While cleaning out my gutters recently, I made a discovery on my roof. The boot (A.K.A. Angle Flashing, Pipe Collar) around our plumbing stack has cracked allowing water to leak into our attic. Cracked plumbing boots are one of the most common issues I observe while inspecting homes. The reality is that if your roof was installed 10-15+ years ago, your plumbing boot probably needs to be replaced.
When explaining any problem that has to do with the roof, people’s reactions are often wide eyes. It’s hard to think about the roof without considering it as the most expensive routine repair on your home. That being said, a repair like replacing the plumbing boot can be unbelievably cheap and quick. As long as you have the confidence to get onto the roof and a few tools, for less than $10 this is a DIY project you can feel real pride in completing.
What you will need.
Flat Pry Bar
New Plumbing Angle Flashing $5-10
Roofing Nails $2-5
Roof Cement $2-5
As you can see the price of the required materials can be as little as $10, making this one of the most affordable repairs you can do on your home. And since it is one of the most called out things on home inspections I strongly suggest you consider testing your skills if you are selling in the near future. If you’re not selling, I still suggest you fix the boot if it is cracked. Any water leaking in your home is a real problem, no matter how small the leak may be.
Step One: Loosen the shingles
In order to complete this process, you will need to remove nails from two rows of shingles. This requires you to loosen the bottom of the row from the next row down. When shingles are installed they have a glue line across the bottom edge. When the roof heats up this bonds with the next row down ensuring the shingles will not pull up in wind. This is a simple process completed by using the flat pry bar to scrape along the edge.
While I am quite certain you will be surprised at how easy each of these steps are to actually perform, it is still advisable to take your time. Since it is likely the roof you are performing this repair on is several years old it can be very easy to damage a shingle. Treat shingles gently and carefully. In the event that a shingle is damaged in an area water will come in contact with, replace the shingle with a new one.
You will need to free the layer of shingles in line with the boot and the row directly above the boot. Once you can easily pull up the bottom edge of the shingle you can move on to the next step.
Step 2: Remove the Nails/ Staples
The reason it is necessary to free two rows is that each shingle should have 8 nails in it. 4 nails
along just under the edge of the upper row of shingles. Then the nails used in the same place on that upper row of shingles should also be through the top edge of the current row. This ensures each shingle is properly secured to the row above it and below it. Start out with the row in line with the boot. It is often easiest to slide the pry bar under that shingle and lightly push up. Once you get the nail loosened you can pull the pry bar out and grab onto just the nail. Carefully go over it to make sure you have all the nails. Once you have the nails from that row repeat the process on the upper row. You will know you have gotten them all when the shingle in line with the boot moves easily. The final step is to remove any nails from the boot itself using the same technique. There is no fear of damaging the boot so this can be somewhat easier.
Step 3: Remove the Boot
Sometimes the boot will easily spin off. Other times you will need to get the row of shingles in
line with the boot out first. Tread carefully with this step to ensure no shingles get damaged. Regardless of which you take first I often find it easiest when installing the new boot to pull the shingle out and then install over the new boot. Once you have the boot up clean the area underneath and you are ready to install.
While I know I did not do this here, I should have installed a piece of water/ ice shield under the new boot. Simply take a sheet of shield and cut a hole to tightly fit around the plumbing vent. Then trim the sides so that the shield will not show from under the boot or shingles. Remove the backing and stick to the roof/ shingles. This is another quick addition which effectively gives you a second layer of protection.
Step 4: Install the New Boot
My plumbing vent is a 4-inch pipe. Common flashing sizes are either 1, 2 or 3-inch all in one or
what I used which accommodates a 3 or 4-inch pipe. For the 4-inch pipe you simply pull at the tab or begin with a small cut made with a knife. From there, the inside collar pulls clean off. Carefully stretch the new boot over the vent and slide down. It can be easier to get under the upper row of shingles if you turn the boot sideways and rotate under. Before reinstalling the shingle remember to put two nails along the top edge of the boot. Once the boot is in place carefully slide the shingle you removed under the upper row. Using the knife trim around the new boot if the existing cut out does not fit. For me I had to trim a small section off the top so the shingle could sit properly.
Step 5: Re-secure the shingles
Once everything is back in place you simply need to secure it all again. As stated earlier, each shingle should have 8 nails holding it in place. 4 directly into the shingle and 4 through the row above that also go through the next row down. It is important to resist placing nails too high up as they will miss the shingle below. Place them in line with the nails you removed. Do not reuse nail holes. Move over and inch and install the new nails to ensure they don’t pop back out. Carefully lift the next row to gain access to the area. Once again, be careful to not hit the shingle with the hammer. Roof nails are often very easy to pound in so go slow and gentle. Once you have all the nails in place, the last step is to re-secure the edges. If you are using new shingles they will already have a glue tab in place. If using existing shingles the glue tab was already used so you must run a line of roofing cement along the edge. Use the glue line already there as a place marker or simply run right above the nails. The sun and heat will help to secure the shingles once again. Roofing cement is often a rubber/ oil product. Use great caution while using, as it is very hard to remove even from your hands. Don’t wear your best clothes and consider wearing gloves. A small line is all that’s needed to lock the shingles down so don’t go overboard.
For less time then it will take you to call and get several quotes, meet contractors and get one to perform the job you can finish this repair yourself. The best part being, you will likely spend far less than 10% of what you would with a professional and your results will be no less water proof. Whether buying, selling or simply maintaining I hope this has helped you to feel comfortable making this simple and important repair on your own.