What is Roof Flashing and Why is it Necessary?

What is Roof Flashing and Why is it Necessary?

Your roof is a well engineered piece of construction. Particularly when you’ve opted for a tiled roof, there’s more that goes into making it safe and secure than simply nailing the material to the structure. There are underlying elements that contribute to the efficacy of the whole. One of the key components in contemporary roofing is flashing. 

If you’re starting your own roofing project or planning extensive repairs, this is likely to form part of your consideration. Understandably, you want to keep your expenditure down on any work and may be considering where you can reduce the use of any materials you don’t absolutely need. Flashing is certainly not an area you can afford to skimp on in this regard. 

Let’s take a closer look at what roof flashing is and why it is a necessary part of your home construction. 

What is Roof Flashing? 

Roof flashing is a metal component that is designed to direct water away from the surface of the roof. In its most common usage, it takes the form of flat panels that are usually made from galvanized steel. It doesn’t matter what material your roof is made from, most buildings need some form of flashing to prevent leaks and damage from standing water. 

Some homeowners are concerned that standard flashing won’t fit the aesthetic of their property. This can particularly be the case with more contemporary homes or those with specific design features. But you can also get flashing made from more attractive metals. Copper is an increasingly popular option as it is attractive, malleable, and tends to last for a long time.

Flashing can come in a variety of forms, too. These include: 

  • Apron Flashing

Sometimes known as continuous flashing, this is where the section of flashing comes in the form of a single piece of material. This doesn’t mean that your contractor will use one piece of flashing to cover the whole roof. That wouldn’t be practical and it has limited ability to expand and contract along with the rest of the house. Usually, you’ll find this is used to cover just the peak points of the roof slope.  

  • Step Flashing

Many homes today have more complex architecture than a regular box-shaped building. There are often vertical surfaces combined with the slopes — this could be chimneys, skylights, decorative features, and even upper stories. Step flashing is a metal panel that is bent at a 90-degree angle in the center, so it can fit below the roof material and affix securely to the vertical feature. 

  • Kickout Flashing

As with step flashing, if you have a roof that is attached to a vertical structure, it will need some more specialist consideration. For instance, at a roof-wall intersection, there is a tendency for water at the intersection to run straight off the roof and run down the wall rather than head to the gutter. Kickout flashing — which is also known as diverter flashing — directs the running water away from the intersection and into the gutter.

Why Do You Need Flashing? 

The need for flashing really comes down to how roofing is designed. Aside from the various architectural elements that make a home look attractive, the way roofing material is positioned plays a key role in making it an effective feature. Whether you’re using tiles, shingle, or metal roofing panels, the overlapping approach to installation makes for a well-engineered approach to ensuring rainwater channels down toward the gutters. 

However, as efficient as this process is, there are points at which this rainwater can gather, putting the home at risk of damp damage and leakages. Usually these will be the flat points of a roof — the bottom of chimney stacks, roof-wall intersections, skylights, and window dormers among them. If your roof has various valleys due to the complexity of its design, these can also converge places in which rainwater can settle and cause damage. 

As such, it is necessary to include an efficient and simple way to direct the rainwater away from these areas. Roof flashing can be easily attached and manipulated at these points to encourage the effective onward flow of water back toward the next roofing slope. This allows it to move directly toward the gutter and into the drain. 

There are few types of roof that don’t need flashing in some capacity. But it’s also important to note that it can have a significant lifespan. If you’ve recently had a quote for repair or replacement of your roof and the contractor isn’t replacing the flashing, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re cutting corners. It’s just that flashing often outlasts the lifespan of a roof. That said, remember that flashing is an essential element of your home that will protect you from further issues down the line — it’s important to have it inspected annually. 

How is Flashing Fitted? 

The approach to installing roof flashing really depends on the type of flashing project being undertaken. As a protective element at key points of vulnerability on your roof, it’s vital that flashing is installed by a professional. This is particularly the case when you need to replace damaged flashing and the roofing material has to be removed and replaced in the correct positioning. 

In most cases, the fitting of flashing on the roof aspect of your home is relatively consistent. The material is cut to fit the shape and area it needs to cover. Your contractor will then fold or manipulate the flashing to fit the aspect of the roof it is protecting — if there are several angles of features involved, this may include further cutting to fit the flashing around the form of these features. The flashing will then be nailed to the structure. If there are overlapping pieces of flashing required, a sealant will need to be applied between the overlapping layers. The tiles or shingle will then be layered on top of this.

Wrapping Up

Roof flashing is one of the most important aspects of your roof. It functions as a way to direct rainwater from areas of your roof that would otherwise be vulnerable to leaks and other water damage. As such, there are very few types of roof that don’t require flashing in some form. While it may seem simple enough to fit this material, positioning and effective sealing is everything — an error can lead to extensive damage to your home. It’s wise to always seek professional assistance to make certain your flashing is both effective and long-lasting.

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