Technical Papers

Welcome to the Brave New World of Synthetic Underlayment

Friday, June 30th, 2017 by Joe Boettcher

Metal roofs in a city

One of the most important parts of any roofing system is the layer of protective material beneath the shingles, known as the underlayment. For many years, if you asked any roofing contractor what material they preferred for their underlayment, the answer would almost always be the same: asphalt saturated felt. But now things are changing. Many roofers are starting to stray away from standard felt underlayment and are using new synthetic options instead. The reasons for this are manifold. Welcome to the brave new world of synthetic underlayment:

The Incredible Lightness of Roofing

We begin our journey through this amazing new world by looking at one of the most remarkable things about synthetic underlayment: its weight. As you might imagine, since felt underlayment is traditionally made of asphalt, rolls of it are usually pretty weighty and require a good amount of manpower and time for installation. Synthetic underlayment, on the other hand, is ultra-thin and weighs about the same as paper, which translates to much faster and more efficient installation.

Lone Survivor

Another great thing about synthetic underlayment is its remarkable self-sufficiency. One of the drawbacks of felt underlayment is that it can't remain exposed on your roof for too long without being damaged. On the other hand, because it consists of materials that are UV-proof and water resistant, synthetic underlayment can be left exposed for days on end without being harmed in the slightest. Roofing jobs that require a multi-day period for completion can especially benefit from synthetic underlayment's self-sufficient longevity. It also helps to ensure that, should a shingle blow off or crack, the roof won't miss a beat until it's repaired.

Things Don't Fall Apart

Here's the crazy thing about synthetic underlayment: although it is much thinner than standard felt, it is much more durable than its counterpart because of its design. Synthetic underlayment paper was woven together so that, try as you might, you cannot rip it. And unlike standard felt, which often begins to crumble and fall apart after only a few years, synthetic underlayment was created to hold together for the long haul. It won't harden or crack in the cold or overheat in the hot sun, and it can take on moisture without getting moldy. 

Wide Open Rolls

Synthetic underlayment comes in longer and wider rolls than felt underlayment, meaning it takes fewer rolls of synthetic underlayment to cover an entire roof than it would with rolls of felt. Not only does this save on installation time, but it also improves the roof's ability to keep water out, since fewer rows of underlayment mean fewer vulnerable seams for water to penetrate. And anything that makes it harder for water to get to the roofing deck is a good thing!

Safety First

Roofers love synthetic underlayment for many reasons, one of the most prominent reasons being how much safer it is to walk on than felt. Because of its unique texture, synthetic underlayment grips work boots and can do so in both dry and wet conditions. The same is not true for standard felt, whose grip can be neutralized by a passing shower. Obviously, the safer option is always the better option for roofers and homeowners alike. The last thing anyone wants is for an accident to occur and a liability dispute to arise.

Here's Looking at You, Roof

Even though underlayment lays under the shingles, it still plays a crucial roll in the exterior appearance of your roof. If it doesn't lay flat, underlayment can make your shingles look wrinkled and uneven. This problem can arise in traditional felt if the material begins to wrinkle from exposure to moisture. Synthetic underlayment doesn't have this issue. It lays flatter than standard felt and won't morph with the elements, leaving the exterior of your roof to look impeccable for many years to come.

The Only Caveat: Price

As you read this article, you may be thinking to yourself, synthetic underlayment sounds amazing! Why would anyone still want to roof with felt? The answer is simple: money. Although great strides have been made to make synthetic underlayment more affordable, traditional felt remains the more cost-effective option. Still, it might be worth it for you to spend a little bit more up front because of the lasting quality you'll get back in the long run. Keep in mind that the money you spend on your roof is a crucial investment, and short term savings should not outrank long term peace of mind.

Looking for a licensed roofing contractor in the Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin region? Give My-Pros a call at 1-815-957-0770 or click here to schedule a free estimate.

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