Can Tar Paper Get Wet? Understanding Moisture Impact on Your Roofing

Wondering if tar paper can get wet? You’re not alone. It’s a common question among homeowners and contractors alike. After all, tar paper, also known as roofing felt, plays a crucial role in roofing systems, acting as a barrier against moisture and wind.

But here’s the deal: while it’s designed to resist moisture, it’s not entirely waterproof. That means if it’s exposed to water for extended periods, it could potentially degrade. But don’t worry, we’ve got the lowdown on what happens when tar paper gets wet, and how you can protect your roof.

Key Takeaways

  • Tar paper, also known as roofing felt, is a heavy-duty material used in roofing systems. It serves as a barrier against moisture and wind, protecting the roof’s wood decking.
  • Although tar paper is designed to resist moisture, constant exposure to water can degrade its quality leading to breakdowns and potential mold and mildew growth.
  • It’s crucial to implement regular inspections of tar paper to detect any damages early. Damaged tar paper no longer provides a reliable moisture barrier, making roof susceptible to water damage.
  • Timely replacements of tar paper are important as the material tends to wear down over time, especially with extended exposure to harsh weather conditions.
  • Having a professional install your tar paper ensures proper sealing and can prevent potential water damage. A properly installed and maintained tar paper enhances roof longevity and overall performance.

While tar paper is water-resistant, it is not entirely waterproof and should ideally be covered by shingles or other roofing materials to prevent moisture penetration, as explained by The Home Depot in their roofing underlayment guide. Prolonged exposure to water can degrade tar paper, potentially leading to leaks and damage over time, a risk that Lowe’s discusses in their underlayment selection advice. To ensure the longevity of tar paper, proper installation and adequate coverage are recommended, with Roofing Calculator offering step-by-step installation tips and the importance of choosing the right type of underlayment for various roofing projects.

What is Tar Paper?

If you’re an avid DIY enthusiast, or a professional in the construction industry, you’re likely familiar with tar paper. But, if you’ve stumbled here while researching roofing materials, allow me to unpack for you. Tar paper, also known as roofing felt, is a heavy-duty paper product saturated with tar to render it resistant to water and wind.

So, you’re probably wondering, how’s tar paper made? Well, it’s a two-step process. Tar paper starts out as an organic paper or fiberglass mat. This base then gets a rich coating of tar, or more technically, bitumen. This coal-tar pitch or asphalt coating provides that black colour you’re accustomed to seeing, and instills water-resistance in the material.

Does tar paper’s name throw you off, making you think it’s just paper and tar? Don’t let it fool you! Despite its name, tar paper is a pretty robust material. It plays a crucial role in roofing and building construction, acting as an extra layer of protection from the elements. Specifically, it prevents water from penetrating your roofing shingles and reaching your roof’s wood decking.

However, it’s essential to note that tar paper’s water-resistance has limitations. Over time, exposure to excess moisture could degrade its quality.

Tar paper may be a simple concept, but its utility in protecting your roof from potential damage is significant. Now, let’s shift gears and dive deeper into what happens when tar paper gets wet – stick with us.

The Role of Tar Paper in Roofing Systems

Dive into the heart of a roofing system and you’re likely to come across tar paper. Also known as roof felt, this critical component provides that much needed layer of protection to keep the integrity of your roof intact. Covered in a bitumen-based substance, it’s the tar paper that ensures your rooftop doesn’t prematurely succumb to wind and water damage.

The primary function of tar paper, as most seasoned professionals will tell you, is to create a barrier. This barrier extends itself across the wooden expanse of your roof decking, preventing the ingress of harmful elements. However, do note that tar paper doesn’t function as an impermeable membrane. Instead, it offers water-resistance, curbing the likelihood of water seeping into your roof system and leading to potential damage.

Why is such a mechanism important in the grand scheme of things? It’s all about roof longevity. Given the high costs associated with roof repairs and replacements, an efficient roof system is paramount to keeping those hefty outlays in check. Tar paper effectively lessens the impact of weather-related wear and degradation, allowing your roof to stand its ground for longer periods.

Relying on the multi-layered structure formed by these overlapping sheets of tar paper, the penetration of rainwater into the roof’s wooden decking is considerably minimized. It’s this replication of shingles’ functioning that endows tar paper with the ability to withstand weather onslaughts.

Nonetheless, let’s not forget that tar paper isn’t invincible. Sure, it aids in shielding your roof from unwanted water incursion, but it’s not immune to eventual wear and degradation, especially when left in constant contact with moisture. In the next section, we’ll delve into understanding this intricate dynamic of tar paper further, bringing to your attention potential issues and troubleshooting tactics.

Can Tar Paper Get Wet?

Yes, tar paper can and does get wet. However, it’s designed to resist water penetration, providing a protective shield for your roof. Remember, roofing systems get subjected to all kinds of weather conditions—all of these can expose your tar paper to moisture.

Interestingly, this doesn’t mean that tar paper can withstand constant exposure to excessive moisture. Even though it’s built rugged and tough, it’s not invincible. Constant exposure to water, especially when pooled, can eventually lead to the breakdown of the tar paper barrier. This can, quite unfortunately, cause some serious problems.

One might ask, “What sort of problems can arise?” Well, when your tar paper gets wet for extended periods without drying properly, it can lead to the growth of mold and mildew. This growth not only endangers the tar paper but also poses risks to the overall integrity of your roof.

Surely, we know what you’re thinking. What can be done to protect your tar paper from water damage?

You’ve got options here:

  1. Regular inspections: Do regular checks on your roof to find out if there are any cracks or holes in the tar paper.
  2. Swift replacements: When you detect an issue, do not wait. Get it fixed or replaced immediately.
  3. Employ a professional: Get a professional roofer to install your tar paper to ensure perfect sealing.

Without these measures put in place, you risk running into some nasty surprises along the line. However, when well maintained, tar paper can keep your roof decking safe from water and moisture damages, enhancing your roof’s longevity and overall performance.

Effects of Water on Tar Paper

Now that you’ve got a handle on the basics of tar paper, let’s dive a bit deeper. You may be asking yourself, “What exactly happens when tar paper gets wet?” and that’s a great question. Constant exposure to water can have profound effects on tar paper over time, which threatens the integrity of your roof.

One of the most notable impacts of prolonged moisture contact is a process known as hydrolysis. This simply means that water, especially when it’s present for extended periods, starts breaking down the compounds in tar paper. The result? A weakened barrier that’s less effective at warding off the outside elements.

However, a weakened barrier may be the least of your worries. Another consequence, and arguably more serious, is the growth of hazardous organisms like mold and mildew. These microorganisms thrive in moist environments and can quickly take hold if your tar paper remains damp.

Moreover, the situation can be exacerbated by certain environmental factors such as high humidity levels and inadequate ventilation. When combined, these conditions create the perfect storm for fungal growth, which can lead to several health risks for those living in the home.

In light of these issues, it becomes even more crucial to engage in regular inspections and necessary replacements. Enlisting the help of a professional for installation and maintenance also ensures that your tar paper is correctly installed, thus reducing the chances of water seepage and subsequent damage.

Despite these risks, tar paper remains a popular choice due to its proven performance and affordable cost. With diligent care and appropriate measures, it’s possible to keep your tar paper and roof in good shape, regardless of the weather.

Remember, protecting your home starts with understanding the materials that make it up. With this knowledge about tar paper, you’re a step closer to maintaining a happy and healthier home.

Protecting Tar Paper from Moisture

Preventing moisture accumulation and water damage is crucial for the longevity of your tar paper roofing. You need to implement several strategies to achieve this goal.

Foremost, regular inspections play a pivotal role in extending the life of your tar paper. This practice can aid in identifying spots that attract more water or are prone to mold growth. It’s also an excellent opportunity to check whether the paper has retained its structural integrity post a heavy rain or snowfall.

When inspecting, look out for any visible damage. Damaged tar paper no longer provides a reliable moisture barrier, leaving your home susceptible to water damage. Spotting these issues early will save you the hassle and expense of dealing with extensive repairs later.

Next, consider timely replacements. Tar paper tends to wear down over time, especially when it’s exposed to harsh weather conditions for long. Depending on the quality and installation of your tar paper, it may require replacement every few years. Staying ahead of these replacements can help you avoid the backbreaking task of dealing with water damage.

Finally, think about professional installation. Even though you might consider yourself a DIY enthusiast, it’s wise to let professionals handle certain tasks. Hiring an expert roofer ensures that your tar paper is installed correctly, preventing any potential water damage.

Remember, each level of protection you add to your existing roofing system, the longer it will serve you. Identify the red flags early, take action, and secure your home.


So, you’ve learned that tar paper can indeed get wet, but it’s not something you want happening regularly. Keeping it dry and well-maintained is crucial for its longevity. Regular inspections help spot potential water-prone areas, while timely replacements stave off water damage. Don’t underestimate the value of professional installation either. It’s an investment that pays off by ensuring optimal protection for your home. By taking these steps, you’re not just protecting your tar paper, you’re safeguarding your home and your wallet from costly water damage repairs. Remember, the key to a long-lasting, water-resistant tar paper roof lies in your hands.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main point of this article?

The article focuses on the importance of maintaining and protecting tar paper roofing from moisture. These measures ensure the durability and longevity of the roofing material, saving homeowners from potential costly repairs due to water damage.

Why should we inspect tar paper roofing regularly?

Regular inspections help identify water-prone areas and potential structural issues. Early detection of these problems allows timely interventions, thereby preventing damage that could escalate into bigger issues.

When is the best time for a tar paper roof replacement?

Timely replacements are crucial when it comes to tar paper roofing. If inspections reveal considerable damage or potential water-prone areas, it’s best to replace it promptly to prevent water damage.

What are the benefits of a professional installation of tar paper roofing?

Professional installation ensures the roofing is installed correctly. Tar paper needs to be placed accurately to offer the best defense against moisture. Professionals have the necessary skills and can tackle complex structures more effectively, ensuring the beauty and safety of your home.

How can homeowners maximize the effectiveness of tar paper?

Homeowners can enhance the effectiveness of tar paper by investing in professional installation, routine inspections, and timely replacements. These steps combined help in significantly increasing the tar paper’s lifespan and its ability to safeguard homes against water damage.