Whether you’re planning a DIY project, researching for a home renovation, or simply curious about this unsung hero of roof construction, you’re in the right place. Roofing felt often takes a backseat in conversations about roofing materials, but it plays a critical role in keeping your home cozy and leak-free. From what roofing felt actually is, to when and where to use it, its cost, and even alternatives—you’ll find all the answers right here.
Welcome to your go-to guide on roofing felt!
What is Roofing Felt?
Roofing felt is basically a layer of protection that goes between your roof deck and the shingles. Think of it like a protective blanket for your roof. Its main job is to act as a barrier against moisture, so you don’t end up with leaks and water damage.
Most of the time, roofing felt is made from either natural fibers like wood cellulose or synthetic ones like polyester or fiberglass. These fibers get soaked in asphalt to make them water-resistant. So, it’s tough stuff designed to take on the elements!
Pros Vs Cons of Roofing Felt
Advantage of Roofing Felt
The number one pro is extra protection. Roofing felt acts as a safety net, catching any water that might get past the shingles so it doesn’t ruin your roof deck.
Easy to Install
Generally speaking, it’s pretty straightforward to roll out and staple down, making it DIY-friendly for the most part.
Compared to other underlayment options, roofing felt is often more budget-friendly. It’s a cost-effective way to add an extra layer of defense against the elements.
Improved Work Surface
Roofing felt creates a smoother, more even surface for shingles to lie on, helping the finished roof look better and last longer.
Cons of Roofing Felt
Not Always Enough
While it’s water-resistant, it’s not 100% waterproof. In really wet climates or conditions, you might need something more robust.
Roofing felt doesn’t last as long as some of the synthetic underlayments out there. You may find yourself replacing it sooner.
Bulk and Weight
It adds another layer of material to your roof, which means extra weight. For most homes, this isn’t an issue, but it could be for older structures.
Susceptible to Damage
Whether you’re walking on it during installation or a branch falls on your roof, roofing felt can tear more easily than some other options, requiring repairs.
Is Roofing Felt Necessary?
The short answer is: it depends. Building codes in some areas may require it, and many roofing manufacturers recommend it for the added layer of protection against moisture. Plus, it can improve the lifespan of your shingles by creating a smoother work surface.
So, while it’s often a good idea to include roofing felt in your plans, it’s not a universal must-have. Make sure to check local codes and consult with roofing professionals to make the best choice for your specific situation.
But is it absolutely essential? Technically, no. There are alternative underlayment’s like synthetic options that can offer even better protection. And in some reroofing situations, you might find the existing underlayment is good enough to skip the felt.
Is Roof Felt Breathable?
Traditional roofing felt is generally not breathable. It’s designed to be a moisture barrier, blocking water from getting to the roof deck below. While it does a pretty solid job at that, it doesn’t allow for much airflow or moisture to escape from within the attic or the roof structure.
Is Roofing Felt a Vapor Barrier?
Roofing felt is generally considered a water-resistant barrier, not a vapor barrier. It’s designed to temporarily trap water that might get under your shingles, giving it time to evaporate or drain away. However, it’s not made to completely block the passage of water vapor between the inside and outside of your home.
Can I Use Roofing Felt as House Wrap?
Roof Felt primary job is to act as a moisture barrier up there. It’s usually asphalt-saturated, making it water-resistant but not necessarily breathable. However, House Wrap is designed to be breathable, allowing moisture vapor to escape from inside your home, while still blocking water and air from getting in.
Can You Staple Roof Felt?
Yes, you can absolutely staple roofing felt. In fact, stapling is one of the most common methods for attaching it to your roof deck. However, a couple of things to keep in mind:
Don’t go staple-crazy! Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for how far apart the staples should be. Too few, and the felt might not stay put. Too many, and you’re just creating extra holes for no reason.
If you’re working in a windy area, you might want to consider using cap staples, which offer better resistance against the wind lifting up the edges of the felt.
Alternatives to Staples
Nails with plastic caps are another option, offering even better wind resistance and holding power than staples, although they’re usually a bit more of a hassle to install.
10 Best Alternatives to Felt roofing
Felt roofing, often used for flat or low-slope roofs, is a common but not the only option available. Here are some alternative roofing materials and systems that you can consider:
- Modified Bitumen
- Metal Roofing
- Asphalt Shingles
- Liquid Roofing
- Green Roofing
- Spray Foam Roofing
- Fiberglass Roofing
- Slate or Tile Roofing
- Solar Roofing
- Silicone Roof Coating
A blend of asphalt and rubber or plastic polymers that offers improved durability and water resistance compared to traditional felt roofing.
Lightweight and extremely durable, metal roofing systems can be more expensive but are also more durable.
Not typically used for flat roofs, but they are an option for low-slope applications. These are made of fiberglass base topped with asphalt and mineral granules.
This involves the application of a cold, liquid coating to a prepared roof surface. Once cured, it forms a rubber-like membrane capable of stretching and returning to its original shape.
Also known as “living roofs,” these involve the installation of soil and vegetation over a waterproof membrane. This option is eco-friendly and helps to manage storm water, but it is also complex and expensive to install and maintain.
Spray Foam Roofing
Polyurethane foam can be sprayed directly onto the roof where it expands and forms a solid, waterproof layer.
Comprises multiple layers of fiberglass mats and resin to form a hard, waterproof surface. It’s relatively lightweight and quite strong.
Slate or Tile Roofing
Generally not suitable for flat or low-slope roofs due to weight and drainage considerations but may be an option depending on the specific architecture.
Solar panels or photovoltaic materials can sometimes be integrated directly into the roofing system, offering energy efficiency as well as protection from the elements.
Silicone Roof Coating
This is often used as a topcoat for existing roofing systems and is known for its excellent weathering characteristics and leak prevention.
Each type of roofing material has its pros and cons, including variations in cost, durability, maintenance requirements, and suitability for your particular climate or building type.
Remember, while roofing felt might not be the star of the show when it comes to your home’s structure, it’s a darn important supporting character. It gives you that extra layer of protection and can extend the life of your roof, all without breaking the bank.
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