Pros And Cons Of Synthetic Underlayment (2024 Update)

May 22nd, 2024 BY First American Roofing

The roof over our heads is our first line of defense against the elements, and the underlayment beneath a home’s shingles is the unsung hero that provides an extra layer of protection. In recent years, synthetic underlayment has emerged as a game-changer in the roofing industry, offering homeowners and roofing professionals an alternative to traditional felt paper. Yet, like any building material, it comes with pros and cons that every homeowner should consider.

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In this guide, we’ll explore the contemporary landscape of synthetic underlayment, including its advancements, environmental impact, and how these materials stack up against their traditional counterparts. Whether you’re gearing up for a major roof revamp, or just curious to learn more about your home’s essential components, the detailed breakdowns below will equip you with the knowledge you need.

What is Synthetic Underlayment?

Synthetic underlayment is a modern alternative to the traditional felt paper underlayment commonly used in roofing. It is a high-tech, advanced material made of polypropylene or similar polymers, offering strength, durability, and superior water resistance. Although synthetic underlayment has a somewhat higher upfront cost, the benefits can often outweigh the initial investment.

In contrast to felt paper, synthetic underlayment does not absorb water and is therefore not susceptible to warping or wrinkling. It also resists UV rays better, which can be critical during the construction phase when a roof is being built over a long period, or in cases where a home might go without shingles for a period of time.

The Pros of Synthetic Underlayment

Synthetic underlayment comes with a host of benefits that are worth considering for your next roofing project.

Enhanced Durability and Weather Resistance

The primary advantage of synthetic underlayment is its exceptional durability. It offers strong weather resistance, with some products rated to withstand three to six months of UV exposure before the shingles are laid. This can be crucial in regions prone to heavy storms, where the building process might be prolonged. Furthermore, synthetic underlayment is less likely to tear during installation or under the stress of a roof walker during regular maintenance.

Lightweight and Easier To Handle

Compared to traditional felt papers, synthetic underlayment is much lighter and easier to handle. This not only makes it simpler for the crew to install without needing as much reinforcement on the roof deck, but it also decreases the likelihood of injury due to handling dense materials.

Superior Protection Against Moisture and Mold

Synthetic underlayment does not absorb water, a feature that significantly reduces the risk of mold growth. Mold can be a serious problem for roof structures, leading to health hazards and necessitating costly repairs. The moisture-resistant nature of synthetic underlayment ensures that it will not lose its integrity or functionality.

Longer Lifespan Compared To Traditional Underlayment

Synthetic underlayment generally boasts a longer lifespan than felt paper. While this can vary depending on the specific product and manufacturer, many synthetic options can last the lifetime of the shingles. This longevity can reduce long-term maintenance costs and the frequency of roof overhauls.

a roof top view

The Cons of Synthetic Underlayment

Of course, synthetic underlayment has its drawbacks too, which should be considered alongside the benefits. Here are some of its cons:

Higher Initial Cost

One of the biggest deterrents for homeowners considering synthetic underlayment is its higher upfront cost. Synthetic underlayment can be two to four times more expensive per square foot than traditional felt paper. While the long-term savings are evident, the initial outlay may not be feasible for every budget.

Potential for Slipping During Installation

Roofing is a dangerous job, and the propensity of synthetic underlayment to be more slippery than traditional felt paper can be a safety concern. While proper installation practices and training can mitigate this risk, it’s an important factor to take into account, particularly if the installation crew is not well-versed in handling synthetic materials.

Environmental Concerns Related to Disposal

The eco-friendliness of synthetic underlayment’s production, as well as the disposal of the material at the end of its life, is under scrutiny. Some materials contain non-biodegradable elements that can contribute to landfill waste. It’s essential for homeowners to inquire about recycling options or disposal methods that are in line with environmental stewardship.

The 2024 Update

With advancements in technology, synthetic underlayment continues to evolve, addressing previous cons and enhancing existing pros. Here are some of its new features:

Advanced Skid Resistance

Newer synthetic underlayment products now come with enhanced skid-resistant coatings. This feature reduces slippage during installation, providing a safer work environment for roofers and improving overall installation efficiency.

Environmentally Friendly Options

Manufacturers have started to produce synthetic underlayment that is more eco-friendly. Some companies now offer products with components that can degrade naturally over time, making them a more sustainable option for the environmentally conscious homeowner.

Cost Reduction Through Lifespan Increase

The overall cost of synthetic underlayment is being minimized by its improved lifespan. As product durability increases, the need for more frequent underlayment replacements diminishes, resulting in long-term cost savings that can balance out the initial higher cost of installation.

We’re Roofing Contractors You Can Trust

In the rapidly evolving world of roofing materials, staying informed is key. We hope this detailed exploration of synthetic underlayment has helped you as a homeowner gain a comprehensive understanding of this vital roofing component. Whether you’re looking to initiate a project or upgrade your home knowledge, the information above is a valuable resource.

Considering the significant role a roof plays in safeguarding your home, it’s worth investing in quality materials and professional installation. After all, what’s beneath the shingles is just as important as the shingles themselves. If you’re ready to take the next step in your roofing project, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at First American Roofing. We’re here to ensure that you make the best choices for your home and your family’s safety.

a worker is working on a roof