Know Your Scrim and Sheets

Considering that the last fifty years could be arguably called the “age of plastics,” it is not surprising that polymers have found a niche in residential roofing.

Between the quality level of the traditional asphalt-saturated organic felt and that of premium modified bitumen underlayment, there is room for a mid-grade quality in the form of synthetic underlayment. The “synthetic underlayment” product category is capturing market share from conventional felt as well as the premium self-adhering underlayments. These thin sheets of plastic can be used beneath shingle, tile or metal, where their light weight feature results in major labor savings for roofing contractors.

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Engineered Polymers

Since the sixties, “engineered polymers” have become a cornerstone of modern technology. “Synthetic underlayment” is made from polymers that are engineered and optimized for use as roofing underlayment.

The polymer is only the beginning. It is typically procured from a company that specializes in the production of engineered polymers. Engineered polymers are then delivered to the underlayment factory in the form of plastic pellets, which are fabricated into synthetic underlayment products.

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When Only the Best Will Do

Premium underlayment products are especially attractive to contractors who install metal roofing, tile roofing and premium asphalt shingles (also known as designer or architectural shingles). For these roofing systems, there is an expectation that the primary roof may last for many decades.

For residential roofing, Tarco developed no less than twelve types of premium underlayment products for various applications as outlined in its Quick Reference Product Guide. This new category of underlayment is now well established among residential roofing contractors.

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The Rise of Mod Bits

The emergence of specialty underlayment for residential roofing applications developed over many years. Various modified bitumens were developed in Europe in the 1960s and eventually manufactured in the United States in the 1980s. Ray Johnson details this progress in his article, "History and Development of Modified Bitumen."

Initially, modified bitumen membranes were intended for commercial roofing systems but, by the turn of the century, premium underlayment products made from modified bitumen were offered to residential roofing contractors.

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The Drivers of Change

For many decades, asphalt-saturated organic felts went unchallenged as the underlayment material for residential roofing, despite having several weakness and drawbacks. These include not performing well as a secondary water barrier, being prone to degradation from UV exposure, easily tearing and an inability to be left exposed for long periods after installation.

Luckily, in the past twenty years, two completely new categories of roofing underlayments entered the steep-slope roofing marketplace, namely mod bits and synthetics. So what are the factors driving this change? Along with the issues of traditional asphalt-saturated felt, many industry and economic drivers have favored the introduction of new underlayment categories.

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Quick Reference Product Guide

Custom Printing


Every roof is a billboard with our custom printing program! Get our LeakBarrier EasyLay UDL Synthetic Roofing Underlayments custom printed with your company logo, phone number, website – whatever you want to promote your business! Custom printing is available for: EasyLay UDL 15, EasyLay UDL Basic & EasyLay UDL 50.

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