PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology

PATH Case Study

Faster, Safer Construction--and Durability, Too


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[IMAGE: The Hearthstone crew had few problems--and no injuries--installing the roof covering, even with five different levels of roofing.]


"Now, that cost difference--$5 for 100 feet versus $14.50 for 100 feet--may seem significant, but it only adds a few hundred dollars more to the average roof. That's before you add in other potential savings, such as additional material costs if the felt tears or gets damaged during windy and wet weather. Regular felt will require repair or replacement. That is not the case with synthetic underlayment. And down the road, when the homeowner might need to replace shingles, it's possible that they won't need to redo the underlayment. Lastly--but of great importance to our customers--you have to consider the cleanup costs with felt on timber frame and log homes," Leonard says.

"There is even more impetus to use the synthetic roof underlayment on our homes because during construction, the logs and timber are exposed to the elements. The timbers are more susceptible to staining before they dry, and regular black felt can leave a black water stain, requiring a whole additional cleaning job. But you don't have to worry about that with Tri-Flex, which can be used as temporary roofing for up to six months."


"The strong shield that the synthetic underlayment puts on the roof translates into a lot of benefits to the builder," says Leonard. In addition to protecting the quality of the home, synthetic underlayment is a lot lighter, so it takes a smaller crew to install it. It only takes one worker to lift a 1,000-square-foot roll of synthetic, which weighs about the same as a felt roll of only 300-square-feet. The weight and ease of working with it cuts some time and money off the whole process."

[IMAGE: Hearthstone Homes encourages homebuyers to upgrade to the underlayment for various reasons, but particularly because black felt paper can stain exposed logs and timbers and require an expensive cleaning process.] "The nice thing is that installing synthetic roof underlayment is really the same as installing felt. You use the same overlap patterns and the same nailing pattern, so there is no training involved. In fact, it goes up a little bit quicker than felt, because it's not as slick and workers can stand on it more easily. If you have some dew outside, you don't have to wait until the sun comes out to dry up all water for the roof to be safe to work on. In the end, it saves time and helps prevent injuries from workers slipping and falling. We probably have about one injury a year on the felt. Considering that, the synthetic roofing underlayment pays for itself pretty quickly."

"The final result is a product that benefits both the builder and the homebuyer. There are a lot of reasons to use it that certainly justify the minimal extra expense."


Synthetic roof underlayments mimic the attributes of housewraps, serving as a secondary weather barrier with better resistance to tearing, moisture, and ultraviolet rays than traditional roofing felt.

Synthetic underlayments typically weigh less than felt building paper, can be manufactured with an anti-slip surface, and can withstand exposure to the elements for six months.

After hurricanes ravaged the South in 2005, many homes required quick roof repair and "drying in" to minimize further damage due to water intrusion. With limited resources, contractors triaged homes, repairing the critical components and installing synthetic underlayments as temporary roofing. The underlayments performed better than the blue tarps handed out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In addition, the underlayment didn't require replacement when a roofing crew eventually arrived to install shingles.

Two manufacturers, Elk and Grace, offer a Class A or B fire-rated synthetic underlayment.


This project included the following PATH-profiled technologies:

[IMAGE: Hearthstone Homes encourages homebuyers to upgrade to the underlayment for various reasons, but particularly because black felt paper can stain exposed logs and timbers and require an expensive cleaning process.]

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Content updated on 9/25/2006

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