How to Apply Roofing Tar

It keeps your home warm and dry in the winter and cool in the summer. But have you ever looked up? Your roof, whether it is sloped or flat, someone with tremendous ability and skill took the time to build it. But do you know the materials used to construct it? When we asked around at Workman’s Friend, many said they didn’t know what materials were used to construct the roof of their house. We admit we didn’t know much about roofing either, until we started writing this article. But we soon discovered there’s a lot more to tarring a roof than meets the eye.

Related: Reducing the Dangers of Commercial Roofing

Pros & Cons of Tarring

Many home builders use roof tar when constructing a flat-roofed house. This kind of material is incredibly resistant to the ultraviolet rays from the sun. It is also very effective in protecting your roof from water and snow which naturally accumulates on a flat roof. Unlike a slanted roof, a flat one is directly exposed to all of the elements: rain, snow, heat, cold, wind and hail. Though a slanted one is exposed to the same types of weather, they don’t take such a direct hit as flat roofs do.

However, tar is a toxic product. During the application and curing process it can give off noxious and very pungent fumes. Usually contractors advise home owners to stay elsewhere for a few days while their new roof is being installed. Yes, it really does smell that bad.

When to Tar a Roof

Though some home owners have been known to tar their own roofs, most do-it yourselfers recommend that you leave this one to the experts. It is a messy, smelly and sometimes dangerous job.

Before any product is applied to your roof, a professional will need to check it for structural damage. The last thing you want to happen is a roofer falling through a hole and seriously injuring themselves.

Once you’ve made the decision to tar your roof, it’s important that the professionals in charge of the application choose a time of year that is free of snow or rain. Though the application of the tar doesn’t take a long time, the drying or curing period certainly does. If it doesn’t dry properly, your new roof will not be effective in protecting you and your home from the elements.

Yes, tar can be applied to a roof in temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. However it won’t properly dry and seal until the temperature is at least 70 degrees. Additionally, never apply tar when it is extremely hot, say, in the middle of summer. The warm temperature can cause the tar to drip and make an incredible sticky mess.

What to Purchase

Your roofing professional will need to purchase a tar that is specifically built for your type of home. They will also have to measure your roof’s dimensions and buy enough of the product to apply to cover it and then some.

How to Apply Tar

The key with tarring a roof is not to paint yourself into a corner-literally. Planning is as important as completing the job. That’s why a professional will always begin in a corner and set their ladder at the other end, the furthest away from their start point. Using a paint roller a professional will apply tar in small smooth strokes. An experienced professional will always keep their bucket of tar close to them, while moving backward toward the end of the roof where their ladder is situated.

Your Roof

You may think that the description above of how to tar a roof sounds easy enough. Perhaps you’re already trying to figure out when you can tar your own roof. However, what we’ve written is a very simplified version of the job. Remember tar is a smelly, hot and very messy product. Not to mention that stepping onto your roof regardless of its height is a very dangerous endeavor. So before you march down to your local home improvement store, inform yourself and talk to a tarring expert-your roof will thank you.


Workman’s Friend Barrier Skin Cream is a light-weight, unscented lotion perfect for those wanting to tar their own roofs. An application of our moisturizing, non-greasy formula means once you’re done a simple wipe and the sticky residue of tar is gone.

Advice roofing

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