Do I need tar paper under my shingles?

No Felt Do I need tar paper under my asphalt shingles? was asked this question a while back by a woman and this question comes up very often. So this will be todays blog subject. It seems this lady’s house was recently purchased and after the first few rains of  the winter came, the owner developed a leak near a chimney. The owner called the roofer that did the certification and he said after an inspection, “it needed a chimney flashing and was not covered under his warranty” and suggested a sheet metal man come out and install a completely new flashing. So the new home owner hired another roofer to get a second opinion. As you can see to the right upper photo, the chimney appears to not have a lower saddle {Chimney  Flashing } but what is concerning to second contractor was the lack of any tar paper under the shingles. So, the question was asked. I have seen roofers lay the asphalt shingles directly to the wood deck. I  personally always used a tar paper or under-layment with an asphalt shingle roofing system. To me it just seems a bit shady not to because of it’s great value to the roofing system. I guess the best questions to ask are – What does your building department require? What does the shingle manufacture require to maintain a factory warranty? To the left is an example of tar paper completely covering the roof deck prior to GAF Timberline shingle installation. Tar Paper Climate Zones will have a lot to do with a contractor using under-layment or not. In heavy snow zones you need some type of under-layment be it Tar Paper, Felt or Synthetic, and even ice shield to protect against Ice Dams. Under-layments simply provides several benefits when used. They can be used to weather-in a roof for a temporary roof covering, while the roof is being installed. No FeltIf there is a problem that comes up with the asphalt shingles, then having the under-layment as a last stand is very comforting to a home-owner. High winds can cause wind driven rain to seek out entry into the attic and having this added protection can avoid damaging moisture intrusion. Over the years even the resins from the wood can have a negative effect on the asphalt. Divorcing the two materials with tar paper resolves this issue.  Most important to me, as a contractor it is required by the manufactures to have felt to have a factory warranty. The cost of using tar paper vs not using tar paper under your shingles is not that much for an average house, and well worth your money.

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About author

Bob 270 posts

Since 2005 Bob has been answering questions, free of charge, here at With a strong background in residential roofing and provides a practical and simple answers to hundreds of roof related questions, so it is easy to understand the issues you may have with your roof. Our answers are free so feel free to ask what you want. Use the green question box to contact myself or I have spent ten years as a union shingler, seventeen years as a California licensed roofing contractor with a general contractor endorsement and since Feb. of 2005 a roofing consultant. If I don't know the answer to your question, I will point you in the right direction.

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  1. Julieness
    October 10, 14:45 Reply
    Thank you for the information. It's very kind of you to take your time to make this page available to the general public... A little sexist in the beginning, noting that a woman had bought a house and had a problem. .. lol. I'm a woman and I lay tile. I drywall, build car motors, scuba, drag race. .. I am a tomboy... no mind I'm a woman.... lol. This will help me when I debate with a friend of mine when we go roof one of my rental houses today... I am right. .. lol... Thanks again!
  2. KDOG
    October 16, 00:35 Reply
    My roofer here in Ontario says no felt paper that it is actually hurting the plywood vs helping. Lots of controversy on this one for sure. My roofer has told me that he sees more damage done from felt paper than good.
    • Bob
      October 16, 02:59 Reply
      What does your roofer say about underlayment being required by the shingle manufactures?
  3. Alex
    April 15, 18:07 Reply
    I've been told that the underlayment helps prevent the wood underneath from absorbing the oil from the shingles. Without it, the shingles will become dry and brittle in 1/3 the time as those with the underlayment.
  4. Cyndi :-) :-) :-)
    October 10, 07:35 Reply
    I have a small area (10ft X 15ft) that needs shingles installed. I don't want to waste money on buying a huge amount of paper knowing that I only need a little amount. I'm not concerned about the "looks" since it is only a simple & small area that needs done. My question is, what would you do? Cyndi, If this was my roof I would purchase one roll of #30 felt if the roof is 4/12 or greater. It doesn't cost that much and why risk not using a key component to the roofing system? One roll covers two squares. You have 1.5 squares. Bob

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