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Painting, decorating and home improvement tips blog

Lead flashing

Posted by Adrian
July 24th, 2010

Why not to paint lead flashing

I’ve been working on exterior houses over the past few weeks and I thought I would share this tip with you.

Whilst painting the exterior of a house, many jobs include the painting of the lead flashing, because the paint on the lead has started to peel. Many houses have lead flashing either under the windows or maybe along the roof of a conservatory.
Graphic of lead flashing, a paint kettle and brush

One of the reasons why the paint peels off of lead is because the lead oxidises, this means the lead has a chemical reaction with the oxygen in the air, this lifts the paint and leaves a white powder on the surface of the lead. Another reason for paint peeling is the lead expands and contracts with the heat, this can crack the paint allowing moisture or water in and lifting the paint.

If your lead flashing has been painted it can be a long job cleaning it all off which is why most people re-paint the lead.

If you do repaint the lead, remove all the loose flaky paint and any white powder substance, which is the oxidisation. Next use a flexible undercoat and topcoat, such as Dulux Weathershield undercoat and gloss, I have found this lasts OK, although not forever.

What you should do with lead flashing.

If you have new or unpainted lead please don’t start to paint it! The best solution is not to paint it and to use an oil to treat the lead; this will keep it supple and stop it from cracking.

The best oil’s to use are one of the following, Patination Oil, WD40 or 3in1 oil, all are widely available from hardware shops or builders merchants.

Simply take a cloth, tip some oil onto the cloth and then work it into the lead, you will notice the lead becomes darker as the lead absorbs some of the oil. Continue doing this until you’re happy with the result. Your lead will now look good, be able to breath and be supple to stop it from drying out and cracking.

You will need to re-apply the oil when the lead is starting to look a light grey or just a little bit weathered. If you stick with this method your lead will last for years and you don’t have to worry about paint peeling off it ever!

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Posted in Decorating Tips | 46 Comments »

46 Responses to “Lead flashing”

  1. Tomo Says:

    Great tip thanks, was just about to paint my flashing, didn’t realise you could get the oil. Many Thanks

    Date posted : February 24th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
  2. faye Says:

    Brilliant tips about lead flashing! but my flashing is old and has already been re painted could i use oil? thanks ever so much?

    Date posted : March 29th, 2012 at 12:45 pm
  3. Micko Says:

    I have been painting my lead flashing for forty years or so. Most recently about 3 years ago, and it has lifted and flaked every time. Today I have stripped the flashing, [4 long hard hours], and I have to decide whether to paint or oil ? I am tempted to paint with the flexible paint that is available, as it looks pretty smart when done. As an obvious alternative I might decide to oil the blooming thing and then there will be no more stripping off !

    Date posted : August 13th, 2012 at 12:48 pm
  4. L HObbs Says:

    Very useful – we have inherited 50 year old painted lead (we think!?) so all the tips above are very handy to know.
    Great site Adrian !

    Date posted : November 24th, 2012 at 5:38 pm
  5. orla malone Says:

    Hi I was so glad to see you information re the lead flashing. My house is 7 years old now and is in bad need to be painted we have done all you suggested washed all the gunk off etc. and have the paint picked but what is really bothering me is that the lead around the dormer windows is all yellowing and white stains. I wanted to paint it to match in with the colour of the house but now that i read your stuff I realise that we shouldn’t do this. If I get this oil do you think it will take the yellowing/white colour off the lead or should we rub it down with white spirits or anything. The power hose didn’t remove it when we were washing the roof and walls. Thanks in advance for your reply, you seem to know your stuff 🙂

    ps forgot to mention we are in a coastal area.

    Date posted : May 13th, 2013 at 1:51 pm
  6. Adrian Says:

    It maybe worth trying oil or WD40 first. I’m guessing the yellowish/white is the lead oxidising. Don#t rub the lead down with anything abrasive as this will show, no need for white spirit either, just try rubbing oil into the lead and see what happens.

    Date posted : May 16th, 2013 at 4:28 pm
  7. Alan Says:

    I have to clean up my lead flashing on a bow front window. It is flaking badly.I have a tin of paint.

    Details on tin……..GP / Heat resisting aluminium paint used for metal structures

    I have used it on both metal and wood with success. Would you recommend using this for lead as an undercoat for a black top coat ?
    I last painted the lead some years ago with a black gloss (not hammerite) and its lasted a long time. The lead flashing is original and 30 years old. I like the black finish. I dont know if this paint is supplied in black as it is aluminium based.
    I am prepared to clean up the lead with oil as you suggest as an alternative. I have the paint makers details to contact if necessary. Thank you for your help

    Date posted : August 10th, 2013 at 11:03 pm
  8. Adrian Says:


    As I have no experience with the paint you mention on lead so I cannot say either way. But as you have had success with it in the past it may work for you. It is worth testing a small area of the aluminium paint and then the black paint over the top to ensure these two paint work together and do not react.

    Date posted : August 11th, 2013 at 8:16 am
  9. Stephen Says:

    Hi Adrian

    I hope you can help me. I need to remove what I think is masonry paint from two very large pieces of sheet lead above a bow window and a porch. They look terrible at the moment. I want to restore the original ‘natural’ lead look. I’ve tried a paint remover on a small patch but it just created a gooey mess. Is there a specialised product to remove the existing paint?

    Date posted : April 15th, 2014 at 8:25 am
  10. Adrian Says:


    You could try wire wool or one of those abrasive pads you can use for washing up?
    Don’t use anything too course on it such as sandpaper as it will scratch the lead. I’ve not come across a product that removes paint from lead. You could try Krud Kutter it may work.
    Hope that helps.

    Date posted : April 15th, 2014 at 4:09 pm
  11. Tony Says:

    Hi Adrian maybe you can help, I really need to replace my flashing UNDER my upvc windows as damp is coming into bedroom. do I need to remove the window ? or just the cement and replace with lead free tape I have Please help winters coming!!

    Date posted : September 16th, 2014 at 9:25 am
  12. Adrian Says:


    I’m no expert on lead work but I think the lead flashing would go under the window and then lip up on the inside of the window between the internal sill, to stop water getting blown in under the window, typically when UPVC windows are fitted the lead flashing is left and a bead of silicone is run between the lead and the window sill. Depending on how the lead is now fitted and where the water is getting in will depend if you can solve the problem with silicone sealer or if you have to replace the lead itself.

    If you are replacing with lead flashing, you maybe able to form the new lead and fit under the external sill and then seal between the lead and sill as mentioned above, either with cement, or silicone.

    Date posted : September 20th, 2014 at 4:56 pm
  13. Dave Says:

    We had lead on top of a bay window it was on the house when we bough it so well over 10years, we noticed a stain inside of the bay found several splits in the leading so we have a small leak coming in.
    I have temporary put some silicon on do I need to replace the lead or can it be repaired.

    Date posted : February 2nd, 2015 at 2:09 pm
  14. Adrian Says:


    I’m no roofer but for lead to deteriorate that bad I would imagine it is very old. And I think it would need to be replace with new lead, but you will have to take a roofers advice on that. It maybe able to have a small section removed and replace rather than whole roof?

    Date posted : February 2nd, 2015 at 5:15 pm
  15. Rob Says:

    Thanks for all the helpful advice. We have lead below the sills of new uPVC windows. The render around the windows has been painted cream, the windows itself are white and the lead is black which doesn’t look great. Are there any options to either hide the lead or paint it so it matches the rest of the render? Thanks in advance.

    Date posted : June 2nd, 2015 at 5:00 pm
  16. Adrian Says:


    I prefer natural lead with no paint. Some people paint the lead the same colour as the walls in masonry paint.

    Date posted : June 6th, 2015 at 3:50 pm
  17. Ranjit Says:

    The old lead on our flat conservatory roof had to be replaced as it was cracking very badly over the edges. When the old lead was removed there was a lot of whitish yellow powder that the lead fitter brushed off. Is that material hazardous to health as I am sure some small amounts may have blown into the house through the open windows? The major part was bagged up by the lead fitter and taken away but some small quantity may have rolled into the guttering. What is your advice? Many thanks.

    Date posted : June 6th, 2015 at 10:02 am
  18. Adrian Says:


    I wouldn’t like to sat for sure, best contact your local council and ask advice.

    Date posted : June 12th, 2015 at 3:12 pm
  19. Nicola Says:


    I got an overdoor canopy fitted a couple of weeks back. The lead flashing that has been fitted above this is really putting me off the canopy itself. I feel it is a horrible browny/silvery colour. I would much rather this was a nice even black colour.

    Would using the oil do this or would I be best to paint?

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    Date posted : July 7th, 2015 at 12:38 pm
  20. Adrian Says:


    Using an oil should darken it down and give it a more even colour. If you start to paint it, be prepared to keep painting it as it could in time flake. If you do decide on paint, make sure the paint you use is flexible so it moves with the lead otherwise it won’t last long.

    Date posted : July 7th, 2015 at 3:04 pm
  21. Peter Says:

    I know all the advice is to not paint the lead flashing BUT if I’d prefer to paint it – what about using Dulux smooth weather-shield which is supposed to be flexible.

    Date posted : July 14th, 2015 at 11:54 am
  22. Adrian Says:


    Some people have done this and it has worked, depends on how good your lead is really.

    Date posted : July 16th, 2015 at 3:51 pm
  23. Mo Says:

    my outside paint has gone onto my lead flashing is there any way I can remove please

    Date posted : August 2nd, 2015 at 4:06 pm
  24. Adrian Says:


    A sponge and water, maybe with a slight abrasive pad.

    Date posted : August 2nd, 2015 at 4:19 pm
  25. Mo Says:

    Thank you I will try that

    Date posted : August 4th, 2015 at 9:59 am
  26. Trudy Says:

    Hello Adrian,
    We had an extension built 5years ago and the lead seal lies flush with the window. This means that the rain runs straight down the window. The lead run – off has ruined the window, leaving white streaks on the glass. We were going to paint over the lead to prevent this happening but will applying oil seal the lead as well?

    Date posted : September 27th, 2015 at 7:51 pm
  27. Adrian Says:


    It sounds like the leads natural oxidisation the has run down the window, the paint may flake and come off unless all of the oxidisation is removed. If you oil it this will treat the lead and help keep it supple. Either option will work and both options will require doing from time to time.

    Date posted : October 6th, 2015 at 3:52 pm
  28. Meena Says:

    Hello Adrian

    We have done an insulated rendering on our house and there is underlying lead flashing on the bay window, – the insulation has come out by 90mm, this has created a gap between the bay window roof and the insulation which is cosmetically unattractive. Do you think its a good idea to close the gap fully or just about leave an inch gap for the lead to breath? But later if we need to get to the lead flashing if there is an leak – we are worried we may not be able to reach into the lead flashing as it would be closed off or semi covered. What would be your advise as per the plasterer`s advise is it better to leave the gap open without covering it?

    Date posted : November 15th, 2015 at 6:09 pm
  29. Adrian Says:


    Not my area really so cannot really comment in much detail. But I would think leaving it would be best.

    Date posted : November 19th, 2015 at 2:34 pm
  30. Ian Says:

    Hi I’d like to paint my bay window lead roof what paint can I use please

    Date posted : February 20th, 2016 at 5:15 pm
  31. Adrian Says:


    I’m not keen on painting lead as it never seems to last, so can’t suggest a paint, sorry.

    Date posted : February 24th, 2016 at 4:25 pm
  32. Trina Says:

    Hi Adrian

    I have decorative leadwork under my windows and it looks tarnished and a bit rusty. What can I use to remove this and restore it to its’ former glory?


    Date posted : April 1st, 2016 at 6:42 am
  33. Adrian Says:


    Patination Oil, WD40 or 3in1 oil is good for lead. Should clean it as well as bring it back to life and help protect it.

    Date posted : April 1st, 2016 at 1:43 pm
  34. Pat Says:

    Hi please could you tell me if the lead flashing which looks very bright and silver on our very new bay windows will darken naturally or should we oil it. as at one day old looks too bright as our new Windows are rose wood

    Thank you

    Date posted : April 20th, 2016 at 1:06 am
  35. Adrian Says:


    The lead should dull down in time as it weathers in.

    You could oil it to help keep it supple for longer.

    Date posted : April 20th, 2016 at 3:07 pm
  36. Adi Says:

    Like others – now find =my lead over the front door porch having badly blistered.
    HAve removed most Still some paint left on the edges and flashing onto the brick
    So – Firstly how to get these bits off… what clenaers / methods etc

    once all clean and back to the bare grey lead – what products have you all found successful – so- that one does not have to this every few years

    a mention was alluded to a product that moves with the expanding Lead- anything specific product[s] in the market place now that one would use / have used?

    very much interetsed – as i could not get a professional in too small a job + have to do this every 3- 4 years [ nb front porch gets a heaps of direct sun in summer and full bad weather in winter ! ]

    thanks A

    Date posted : May 8th, 2016 at 1:15 pm
  37. Adrian Says:


    You could try a scouring pad or a light rub over with wire wool. Alternatively a paint remover.
    Lead need to be kept supple to keep it in its best condition, oil, WD40 work well.For paint I have used Weathershield in the past but look for one that is micro porous or breathable and/or flexible as the lead will expand and contract with the fluctuation in temperature. Depending on how much sun exposure for example may determine how much it moves.

    Date posted : May 12th, 2016 at 1:58 pm
  38. Alan Says:

    How do I get rid of scratches on my lead work to my windows

    Date posted : June 18th, 2016 at 4:31 pm
  39. Adrian Says:


    Depends on how deep the scratch is. If it’s only fine then wire wool or a scouring pad may take it out.

    Date posted : June 18th, 2016 at 5:03 pm
  40. Adrian Says:


    Depends on how deep the scratch is. If it’s only fine then wire wool or a scouring pad may take it out.

    Date posted : June 18th, 2016 at 5:03 pm
  41. Janet Says:

    Could you please give me some advice just had new leaded light Windows and they looked all marked the lead that is . Thanks

    Date posted : August 22nd, 2016 at 2:29 pm
  42. Adrian Says:


    Depends on mark really, could try some oil on the lead?

    Date posted : August 22nd, 2016 at 2:52 pm
  43. Christopher Ward Says:

    Stove polish mixed with some boiled linseed oil and is ideal for lead work, whether it’s flashing or lead light windows. For an area of approximately 1m2 mix a thumbs worth of stove polish (solvent based like stovax, not water based) with the same amount of boiled linseed oil and a dash of turpentine. Apply sparingly to freshly cleaned lead (to ensure no build up of oxide) with a cloth and work in. Buff off and leave to dry for 24 hours.

    Date posted : March 22nd, 2018 at 4:21 pm
  44. Keith Says:

    The lead I have on my door entrance and window sills are unpainted. Before I start to Oil, do I have to clean the the lead in preparation for Oil. If so, what is the best way to clean unpainted lead?

    Date posted : July 21st, 2020 at 8:19 am
  45. admin Says:


    You don’t have to clean the lead before applying oil, as this will clean the lead also. However if there is a lot of grime, grease, road dirt etc you can use methylated spirit or similar to clean this dirt off. Then apply the oil.

    Date posted : July 21st, 2020 at 11:12 am
  46. William Says:

    Hi – I’ve just had the lead on my bay window replaced because the previous 1mx2m cracked half way The new roof is 2 sections of 1mx1m. However, the window faces south and so the lead becomes very, very hot. I would like to paint it with solar/heat reflective paint. The job/lead was expensive so I don’t want to have to replace it again. Any thoughts please? Thank you

    Date posted : July 22nd, 2021 at 4:11 pm

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