What is the Best Underlayment for Roofing?

June 23, 2023

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What is the best underlayment for roofing on your home? If you’re scheduling extensive repairs or new roof installation, it’s vital to consider this question. A roofer might suggest various materials given your budget and roof design. However, it’s often up to the homeowner to make the final decision.

The best underlayment for roofing includes:

  • Felt underlayment is the most affordable but difficult to install. It’s also not very tear-resistant.
  • Rubberized roof membranes offer a watertight seal that prevents ice dams.
  • Synthetic underlayment is more expensive but lightweight and easier to install.

To make the best decision for your home’s new roof, keep reading! Some added information about each choice ensures you’re happy with your roof for years to come. You’ll also know what to discuss with your roofing contractor when they offer their suggestions for underlayment material.

what is the best underlayment for roofing

What Is Roofing Underlayment?

Knowing more about roofing underlayment, including its purpose and roofing installation, is helpful when it’s time to choose a material. First, note that a contractor builds a roof in layers, starting with decking. Thick plywood sheets make up this decking, attached to a home’s framing. Next, your contractor applies underlayment to that decking.

This underlayment provides added waterproofing, weather insulation, and sound insulation. Also, underlayment encourages water to run off the roof rather than puddles between shingles or tiles. This helps prevent ice dams and premature water damage. Shingles or tiles then attach over that underlayment.

What Are the Different Underlayment Materials for Roofing?

There is no “best” underlayment material for roofing, as they each offer pros and cons. They also have varying price points, so of course you’ll need to consider your budget when deciding.

Felt underlayment

Also called felt paper, felt underlayment has been a popular choice with roofers for decades. Polyester and natural plant fibers soaked in bitumen or asphalt make up this material. It’s generally the most affordable of all your options.

However, due to its weight, manufacturers make felt underlayment in shorter rolls than other materials. In turn, it often takes roofers longer to install felt paper. Also, it’s prone to tearing. In turn, your contractors need to install shingles or tiles quickly, to protect felt against damage.

Rubberized underlayment

Peel-and-stick rubberized roofing underlayment applies quickly and easily. The rubber material provides a naturally watertight seal, encouraging water runoff. This prevents ice dams along roof eaves and premature cracks and leaks.

However, some roofers might suggest using rubberized underlayment with another material as rubber isn’t the best insulator. Synthetic or felt helps provide added temperature and sound insulation. Using more than one material provides maximum protection for the roof and interior spaces.

Synthetic underlayment

Synthetic is a popular choice for roof underlayment as it’s lightweight and waterproof. Also, some manufacturers print shingle installation outlines right on the underlayment facing. This makes a roofing project faster and easier on a contractor!

While synthetic isn’t always the cheapest option, its lighter weight allows manufacturers to produce it in larger rolls. In turn, installation is often faster than with felt or rubber underlayment materials. Additionally, contractors don’t need to work as quickly to cover synthetic underlayment as they do felt.

How Do I Choose a Roof Underlayment?

After considering your budget, it’s good to choose a roof underlayment based on the roofing material, climate, and installation.

Roofing materials

  • Felt, rubber, and synthetic are all excellent for asphalt shingles. However, strongly consider rubber underlayment in colder areas where roofs are prone to ice dams. Also, a contractor might install a rubber drip edge along the outer roof areas.
  • Metal contracts and expands when exposed to heat. This process puts added wear and tear on synthetic and felt. In turn, you might choose rubber underlayment for a metal roof.
  • Many contractors recommend heavy-duty felt under a slate or clay tile roof. Thick felt helps support these materials and provides added shock absorption against the decking under them.


Rubber roofing underlayment is excellent for colder climates, as it prevents ice dams. What are these and how do they affect a roof? First, consider that roofs are often warmer near the center and cool around their edges. Second, during winter months, melting snow starts to roll off the roof where it should then end up in gutters.

However, those cool edges can allow water to freeze before it leaves the roof. This ice then creates a “dam,” and blocks water from rolling off the roof. That water sitting on the roof damages shingles or tiles and increases the risk of cracks and resultant leaks.

In turn, a contractor might recommend rubber roof underlayment for colder climates and especially those prone to heavy snowfall. Also, they might recommend a rubber drip edge. This refers to installing rubber underlayment just around the roof’s outer areas. A rubber underlayment around the edges helps prevent those ice dams and protects a roof overall.


Since felt paper is so heavy, manufacturers supply it in shorter rolls, as said. In turn, you can expect more trips up and down the ladder for felt underlayment installation! Roofing contractors often charge more for this added time and effort.

Synthetic underlayment is lighter, so manufacturers usually supply it in longer rolls. However, synthetic underlayment requires special nails for installation, which are usually more expensive. They also require more effort for installation.

Rubber underlayment offers an easier installation process. Many brands offer a peel-and-stick backing, so roofers don’t even need nails or staples. In turn, contractors might charge less for rubber than other materials.

In conclusion, there is no “right or wrong” answer as to the right underlayment material for your home. Consider your budget, climate, and roofing materials when deciding. Your roofing contractor can also offer excellent advice for your property as well.

The Topeka Roofers is happy to help explain the best underlayment for roofing. Hopefully, we’ve offered some great information to consider! You can also call our Topeka roofing contractors if you’re in the market for expert services. We offer FREE quotes for roof repairs and new roof installation. Additionally, we can offer advice on the best underlayment, roofing materials, and more. We also guarantee every project for quality. For more information, contact us today.


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