What do you say when there is no tar paper?

This is the first roof I’ve inspected that didn’t look like it had any tar paper installed under the shingles. Roof was original to the home (16 years old).

What do you say when you find this? (Can’t really tell from the picture but I pulled it up further and didn’t see any. It could be farther up the roof, but not at the first row.)

Common find in areas of the state with no building codes. House wrap is rarely used, as well. Of course, the clients are paying as if they had all required elements in their new roof…but this is called “profit” and later discoveries are written off as “It’s not a defect if there is no code.”

You mention that it is missing and the likelihood of leaking and/or damage caused by ice damning, broken/missing shingles, etc. and recommend that a roofing contractor (from an area that licenses them) evaluate the roof to determine if it requires replacement.

Then you ask the real estate salesman for your card back since it is a sure bet that they will not be using it in the future.

I am not sure about the States but in Canada eave protection is not required if the overhang is greater than 2’-11". Does not happen often but it is worth knowing if you are inspecting a high end home with massive overhangs.

Code or no code the manufacturer requires it.


ditto! I write mine up as a roofing contractor would not a home inspector but I also hold a c39 so this is why… I would just state what you find and recommend a lic. roof insp to inspect it. some times dum **** installers start there paper up high and not start at the eve…:shock:

i just seen that your roof is 20yr. this is more common with 20yr that the rest…

to add when you were in the attic could you see between the ply wood gaps to see if there was felt or see the back of the shingles? just a thought?

Didn’t notice when it attic. Hind sight says I should have looked though, at least around the penetrations.

I say “Once the shingles have been applied the paper does not serve much purpose”.

Tarpaper is a waterproofing material. The shingles simply shed water.

Curious: Why would you tell them to hire another inspector to tell them what you already know about the roof (i.e., felt paper is either missing or improperly installed)? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do a tear off of a functioning comp roof simply because it didn’t have tar paper under it.

As a consumer, I would be wondering why I bothered to hire the first guy.

If the roof has a leak, tar paper is not going to stop the water. especially when it has several hundred holes in it. It helps, but stops being a waterproofing when the shingles go on. I have torn off several roof with no tar paper. The builders cut corners here because its not required.

So what do you say in an inspection report when you find it like this?

With photos. On a resale, I don’t make a big deal out of it. Just explain that it’s supposed to be there and why it’s supposed to be there. On new construction or new install, I make a bigger stink about it not being right.

I would explain the advantages of having it, and recommend it be installed when the roof is replaced. I think the possiblity of a leak would overrule the other option, a compleate tear off. If the code required it, and the seller had the warranty and installer info, then you might be able to do somthing about it. In most situations that will be unlikely.

From the CertainTeed Manual;

**Water-resistant shingle underlayment - **Resistant is the key word. It is often referred to as roofing felt, tarpaper or asphalt felt. The most common type is 15# asphalt felt. Less common is the heavier version 30# asphalt felt. There are also special premium felts available that have heavier asphalt with fiberglass re-enforcement, which provides more strength and resistance to wrinkles. The original water-resistant underlayments were used for “drying in the roof,” or to keep the deck boards dry until the shingles could be installed. It was also useful as a separation between the asphalt shingles and the pine resin in the boards. Pine resin can cause the asphalt to break down and prematurely fail. Some roofers say the layer also helps conceal the minor imperfections in the decking or the “picture frame look” that you will commonly see on sheathed homes. Although not a major concern, felt underlayment that becomes wet will wrinkle. When severe, it may show through to shingles. Roofing felt paper (tarpaper) is a temporary water deterrent at best. Sun and moisture degrade the material quickly, and then the nails penetrate the material. If the wind blows off a few shingles, it serves as a backup – making the difference between a few drips and a waterfall.


You have to be careful when reporting missing underlayment, it may have been started a little short of the edge, although still not correct. Missing drip edge is important, damage will occur to the sheathing without it.

On older homes, it may not have been required in your area. Also, even though it’s always a good idea, it has not always been required by shingle manufacturers for roofs steeper than 4-12.

If the roof is 4-12 or steeper, I’d recommend confirmation of proper installation by a qualified roofing contractor to pass on the liability.

If the roof was less than 4-12, I’d call it a defective installation.

If it’s gone 16 years without leaking, it may be a defective installation that’s working OK and not worth losing a house you like if you’re a buyer.