Is Step Flashing Necessary?

Is Step Flashing Necessary?

Recently I stepped out on a roof at a Client’s home, it was a roof that led up to a wall for another part of the home.

As I got closer to the wall that the roof led up to, something did not feel right under my feet.

I mean, it was not totally squishy or anything like that, but nonetheless something just did not seem correct.

By this, I mean I felt a weakness in the roof underneath my feet.


What started out as a project I was called into to review a problematic area of painting and some minor repairs, led to my recommendation to the Client to have a serious conversation with me about their roof, which, on the surface, did not necessarily appear to be that old.

After investigating the situation further, I determined that the roof was not step flashed properly, was allowing water to leech in under the roof shingles, and has subsequently caused at least a portion of the roof sheathing (the portion of the roof system that the shingles themselves are attached to) to weaken to some degree.

 

The Client had also recently noticed that with certain types of rain storms, the roof appeared to leak into the home in the vicinity of this area.


Step flashing is used to stop water

from getting into walls as it flows down the roof.

Step flashing has been required for asphalt shingled roofs, at places where roofs meet walls, as far back as the 1986 Council of American Building Officials Code Book for One And Two Family Dwellings.

 

 

Step flashing makes sure that any water that makes its way under a shingle, will still end up on the top of the flashing that is on top of the shingle on the next course directly below it.

The water is then allowed to safely drain away without migrating into unwanted places.

Step flashing is basically a series of bent metal pieces that span connections between asphalt roof shingles and adjacent walls.


In the particular case I am referring to here, I could tell that the leaking problem had been an issue in the past, as someone had attempted to neutralize the leak by caulking a piece of clear silicone at the joint where the roof shingles met the wall.


I have seen this many times in the past, in different forms.

I have seen people use silicone,

I have seen them use caulkable black tar,

and almost any other type of caulkable material that

promotes itself as eliminating leaking.

The problem with trying to approach things by this manner, is that no matter how tight the seal appears, it will most likely be compromised in a short period of time after it is done, as the roof and the wall are constantly expanding & contracting with fluctuations in temperature & humidity, and it is only a matter of when, NOT if, somewhere along this caulked seal develops a gap large enough to start allowing water to work its way into the wall.


A correctly step flashed joint

is the only way to go.


If you notice a leak under a place located beneath an area where a portion of your roof meets a wall, my first suggestion would be to question the condition of the step flashing (or perhaps lack of step flashing entirely), more often than not, I guarantee this most likely will be the culprit!

 

-Tom

 


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