What Is The Best Roofing Underlayment? (2023 Guide)

Typical Price Range To Install a new Roof
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A roof is a vital part of any home. It protects everything underneath it against rain, snow, ice, wind, and other elements.

And while roof underlayment may not be necessary, it definitely helps because it provides extra protection.

But it’s important to know the best roof underlayment, as well as the average cost, benefits of underlayment, and average lifespan. 

Average Roof Underlayment Cost

The average total cost of installing roof underlayment depends on the type you opt for.

There are three common roof underlayment types: felt, synthetic, and rubberized. 

Felt Roof Underlayment

Felt roof underlayment, also called asphalt-saturated felt underlayment, is the most popular type.

It resembles tar paper but instead uses asphalt as the waterproofing ingredient.

Felt roof underlayment has been used for decades to provide additional moisture protection and insulation and is the most affordable option.

This roof underlayment type comes in with No. 15 (15 pounds per 100 square feet) and No. 30 (30 pounds per 100 square feet) weights.

If you’re installing roof underlayment on a garage or a shed, it’s best to use the lighter version. On the other hand, if you want to add extra protection to your home, No. 30 felt is the most suitable option. 

While felt roof underlayment is affordable, it’s vital to be aware of its potential drawbacks.

First, this roof underlayment type is heavy, so lifting it onto a roof can be challenging.

Second, the felt underlayment isn’t very resistant to tearing, so you need to install shingles as soon as possible to prevent physical damage due to the elements. 

Did you know? Although it’s the most popular type, felt underlayment provides the least protection compared to the other two types of roof underlayment. 

The average total cost of installing felt roof underlayment is around $360-$397 for 100 square feet. This means that you’ll need to pay between $3.60 and $3.97 per square foot.

Keep in mind that this price includes materials and installation. 

Rubberized Roof Underlayment

Rubberized roof underlayment has superior waterproofing properties and is ideal for leak-prone areas like vents, chimneys, and skylights.

This roof underlayment type is made of rubber polymers and asphalt.

Keep in mind that the exact composition varies depending on the manufacturer. Thanks to this, rubberized roof underlayment can offer additional features like sound absorption or fiberglass reinforcement. 

Many homeowners and contractors love rubberized roof underlayment because if a part of it gets damaged, it can be patched without difficulty.

Rubberized underlayment is also known as self-adhering because it features an adhesive backing that sticks to the roof deck. These backings form a waterproof barrier between the deck and the underlayment and prevent moisture from penetrating.

Due to the unique composition of rubberized roof underlayment, it can expand and contract without breaking or cracking. Therefore, this self-adhering underlayment is ideal for those living in areas with extreme weather conditions

As far as the drawbacks go, the most significant one is the high price. Out of the three roof underlayment types, rubberized is the most expensive.

However, many homeowners are willing to look past the price because of the enhanced efficiency and durability.

You can expect the total average cost to range between $494 and $561 per 100 square feet. The average price per square foot is $4.94-$5.61

Synthetic Roof Underlayment

Synthetic roof underlayment has become very popular in the last few years.

This underlayment is composed of lightweight sheets of spun or woven synthetic fibers (polypropylene or polyethylene).

These weather-resistant sheets act as a durable and sturdy barrier, making it quite an easy application.

Moreover, synthetic roof underlayment often features nailing or shingle patterns printed on its face, making the entire installation process much easier. 

Did you know? Since synthetic underlayment is lightweight, the manufacturers can make bigger rolls. This roof underlayment type is more expensive than felt but provides more protection. Plus, the synthetic sheets are durable, so you don’t have to rush to cover them with shingles. 

The average cost of installing synthetic roof underlayment ranges between $430 and $472 per 100 square feet. The price per square foot is $4.30-$4.72

Average Roof Costs For:
Most Homeowners Spent Between: Most People Spent: $4,190 - $5,740 (For a 1600 sq. ft. Roof)
Low End
High End

See costs in your area Start Here - Enter Your Zip Code

Roof Underlayment Cost Breakdown 

When discussing the cost of installing roof underlayment, it’s vital to consider numerous factors like the underlayment type, installation, roof type, location, etc.

It’s worth mentioning that the materials for roof underlayment are often more affordable than the installation costs. Therefore, many homeowners decide to install the underlayment themselves to save money.

However, this isn’t the best solution since an improperly installed roof underlayment can damage the roof structure and the entire home

When it comes to felt roof underlayment, you can expect to pay around $157-$166 for materials and $203-$231 for installation for 100 square feet. If we’re talking about the price per square foot, materials will cost you around $1.57-$1.66 per sq. ft., while the installation amounts to $2.03-$2.31 per sq. ft. 

As mentioned, rubberized roof underlayment is the most expensive option, and 100 square feet of materials cost between $211 and $237, while the installation is $283-$324. The average price per square foot is $2.11-$2.37 per sq. ft. for the materials and $2.83-$3.24 per sq. ft. for the installation. 

Finally, if you want to install synthetic roof underlayment, you should know that 100 square feet of materials cost roughly $181-$201. The installation costs for 100 square feet are approximately $249-$271.

The price per square foot ranges between $1.81 and $2.01 for the materials and $2.49-$2.71 for the installation. 

Average Costs of Installing Roof Underlayment per 100 Square Feet Materials Installation Total Cost
Felt $157-$166 $203-$231 $360-$397
Rubberized $211-$237 $283-$324 $494-$561
Synthetic $181-$201 $249-$271 $430-$472

Importance of Quality Underlayment For Your Roof

Roofing underlayment

I mention DeckArmor above, because in my opinion it is the best synthetic underlayment available on the market, based on quality and price.

Compared to FELT underlayment, price per square foot of deck armor is $0.202 vs $0.079 for felt or about 4 times more expensive. In reality it’s even less, because you have 60% more overlaps with felt, thus the actual coverage is much less.

However, since most roofs are about 1600 sq. ft., 2 rolls should be enough for a typical house. In the grand scheme of things, Deck Armor will cost only$249 more. However, it is hands down a much better WATERPROOFING product, so it is very much worth it!

What To Consider When Choosing Roofing Underlayment

You should consider various factors when selecting the best roof underlayment: 
Roof Type 
Certain roofing materials may require a specific type of roof underlayment. Therefore, you shouldn’t base your purchase solely on your preferences.

Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines to establish which roof underlayment would work best for your roof type. 

For example, if you have asphalt shingles, you could use any roof underlayment type.

Homeowners who want metal roofs should know that the panels expand and contract depending on the temperature. Therefore, metal roofs can wear out felt or synthetic roof underlayment. Rubberized underlayment is the best solution for metal roofs.

Typical Price Range To Install a Metal Roof Average: $9,150 - $14,310
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When it comes to tile or slate roofs, many manufacturers agree that the traditional 30-pound felt roof underlayment is the ideal option. 
Not all roof underlayment types perform well in extreme temperatures. Hence, the area you live in often dictates the roof underlayment type you should get.

For example, if you live in a cold or very hot climate, consider getting rubberized roof underlayment due to its flexibility.

Those who live in milder climates could go either with synthetic or felt underlayment, although the former is the better option. 

If you live in fire-prone areas, always look for underlayment with Class A certification. Of course, pair the underlayment with other roofing materials and fire-resistant shingles. 
The process varies depending on the roof underlayment type you choose.

Out of the three types, synthetic roof underlayment is the easiest to install.

Synthetic underlayment is lightweight and comes in larger rolls, meaning you can do less work and get more coverage.

However, installing synthetic roof underlayment requires capped nails, and applying them requires effort. Naturally, this adds to the installation price. 

Felt underlayment is heavy and comes in smaller rolls.

This means the contractor needs to make more trips up and down the ladder to set it up.

Besides being heavy, felt can rip easily, which could increase the risk of injuries. 

Rubberized roof underlayment can be a pain to install because of its weight.

Although this underlayment type doesn’t require staples or nails, it’s still not suitable for DIY-ers. Namely, the tacky butyl can become almost impossible to separate once it sticks to itself, which could cause a mess and disrupt the installation process. 

Pro Tip: Paying a professional to install roof underlayment may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it’s definitely worth it. Professionals can guarantee exceptional results, durability, and efficiency. 

Typical Price Range To Install A New Roof Average: $4,190 - $6,740
See costs in your area

Best Overall Roof Underlayment

Many homeowners and contractors state the best roof underlayment overall is GAF FeltBuster synthetic roofing felt.

Although its name may make you think it’s felt, this underlayment is 100% synthetic.

GAF FeltBuster synthetic roofing felt can withstand extreme weather conditions strongly enough and allow easy installation due to its lightweight. 

The underlayment comes in rolls of 250 feet x 4 feet, meaning you get a coverage of 1,000 square feet.

Plus, the material is rated Class A, meaning it’s fire-resistant.

GAF FeltBuster also features a nailing pattern, so placing nails isn’t a problem. 

The main disadvantage is its higher price, but many homeowners don’t mind paying extra for high quality. 

Best Bang For The Buck

If you’re looking for the best value for money, the Grip-Rite ShingleLayment-15 GRE roofing underlayment is an excellent option.

It’s perfect for every homeowner who wants to protect their property without spending much money.

This synthetic roof underlayment consists of polypropylene, which provides extra strength and durability. It comes in rolls measuring 250 x 4 feet and features a nailing pattern. 

The potential drawback of this underlayment is that it’s not rated as a fire-resistant underlayment

Upgrade Your Roof Underlayment

Those who want ultimate protection and an underlayment suitable for a DIY installation should choose the GCP Grace Ice & Water Shield HT roof underlayment.

This is a rubberized underlayment with an application process featuring peel-and-stick.

It creates a watertight seal without fasteners. The underlayment has a fire rating of Class A and is sold in rolls measuring 75 x 3 feet. 

Due to its composition, this underlayment can handle extremely high temperatures without cracking or warping.

GCP Grace Ice & Water Shield HT is also suitable for all types of roofing materials

Best Felt Roof Underlayment

One of the best felt roof underlayments is the Warrior Roofing 30W roofing felt.

This 30-pound underlayment features sturdy, thick felt soaked in asphalt for superior strength and resistance.

It’s sold in rolls that measure 72 x 3 feet, providing exceptional coverage.

One of the best things about this underlayment is its versatility. Homeowners can use it for slate, shingle, or tile roofs.

Thanks to the Class A rating, the underlayment is suitable for fire-prone areas. 

Even though the cost per roll is low, felt underlayment isn’t as efficient as synthetic or rubberized underlayment. That’s why the last two turn out to be more affordable in the long run. 

Average Roof Costs For:
Most Homeowners Spent Between: Most People Spent: $4,190 - $5,740 (For a 1600 sq. ft. Roof)
Low End
High End

See costs in your area Start Here - Enter Your Zip Code

Best Rubberized Underlayment
When it comes to the rubberized underlayment, it’s hard to beat the GCP Grace Ice & Water Shield.

This underlayment attaches to the decking directly and creates a highly-efficient strong seal that felt and synthetic underlayment can’t match.

GCP Grace Ice & Water Shield is sold in rolls of 75 x 3 feet and features a Class A rating.

While it can be used for any roof type, this rubberized underlayment will perform best with metal roofs that expand and contract depending on the temperature. 

One of the most significant disadvantages is the high price. 
Best Synthetic Underlayment
If you’re looking for the best synthetic underlayment, look no further than the Owens Corning ProArmor synthetic roof underlayment.

It’s made of highly durable polypropylene material that is strong enough to resist stretching and ripping.

Although it’s exceptionally strong, this underlayment is lightweight, so carrying it up and down the ladder isn’t a problem. 

The underlayment is suitable for metal and asphalt roofs and features a Class A fire rating

Other Roof Underlayments To Consider

When purchasing underlayment, homeowners should also consider the GAF WeatherWatch Ice & Water roof underlayment, especially for problem areas like skylights and valleys. Of course, the underlayment could be installed on the entire roof. 

It’s sold in rolls measuring 50 x 3 feet and features a rubberized backing with a peel-and-stick split-back release film.

The face contains fiberglass and minerals that guarantee easy application and durability

One of the underlayment’s potential flaws is that it’s less flexible than other synthetic underlayments due to its high mineral content. 

Typical Price Range To Install A New Roof Average: $4,190 - $6,740
See costs in your area

Which Roofing Underlayment Should You Choose?

Since every roof is different, it’s hard to say one underlayment is universally the best.

Nowadays, there’s a wide range of underlayment options, and homeowners can find the one that suits their preferences, needs, and budget without difficulty.

However, just because a particular underlayment worked for someone you know doesn’t mean it will work for you, too.

Pro Tip: If you’re not sure which underlayment is the best for your roof type, consult an expert. 

Benefits Of Underlayment For A Roof

Here are the most important benefits of roof underlayment: 

  • Creating an even, uniform surface for installing shingles
  • Added fire safety
  • Protection against elements 
  • Energy efficiency
  • Leak protection 
  • Roof deck protection 
  • Peace of mind 

Who Makes The Best Roof Underlayment?

Some of the best roof underlayment manufacturers are GAF, GCP, Owens Corning, Grip-Rite, and Warrior Roofing. 

Do Roof Shingles Need An Underlayment?

Technically, underlayment isn’t essential for roof shingles.

However, it’s become common because it offers extra protection at an excellent price.

Plus, some municipalities have local building codes that require underlayment installation. 

What Is The Best Underlayment For A Shingle Roof?

If you have a shingle roof, you can use any underlayment type.

Remember that each type has its advantages and drawbacks, so explore your options before making a decision. 

What Is The Right Underlayment For A Tile Roof?

Many manufacturers and contractors agree the best underlayment for a tile roof is heavy-duty felt underlayment.

Best Roof Underlayment For Metal Roof

Since metal roofs expand and contract, they require a flexible underlayment.

That’s why the best choice is rubberized roof underlayment that can handle expansion and contraction without difficulty. 

Typical Price Range To Install a Metal Roof Average: $9,150 - $14,310
See costs in your area

What Is The Best Underlayment For A Standing Seam Roof?

Synthetic or rubberized underlayment is a great choice for standing seam roofs. 

Best Roof Underlayment DIY

Installing roof underlayment may seem easy.

However, improper installation could lead to a damaged roof structure and leaks.

Therefore, inexperienced homeowners should leave the installation to professionals.

Of course, if you have the skills, experience, and tools, you can DIY the process. 

Best Waterproof Roof Underlayment

Many agree that synthetic underlayment offers the best waterproof properties because it creates a watertight seal. 

Roof Underlayment From Lowe’s

Lowe’s offers a wide range of roof underlayment products suitable for different roof types and weather conditions.

At Lowe’s, you can find manufacturers like APOC, Warrior Roofing, Grip-Rite, Owens Corning, Danco, etc. 

How Is Roof Underlayment Installed?

The exact installation process depends on the product.

In most cases, underlayment is rolled parallel to the roof’s peak, starting at the lowest point. Subsequent courses overlap each other on the way up.

Some roof underlayment types require nails or staples, while others feature self-adhesive backing. 

How Long Does Roof Underlayment Last?

Typically, roof underlayment can last 12-20 years before it shows signs of damage.

High-quality underlayment can last over 30 years. 

Did you know? High-quality installation can significantly extend the lifespan of your roof underlayment. 

How Long Can Roof Underlayment Be Exposed?

The answer depends on the roof underlayment type.

For example, felt underlayment should be covered as soon as possible, but homeowners could get away with leaving it uncovered in warm weather for a few days.

Synthetic and rubberized underlayment can be exposed for up to 90 days. Still, the sooner you cover it, the better. 

Protect Your Roof

If you want to enjoy exceptional protection against the elements, you shouldn’t hesitate to install roof underlayment.

A high-quality underlayment will enhance your home’s energy efficiency, guarantee a smooth visual appearance, and minimize the risk of leaks.

Be sure to choose an underlayment that best suits your roof type and weather conditions in your area.

Average Roof Costs For:
Most Homeowners Spent Between: Most People Spent: $4,190 - $5,740 (For a 1600 sq. ft. Roof)
Low End
High End

See costs in your area Start Here - Enter Your Zip Code

Author: Leo B
For over 20 years Leo has run a successful roofing business in New England, specializing in metal roofing, as well as cool flat roofing technologies. Having replaced and installed hundreds of roofs in New England, Leo has first hand experience with pretty much every residential roofing material and roofing manufacturer available in the US.
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