Pat Hogan/Bill Moore

The last time JLC treated the subject of synthetic roofing underlayments in depth ( May 2006), author John Nicol acknowledged that synthetics are stronger, lighter, and faster to install than asphalt felts, but asked whether they’re worth the extra cost — estimated at about 30 percent at the time. Today, with even more synthetic underlayments on the market and their premium over felt a bit higher, the question is worth revisiting.

My own acquaintance with felt underlayment began more than 40 years ago (at the time 15# felt actually weighed 15 pounds per square), when I went up on the roof of my mother’s 1952 cape to find and fix the source of a leak in the garage. I stripped away the asphalt shingles and, voilà, there was a patch of torn, buckled felt near the...

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