How to Install Felt Paper on Your Roof


Felt paper is also commonly called tar paper. This paper is a moisture barrier used beneath tin or asphalt shingle roofing. If moisture finds a way to get beneath the main roofing material, the felt paper is the roof's last defense, used to protect the subroof. The job can be completed by one person, but two make the going a lot easier. One person moves the roll of felt paper across the roof, while the other person staples or nails it down. You should apply flashing and drip edges prior to installing the felt paper.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 extension ladders
  • Assistant
  • Staple gun
  • Roofing staples
  • 1-inch by 2-inch furring strips, 8 feet long
  • Hammer
  • Roofing nails
  • Set up the first extension ladder at one corner of the house's lower roof edge. Set up the second ladder 5 feet away from the first ladder.

  • Climb the corner ladder with the roll of felt paper and the stapler while your assistant climbs the second ladder simultaneously.

  • Lay the roll of felt paper vertically on the roof, and unroll it toward your assistant's hands. Have your assistant hold the roll while you align the corner of the felt paper with the corner of the roof's edges. Line up the outside vertical and horizontal edges of the felt paper with the roof beneath. Make sure that the edges of the felt overlap the drip edges flush with the outer roof edge. Staple the felt paper edges every 6 inches, using a staple gun. Hand the staple gun to your assistant and have her staple closer to the roll. The idea is to secure the paper to the roof with the staples and so use as many staples as needed to accomplish this goal.

  • Leave the roll on the roof and climb down the ladders. Move the corner ladder to the other side of the ladder beneath the roll. Climb the ladders and repeat the unrolling and stapling process. Climb down the ladders and grab a 1-inch by 2-inch furring strip that's 8 feet long. Climb back up the ladder with the furring strip, the hammer and the roofing nails. Lay the furring strip horizontally across the felt paper. Place the end of the strip flush with the end edge of the roof and 24 inches above the bottom edge of the roof. Hammer a nail through the strip and into the roof every 12 inches. These strips will provide footings for applying subsequent rolls of felt paper. Repeat the unrolling, stapling and furring strip installation across the entire bottom edge of the roof until you both reach the other end of the roof. Cut off the roll of felt paper at the edge of the roof with a utility knife.

  • Climb up the ladders and onto the previously attached furring strip. Lay the roll vertically and roll it back in the other direction 5 feet. Pull this strip of felt paper down 2 inches over the previously applied strip of paper and staple it down. Work in 5-foot intervals as you unroll and staple. Continue attaching furring strips to allow yourselves to move upward. If you have to start a new roll somewhere in the middle of the roof, just overlap the vertical edge of the new roll, 6 inches over the previously applied vertical edge of the old roll. Double up the felt paper that's laid over the ridge of the roof to be strong enough to underlay the ridges of the roofing.

Tips & Warnings

  • Whenever you come to a valley or ridge in the roof where you don't want to completely cut the paper and start again, simply cut a slit in the top of the paper long enough to allow for the new angle adjustment. Tuck the corners of the cut and keep going.
  • Make sure the furring strips are placed close enough together to make it easy to climb up the roof, or you may fall.
  • Roof over the felt paper as quickly as possible, or wind and rain will rip and wrinkle it.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images hot tar, roofing image by Greg Pickens from new house roofing image by Gale Distler from
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