Understanding Tar Paper: Its Use and Installation Process in Construction

Ever wondered what keeps your home safe from the elements? That’s where tar paper comes into play. It’s a heavy-duty paper used in building construction, primarily to waterproof roofs and walls.

Tar paper, also known as felt paper, is saturated with tar to create a moisture barrier. It’s an unsung hero in the construction industry, offering a first line of defense against water and wind.

So, next time you’re cozy inside while it’s pouring rain outside, remember it’s the tar paper doing its job. Stay tuned as we dive deeper into its uses, benefits, and installation process.

Key Takeaways

  • Tar paper, also known as felt paper, is a crucial material in building construction used primarily for its water and wind-resistance properties. Its base is made from natural or recycled materials that are then saturated in tar to create a robust moisture barrier.
  • The primary uses of tar paper include roof construction, house siding, and under flooring in commercial and industrial buildings. It also serves as a vapor retarder in concrete construction.
  • The various benefits of tar paper are its resilience to water damage, cost-effectiveness compared to other waterproofing materials, and adaptability across a wide range of construction applications.
  • Correct installation of tar paper is essential for maximizing its benefits. The installation process includes attaching the tar paper using staples or nails, sealing all seams with waterproofing tape, and careful attention to overlapping guidelines to ensure complete protection against moisture seepage.
  • Despite its simple, no-frills character, tar paper remains a vital part of construction due to its protective properties against environmental elements, contributing significantly towards the durability and longevity of structures.

Tar paper is widely used in construction as a waterproofing material under roofing and siding, characterized by its ability to protect buildings from moisture and water damage, as The Balance Small Business explains in their guide on roofing materials. Proper installation of tar paper involves layering and overlapping sheets to create a barrier that enhances the durability of the roof structure, a process detailed by Home Depot in their DIY roofing underlayment tutorial. For optimal performance, securing the tar paper with roofing nails and ensuring it lies flat without any wrinkles is crucial, as discussed in This Old House, which provides practical tips and visual demonstrations for homeowners and contractors.

What is Tar Paper?

Diving deeper into the intricacies of building construction, tar paper stands out as a common but often overlooked piece of the puzzle. To put it simply, tar paper, colloquially known as felt paper, is a water-resistant material commonly used to shield structures against harsh elements.

This heavy-duty material plays an advantageous role for structures. Offering far more than its humble appearance suggests, tar paper ensures that your buildings stand strong amidst wet and windy conditions.

Tar paper features a base made from natural materials such as wood cellulose, fiber, or other recycled materials. This layer is then saturated in tar, hence its name, becoming a vital moisture barrier. Acting as a knight in shining armor for your structure, it prevents any water from seeping in or wind from penetrating.

The not-so-secret power of tar paper lies in its simplicity. Its no-frills characteristics mean you won’t find any flashy additives or extra features. But that doesn’t make it any less dependable. When it comes to protecting your structure from the weather, tar paper scores high on the reliability scale.

Ensuring the installation process of tar paper is done correctly can vastly improve the longevity and durability of your structure. Of course, understanding the specifics of this material’s usage, benefits and installation process are the next crucial step to make the most of your tar paper.

Uses of Tar Paper

Now that you’ve got an idea about what tar paper is, let’s dive into how it’s used. You’ll find this versatile material in a variety of applications, all intended to protect your structures and benefit their longevity.

One of the most common uses of tar paper is in roof construction. It serves as a secondary barrier between your roof’s raw materials and nature’s elements. Imagine a windy day with rain pounding against your house. Without a layer of tar paper, water might soak into the wooden structures and cause problems. With tar paper, your roof has got an extra line of defense against leakages.

Tar paper also serves an essential role in the siding of houses. It provides the needed protection against the elements before the final siding is installed. Similar to its use on roofs, the tar paper buffers the home’s raw surfaces from potential weather damage.

It’s not just houses that benefit from tar paper. Commercial and industrial buildings also make use of this durable material. In such structures, it’s often installed beneath the flooring to act as a moisture barrier. This prevents ground moisture from seeping up and causing damage to the floor.

Lastly, tar paper is used in concrete construction. Here, it’s used as a vapor retarder to keep the moisture of the concrete from reaching other building elements. It effectively shields the other areas of the structure, keeping them dry and durable while the concrete sets and dries.

Using tar paper in building construction is no fad. It’s a tried and tested material that’s been providing builders with a cost-effective, reliable solution for generations. Whether it’s on your roof, walls, or beneath your flooring, tar paper is your trusted ally in battling the elements and ensuring the resilience of your structures. Who thought tar would be such a stalwart defender?

The next part of the article explores the correct methods for the installation of tar paper, emphasizing the importance of the process in guaranteeing the functional effectiveness of the product. Stay with us as we delve further into this fascinating topic.

Benefits of Tar Paper

Tar paper has gained significant recognition in the construction industry due to its unmatched benefits. These advantages stem from its primary properties- resilience, cost-effectiveness, and adaptability.

Tar paper demonstrates exceptional resilience against damage due to water. This feature stems from its waterproof nature. Therefore, using it in your construction project will boost the durability of your structure by shielding it from water damage. Especially in soggy and moist climatic conditions, it’s a remarkable solution to ward off dampness and mold issues.

Another benefit is the cost-effectiveness of this material. Compared to other waterproofing materials in the market, tar paper is relatively cheap. You’ll find that it offers a better quality-price ratio, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck. It’s a highly pragmatic choice for builders working on a budget, without compromising on the quality.

The adaptability of tar paper is another strong suit. It can be utilized in a variety of construction operations, such as roofs, siding, and under flooring applications. It’s also an excellent vapor retarder in concrete construction.

Let’s look deeper into these benefits:

Benefits of Tar PaperDescription
Resilience Against DamageExceptional water damage protection due to its waterproof nature
Cost-EffectivenessCheaper compared to other waterproofing materials without compromising on quality
AdaptabilityCan be used in multiple areas of construction like roofs, siding, and under flooring

Demystifying the installation process might help you understand how these benefits are derived. Let’s delve into the correct methods of installing tar paper in the next section.

Installation Process of Tar Paper

Unrolling and attaching the tar paper to your structure is the first step in the installation process. You’ll need the appropriate tools to ensure proper placement and secure attachment. The list of must-have tools includes:

  • Utility knife or scissors for cutting the paper
  • Stapler or hammer tacker for securing the paper in place
  • A straightedge or carpenter’s square for cutting straight lines
  • Safety glasses and gloves to protect yourself during the process

Begin at the bottom of the area you’re covering and work your way up. This method aids in creating an overlap that leads water away from the structure. As you progress with the installation, remember to overlap the edges by at least 4 inches horizontally and 6 inches vertically.

The tar paper should be attached with staples or nails spaced around 6 to 8 inches apart. Keep the staples or nails as close to the center as possible to prevent tearing and to ensure a snug fit against the structure. You might want to use more staples or nails in areas prone to wind damage.

As an extra measure, seal all seams with waterproofing tape. This step is particularly crucial in areas with high moisture or rainfall. Waterproofing tape helps to prevent water seepage into the overlaps by providing a tight seal.

For surfaces that aren’t flat, like round columns or arched features, the process is a bit more complex. Cut small slits in the tar paper to make it easier to fit around curves and corners while maintaining its integrity.

Tar paper can also be used on roofs. The installation process is similar to what’s been described above. However, you’ll need to pay extra attention to the roof’s slope and valleys- these are areas where water will travel and collect. Here, it’s vital to ensure that your overlaps and seals aid in directing water flow off the roof.

Bear in mind that proper installation of tar paper is essential for maximizing its benefits. Proper installation results in increased water resistance, cost savings due to reduced damage, and prolonged lifespan of the structure. Remember, it’s not just the material that makes the difference, it’s how you use it. The installation process may be time-consuming and requires careful consideration, but the long-term benefits are well worth the effort.


So, you’ve learned the ins and outs of tar paper. You’ve discovered how it’s installed, the tools you need, and the importance of starting at the bottom and overlapping. You’ve grasped the significance of using staples or nails, sealing seams, and dealing with non-flat surfaces. You’ve understood the vital role of tar paper in roofs, especially concerning slopes and valleys. Now, you’re aware that correct installation is key to reaping tar paper’s benefits – water resistance, cost savings, and increased structural longevity. Armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to tackle your next construction project with confidence. Remember, it’s not just about installing tar paper. It’s about doing it right.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the purpose of tar paper in construction?

Tar paper is primarily used during construction to enhance water resistance in buildings. It provides an extra layer of protection before the exterior finish is applied, protecting the structure’s interior and increasing longevity.

2. How do I start installing tar paper?

Start the tar paper installation from the bottom and proceed upwards. This method helps in effective water diversion, ensuring that the water runs off without penetrating the structure.

3. What tools are necessary for tar paper installation?

The primary tools necessary for tar paper installation are a utility knife and a stapler. Safety gear is also imperative to ensure protection while handling the tar paper and tools.

4. How important is sealing the seams and correctly attaching the tar paper?

Sealing seams with waterproof tape and correctly attaching tar paper with staples or nails is of utmost importance. It ensures that the structure is entirely watertight, contributing to extended structural health.

5. Any special consideration for installing tar paper on roofs?

When installing tar paper on roofs, focus on slopes and valleys to maximize water drainage. Overlapping at these points is instrumental in ensuring water is directed away from the structure.

6. How does tar paper contribute to cost savings?

By providing enhanced water resistance and protection to the structure, tar paper minimizes potential repair costs for water damage. Thus, it significantly contributes to cost savings.