When you think about roofing materials, you almost certainly think of tiles, panels or shingles of some sort. Along with this comes the expense and time in installing/repairing/replacing these, as well as the considerable expense this brings. For a home or commercial building, this is often just the way of things, because with a few exceptions, these are the only types of roofing ideal for occupied structures.
However, when it comes to some industrial complexes, storage units, sheds, garages, workshops or other places where nobody lives or needs the hospitality of a pleasant climate, there does exist the alternative of rolled roofing.

What is Rolled Roofing?

Rolled roofing is pretty much exactly how it sounds – material that comes in large rolls of about 100 square feet on average. It’s a mineral-surfaced roofing product (a category referred to as MSR). In composition, it’s not dissimilar to asphalt shingle, or the similar rolling material used for flat roofs, though it’s not identical to either.

Where flat roof materials are thermally bonded, rolled roof materials are merely nailed down. Also in contrast to flat roofing materials, these are intended for sloped surfaces, as they do not provide an appropriate seal on a flat surface.

Use Cases

Rolled roofing is a very affordable, very easy material to work with, which makes it popular for DIY projects involving sheds, workshops, garages and other unoccupied structures. A tutorial for applying this material can easily be found online, and if followed correctly, anyone who’s relatively handy can easily apply this material.

However, due to the nature of this material, it is far from appropriate for many cases, primarily residential structures. Primarily, this primarily due to three factors: first, it doesn’t have much in the way of insulation capacity, meaning anywhere with climate control will be fighting against the exterior temperature as well as to keep the interior temperature stable. Second, it doesn’t provide as good of a seal against water, having no thermal bonding, overlap or seam closure. When applied in the appropriate scenarios, it is unlikely to allow active leaks to form, but it really doesn’t keep all moisture out.
Finally, it’s not a very aesthetically appealing material, looking like nothing more than tar paper nailed to the top of a structure. It also doesn’t allow much in the way of color variety, being primarily black, though some green and red varieties do exist. On a side note, being an affordable, simple material, it also doesn’t last very long, meaning trying to maintain it on a residential structure would be untenable.

The ideal use of rolled roof material would be on slopes of 1:12-2:12 in pitch, where habitability isn’t a concern. Put buildings, barns, shops, sheds, tree houses, garages, other similar buildings with a sufficiently-pitched roof will do well with this material. If such a structure is visible from the street, however, it’s best to make the extra effort to use actual asphalt shingles.

Pros and Cons of Rolled Roofing


  • This material is very ideal for low-incline roofs, and is easily hammered down.
  • It can easily be cut into various shapes and sizes, making awkward surfaces easy to work with.
  • It’s a quick process to apply, compared to shingles or other materials, which have multiple steps that require caution and care.
  • It’s easily transported, not being heavy and bulky like roofing squares of shingles, tiles or panels.
  • It can be used to roof over damaged shingle roofs, at least as a temporary measure.
  • It can be used as a temporary stopgap if roof damage appears, should weather not permit the immediate proper repair of a roof.
  • Anyone somewhat handy can put this material down, if they follow instructions properly. It requires no significant experience with roofing nor carpentry.


  • You’re stuck with black, as other colors are rare.
  • It’s not as durable as shingles, nor is it as well-insulated nor does it provide as good a water seal.
  • It’s ugly; your resale value is going to decline if this is used on structures seen from the street.
  • It has a very short lifespan of five to eight years, which means that you’ll be repeating this project every half decade or so. This is one of the many reasons it shouldn’t be used on a house.

To learn more about rolled roofing and its appropriate uses, fill out our contact form or call us today.