Check for deteriorated or improperly installed pipe flashers

The most common cause for a roof leak is deteriorated plumbing boots, also known as pipe flashers. Plumbing boots flash the exhaust pipes that protrude through the roof. In layman’s terms these pipes allow exhaust from the interior to escape to the exterior. The pipe flasher (or plumbing boot) is in place to keep water from entering the dwelling. The most frequently used pipe flashers are the inexpensive, low-grade plastic type that can be found at most hardware or home improvement stores.

The average life-span for a pipe flasher in the southeastern region is approximately 6-8 years depending on the amount of direct sunlight. The extreme changes in temperature and weather conditions, notably the hot summer months and long days of direct sunshine cause the pipe flasher to have a shorter service life in the southeast. The apparatus is primarily composed of a plastic or metal base with a rubber ring around the top of the boot that slides snugly down over the pipe to keep the water from entering the dwelling. The rubber used in the pipe flasher is sensitive to the UV rays of the sun, combine this with the heat build-up in attic spaces and the pipe flasher tends to dry-rot and prematurely deteriorate.

How do I keep my pipe flashers from causing a roof leak?

Properly functioning pipe flashers are considered a “maintenance” issue, and in some cases the affected interior areas damaged by water leakage are not covered by insurance. We recommend having a professional access the roof to determine the state of your pipe flashers. If the pipe flasher shows cracking, splitting, and/or deterioration to the rubber ring it most beneficial to replace the pipe flasher straightaway. An alternative is to inspect from your attic. During daylight hours (preferably a bright sunny day) locate the pipes exiting through the roof and look up, if daylight is visible then the boot is most likely in need of replacing. Checking the underside of the plywood/OSB decking board for stains is another good indicator of deteriorated flashers.

Be mindful that the insulation in the attic will absorb the leak and leave the homeowner unsuspecting; however, over time and during heavier rains the insulation will not be able to absorb the leaking water.