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Columbus Roofing: Article About Bitumen Versus Synthetic Underlayment

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Choosing the right materials for any construction project is a critical first step. Any Columbus roofing professional knows this is just as true for the underlayment as it is for the shingles atop the roof's surface. Advances in modern manufacturing and material engineering have provided roofers and homeowners a wide array of choices. Though there are a variety of individual choices for underlayment, most all of them fall into one of two categories, modified bitumen or full synthetics. Each family of materials has its own set of advantages and limitations. Knowing these can help homeowners narrow down the choices a bit and make an informed decision when managing a new roof installation.

Modified bitumen products are those that are made at least in part from hydrocarbons such as asphalt. Asphalt saturated felt is one of the more popular choices for underlayment when installing asphalt shingles. Rubberized asphalt, alternatively, is a specialized type of pavement material that is made from asphalt concrete. It gains its rubber like properties from the addition of various polymer molecules that give it the unique properties manufacturers desire.

One of the biggest advantages to bitumen based underlayment is its self sealing and adhering properties. The malleable nature of asphalt and similar hydrocarbons causes these substances to form themselves to fit their environment.

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Nails and staples, which would otherwise leave holes through to the decking, are sealed shortly after being driven through a bitumen based material.

The major disadvantages of bitumen based products are the same as many other hydrocarbon based materials. They are produced through the same processes as fossil fuels. Another consideration is the increasing cost of high quality asphalt. As oil refining has improved, the amount of usable byproduct generated as a result has decreased.

Synthetic, or non bitumen, underlayment encompasses all the other available materials made from a range of polymers. As such, these materials can have widely varying properties. Some synthetics are designed to resist heat much better than their asphalt based counterparts, for example. These would be good choices for a metal roof installation, where heat is a major issue, but not nearly as useful for asphalt shingle installations.

The downside of synthetics varies just as their benefits do. The various synthetic underlayment options are each designed to best suit a particular installation. Using them in another type of installation or with mismatched materials can result in poor performance. Synthetics vary in price but are now comparable to traditional asphalt saturated felt.

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