Posts on Flat Roofs causes leaks. What to look for and how to solve the problem
Post and Railings on roofs make up for most leaks
Most roof leaks are caused by inadequate flashing on a post. This is one of the most common areas where a leak starts. Watch this video to see what to do.
Click here to see “How to find leaks and make Flat Roof Repairs”
A Schematic diagram of a post on a roof
When wooden posts are used for railing, it is best to go with pressure treated 4 x 4 posts. These post should be fastened to the rafters with bolts and nuts. Normally a carpenter is best suited for this job. Roofing contractors normally don’t want to deal with the installation of post and railings. Once the 4 x 4 posts are in place and the plywood deck is installed, then a roofing contractor can install the flashing around the post and install the rest of the roof.
Installing a roof is costly, by not installing the posts correctly will cause leaks later on and that will mean a possible roof replacement. Do not cut corners when it comes to posts and railings, this could be the difference in maintenance free or a very expensive proposition later on.
A post has 4 sections
- Post cap
- 4 x 4 Post
- Sleeve or jacket
Many times a contractor will only install a 4 x 4 post without the sleeve. The flashing is exposed and water can find its way down the 4 x 4 post behind the flashing. Often times a contractor will caulk between the post and flashing. The caulking is never a permanent fix.
Besides post, other areas can also cause leaks. Check this page out to find out where to look and how to make roof repairs
Once railings have been installed without a sleeve around the post, it becomes much harder to fix the problem. because of caulking and paint that seals the 4 x 4 post, it could be years before the problem is noticed. A post leak can go undetected for many years, but the beams and plywood around the post will eventually rot.
Post covered with sleeve and cap.
Anytime post and railings are installed, a sleeve should always be installed first to make the posts leak proof.
Metal posts and railings have to be dealt with differently with. Some metal railings are welded to the post that makes for a rigid structure. In that case, the metal post will stand loose on top of the roofing membrane and will not need any flashing. There are cases where the metal posts had a flange at the bottom to be able to screw the post to the roof. This is not always very desirable. Special care must be taken to seal the screws that went through the roof.
Roof with Post and Railings
In the image, you see a roof with railings. Over the years they had numerous leaks and they could never pinpoint where it was coming from. This was the most inexpensive type of railing to install, everything from 2 x 4’s. Being the most inexpensive post and railing, it ended up being very costly. The roof had to be replaced, the post had to be removed and new post and railings had to be installed.
A closer view of the post flashing area.
You will notice that paint and caulking was covering the flashing at the bottom. The caulking and paint had to be reapplied every several years to keep a tight seal around the flashing.
Another image of the post flashing
The same thing can be seen here. There is no sleeve around the post to protect the flashing. What kept most of the water from leaking in, was the paint and caulk. Most of the time, a leak does not show up on the inside of the house but rather it gets soaked in the insulation and plywood decking. The plywood will eventually leak.
Copper flashing was visible after removing the paint
The reason why these posts were not leaking very much was that the flashing around the posts was cut into the post. The fact that the copper flashing was bent into the post made a big difference and lasted a long time before it started to leak.
Portico roof damaged
look at the roofline of this portico. It has sagged in the middle. This post has been leaking for a long time and caused the beam to rot. Damage like this is very costly and could have been avoided was the post flashing properly done.
Damaged Portico roof due to Railing Post leak
Because of a small detail that was overlooked, this entire portico roof has to be rebuilt. The leak around the railing post was not detected until it was too late. It took several years of water leaking into the substructure and the joists to rot.
Another example of a 4 x 4 post that didn’t have a sleeve
These railing post can be leaking for many years before actual damage can be detected. These posts were caulked at the flashing and painted black. The paint helped to seal the 4 x 4 post not to absorb moistly.
A 4 x 4 Post without a sleeve and post cap
The 4 x 4 post had to flash at the bottom that was caulked to seal it from water getting in. Then the rest of the post painted to prevent it from soaking water every time it rained. This post several other posts did finally leaked and caused extensive damage to the structure.
Structural damage to joist and ceiling due to P4 x 4 post leaking
This is the result of a railing post leaking. This took many years before it was detected, but then it was too late. Repairing the damage was far more costly than what it would have cost if the posts were covered with sleeve and post cap.
Step by Step example of how a post and sleeve should work
Copper flashing for a post
Copper flashing that is specially made to fit around a 4 x 4 post
4 x 4 Post is the most common
Most of the time a pressure treated 4 x4 posts are used for railing. The copper flashing can be bought or made on site.
Installing a 4 x 4 post
This is just an example of a 4 x 4 post. When properly installed, the 4 x 4 post must be fastened to the joists.
Inserting a sleeve over the post
After the copper flashing and 4 x 4 post, but before the railing is installed, the sleeve is inserted over the post.
Post cap installed over the post
Once the flashing, 4 x 4 post, and the sleeve is installed, a post cap must be installed to complete the process.
No copper flashing on post
After we removed the post cap and sleeve, we found that there was no flashing. That is a rare thing to see.