A roof boot is also called a plumbing vent boot, pipe boot, or pipe flashing. It is a preformed flashing installed to waterproof pipe penetrations of a roof, like plumbing vent pipes and electrical service mast pipes. The most common type is made from lead, a flexible metal that makes it easy to adjust the base to the roof pitch and bend the top of the boot into the pipe end for a rainproof seal. A lead roof boot is shown below, before and after installation on a shingle roof.
The only problem with lead roof boots is that squirrels love to chew them up. Lead, although poisonous, tastes sweet and that may be the attraction. When the lead gets eaten away at the top of the pipe, you’ve got a roof leak; usually not enough to stain the ceiling below, but it will stain the surrounding sheathing and may cause an area of rot around it. Here’s a couple of pictures of typical damage, with the right one munched all the the down to the shingles. Below that are two ways that the lead boots can be protected. The homemade wire-mesh enclosure is easy, but a manufactured sleeve that slips over the boot looks better.
There are also boots made with a rubber sleeve that slides over the pipe and snugs to it, as shown below at left on a metal roof. We recommend using a pipe clamp at the top because the rubber eventually loosens and fails (as in the right photo) and the clamp will extend the life of the boot.
And there are “retro-fit” versions of this type of boot specifically made for electric service masts. They are designed with a closable seam to fit around roof pipe penetrations where it is not possible to slide the boot down from the top. We occasionally see a lead boot used for a service mast, like in the photo below, but it is not rated for that use, and will always leak within a few months after the caulk at the top fails.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
To learn more about roofs and attics, see these other blog posts:
• Why is my roof sheathing sagging between the trusses?
• Why is granule loss a problem for an asphalt shingle roof?
• What are the mistakes to avoid when doing attic improvements?
• What causes roof shingles to curl up at corners?
• What causes shingles to buckle along a line on the roof?
• What causes leaks at a fake roof dormer?
• What causes a sagging roof ridge line?
• What causes bubble-like blisters in a built-up and gravel roof?
• Why does it cost so much more to replace a steep roof than a low slope roof?
• What is "ponding" on a flat roof?
• Is an attic required to have a light by the building code?
• How can I inspect my roof for hurricane damage?
• Why is premature curl of roof shingles a problem?
• How can I tell if a roof has more than one layer of shingles?
• What are the common problems with attic insulation?
• What is the life expectancy of an asbestos cement shingle roof?
• What's the average lifespan of a roof?
• Why is it a mistake to replace a roof and not replace its flashings?
• Why is there no attic access hatch in the house?
• What is the building code requirement for an attic access hatch, scuttle, or door?
• Does a roof with multiple layers of shingles last longer?
• What can I do to prevent roof leaks?
• Are roof trusses better than roof rafters (stick framing)?
• Why is a popped nail in a shingle roof a problem? How do I fix it?
• What are the most common problems with wood roof trusses?
• What causes a lump or dip in the roof?
• If my roof is not leaking, why does it need to be replaced?
• How can I be sure my roofing contractor got a permit?
• How many layers of roofing are allowed on a home?
• What are the dark lines running parallel to shingles on my roof?
• Can metal roofing be used on a low slope/pitch roof?
• How can I make my roof last longer?
• What are the warning signs of a dangerous attic pull-down ladder?
• How can I find out the age of a roof?
• Should I buy a house that needs a new roof?
• Should I buy a house with an old roof?
• What are those metal boxes on the roof?
• What does "lack of tab adhesion" in an asphalt shingle roof mean?
• Why do roof edges start leaking?
• Why do my dormer windows leak?
• Do home inspectors go on the roof? Do they get in the attic?
• Should I put gutters on the house?
• How much of a roof truss can I cut out to make a storage platform in the attic?
• What's the difference between an "architectural" and a regular shingle roof?
• What does a home inspector look for when examining a roof?
• Do stains on the ceiling mean the roof is leaking?
• How can I tell if the house needs a new roof?
• Why does my homeowner's insurance want a roof inspection?
• What are the hazards to avoid when going into an attic?
Visit our ROOF AND ATTIC page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.