Flashing is often the tail that wags the dog in construction.

It typically represents less than half of one percent of the cost of a project. However, flashing is one of the most critical building components for the long-term health of a structure.

In recent years, an array of new flashing products have emerged. Some arise out of value engineering; some attempt to take advantage of modern technologies for easier installation; and yet others appeal to aesthetics.

In the late 1700’s, Thomas Jefferson designed and installed tin underlayment for the roof of Monticello (his home) as well as the Rotunda building at Center College (now University of Virginia). As President, he insisted on a similar design for the Capitol Building. This product is widely recognized as the first form of flashing.

See the Monticello Website for more information.

Modern multi-story construction designs arrived in the late 1800’s, most famously from the Chicago School. Cavity walls were introduced, substantially reducing water infiltration into buildings. Parapet walls became code requirements to ward against urban fires spreading from one building to another. Given these changes in design standards, flashing became a necessity.

History of roofing and metal flashing

Mason applying mortar atop Cheney’s Dovetail Flashing

Cheney Flashing was founded in 1928, at a time when buildings were notorious for water infiltration issues. Allan Cheney (the company’s founder) invented a solution – Sawtooth sheet metal flashing, which prevented moisture from penetrating structural walls.

Within a few years, Cheney’s rigid, Sawtooth flashing was being used by architects around the United States. In 1932, the Empire State building in New York City was constructed using Sawtooth flashing, making Cheney Flashing’s products staples in the construction industry.

History of Roofing and Metal Coping

Mason’s laying coping stones atop Cheney Dovetail coping flashing

Empire State Building Construction History Materials

Cheney’s Dovetail flashing installation at the Empire State Building

Empire State Building Construction History

Coping stone being laid atop Cheney’s Dovetail flashing at the Empire State Building