Synthetic Roofing Underlays Gain Market Share

Synthetic Roofing Underlays Gain Market Share

Traditionally, roofing underlays were made of sheets of fiberglass or organic matting saturated with layers of asphalt, creating a material that was resistant to tears and leaks.  However, the market for roofing underlays -- placed on a roof deck prior to the installation of roofing -- has undergone a massive shift in the past decade.  Synthetic underlays -- made from layer of woven and nonwoven plastic fibers (primarily polypropylene) have seen a rapid increase in market share, accounting for more than 40 percent of demand in 2015. 

Advances Driven by Key Product Advantages

While more expensive than asphaltic products, synthetic underlays offer roofing contractors a number of performance advantages, such as:

  • Nearly Impervious to Leaks
  • Enhanced Resistance to Tears and Punctures
  • Improved Fire Resistance
  • Peel-and-Stick Backings that Greatly Reduce Installation Times
  • Slip-Resistant Surface That Improves Worker Safety

The imperviousness of most synthetic underlays to leaks has been a key factor in their emergence.  Traditionally, asphaltic underlays -- once penetrated by a roofing fastener -- were susceptible to moisture penetration.  In contrast, most synthetic underlays are made of self-healing plastics that, in case of a puncture or tear, chemically bind together to repair any damage to the underlay -- greatly minimizing the risk of a leak or further tearing.

Moisture Resistance of Synthetic Underlays Important for Contractors

This property makes many synthetic underlays nearly waterproof, an important consideration for roofing contractors.  Because of this moisture resistance, synthetic underlays are seeing extensive use in:

  • Coastal regions where heavy rains and high winds can damage roof decks
  • Parts of the US where long winters lead to accumulations of ice and snow can cause leaks
  • Localities where older homes predominate -- leaks and ice dams can form at eaves, gables, and around chimneys

Manufacturers Enter Market as Popularity of Synthetic Underlays Grows

The popularity of synthetic underlays among contractors has spurred a number of companies to enter the market or greatly expand their product offerings.  Examples include:

As building construction activity continues to grow and more roofs are installed or renovated, synthetic underlays will likely play an even larger role in protecting homes and businesses from leaks.

For More Information: 

To learn more about synthetic roofing underlays, check out The Freedonia Group's industry study, Roofing Underlay Market in the US by Product, Market and Region.  This comprehensive study includes historical demand data and forecasts for the roofing underlay market by product, market, and barrier property.  Asphaltic underlays are further discussed in terms of product type and backing material, while synthetic underlays are discussed in terms of polymer. The Study also evaluates company market share and discusses industry structure.  

For information about other segments of the roofing market, see Freedonia industry studies Residential Roofing, Commercial Roofing, and World Roofing

About The Author:

Matt Zielenski is a Senior Analyst at The Freedonia Group, where he covers trends in the use of building materials and related construction products in the US market.