flashing Panels
Most residential home flashing consists of metal panels attached to roof protrusions. Depending on the complexity of your roof, your installer may have soldered or brazed the panels to create joints. This technique is typically required when bending flashing panels around chimneys, plumbing vents, etc. Installers usually use roofing cement to ensure the flashing remains attached to the roof.
Remember that your flashing is not a waterproof element, however. The purpose of the flashing is to direct water onto the upper roof surface and toward the gutters. If your flashing is loose, it may cause water to run into unprotected areas and leaking. Even if you don't yet have any leaks, loose flashing panels warrant a professional inspection.
3. Damaged Flashing Material
Flashing can also wear out over time, either from exposure to the elements or physical damage. If your flashing panels have visible dents or corrosion, it may affect their ability to move water effectively. Never assume that rust, cracks, holes, or other visible damage to your flashing are not a concern. In many cases, these defects may be allowing small amounts of water to damage your roof.
Your flashing may not be as visible or exciting as your roof surface, but it bears attention and inspection. If you aren't comfortable checking your roof flashing yourself, consider hiring residential roofing services.