They both have advantages and disadvantages. Here’s how it breaks down:
Pro - Lead, shown above, is the time-tested standard roof boot. It is easily malleable to wrap over the top of a vent pipe.
Con - Lead is considered an environmental hazard and can have negative health effects if handled or disposed of improperly. It is not that attractive. Also, squirrels love to chew on lead boots, with an example shown below, which causes a roof leak at the vent pipe. Although poisonous, lead has a sweet taste that they apparently find attractive.
It is possible to wrap the lead boots in a coarse screening or there are sleeves designed to slide over the boot to protect it.
Pro - About half the price of lead, neater look. The rubber snugs around the pipe, and does not attract squirrels.
Con - Eventually the rubber loosens around the vent pipe and leaks. A pipe clamp around the contact area with the pipe helps but the sun deteriates the rubber.
THE OTHER ALTERNATIVE
There are multiple brands of TPO, plastic, and silicone boots that adjust to the roof slope, waterproof the top of the vent pipe, come in a choice of colors, and are quite handsome. Just more expensive. Here’s two examples below of the “Perma-Boot” brand, the left one is a boot replacement and right one slips over an existing boot.
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To learn more about roofs and attics, see these other blog posts:
• How do I minimize roof penetrations?
• 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.