How To Remove Tar Paper From Wood

If you've recently purchased an older home or are renovating, you may come across tar paper. Although tar paper is durable and effective at protecting the surface underneath, it can be challenging to remove. If you are struggling to remove tar paper from wood, we carried out thorough research to help with the task. 

An ideal way to remove tar paper from wood is to use a putty knife or a straight-edge razor blade. Gently insert the blade under the tar paper and pry it up. Work your way around the entire piece of wood until you get rid of the tar paper completely.

Another effective option is to apply mineral spirits to the wood with tar paper, let it settle for some minutes, and then scrape off the tar paper. 

Keep reading to learn more about how to remove tar paper from wood. We will also answer frequently asked questions about tar removal from surfaces at home. 

bitumen roofing gas burner roll tar, How To Remove Tar Paper From Wood

How Do You Remove Tar Paper From Wood?

Tar paper is made of asphalt-impregnated paper coated with a layer of tar that helps waterproof the paper and make it more durable. This paper is available in different thicknesses, depending on the climate and the type of construction.

It is usually placed between the outer layer of sheathing and the roofing material to create a weather-resistant barrier. You can also put it on other wooden surfaces like the floor. 

construction crew working on roof sheeting

Follow these steps to remove tar paper from wood:

  1. Start by heating the tar paper with a hair dryer or heat gun. This will soften the tar and make the paper easier to remove.
  2. Once the tar paper is heated, use a putty knife or scraper to scrape off as much tar paper as possible. Be careful not to damage the wood underneath.
  3. You can use a chemical solvent such as turpentine or mineral spirits to soften the tar in stubborn paper that won't come off easily. Apply the solvent to a cloth, rub it onto the tar paper, and then scrape it off.
  4. Next, use a wood cleaner and a scrub brush to remove any remaining residue from the wood.
  5. Sand the wood smooth, and then apply a new finish if desired. Be sure to use caution when working with heat and chemicals.

How To Remove Tar Paper From Wood Floors Using Vinegar

insulation worker propane blowtorch floor slab

Using vinegar to remove tar paper from wooden floors is one of the cheapest and most effective methods.

You'll need to purchase a gallon of white vinegar, a bucket, and a sponge mop. You'll also need to rent a floor sander to help remove the tar paper without damaging the wood floors.

To execute this method, start by mopping the floor with a solution of one part vinegar and one part water. Let the vinegar solution soak the tar paper for a few minutes before scrubbing the area with a sponge mop. Then rinse the entire floor with clean water.

Repeat the process if the tar paper is still clinging to the floor. You can then sand the floor with a floor sander (after removing all the tar paper) to remove any residual vinegar solution and restore the wood's natural shine.

Check out this Ingersoll floor sander on Amazon

Is Tar Paper Harmful?

Tar paper itself is not poisonous, but it may contain trace amounts of chemicals, such as asphalt, which can be toxic if ingested or inhaled in large quantities.

It is advisable to wear proper protective gear, such as gloves and a mask, when handling tar paper to minimize the risk of exposure to these chemicals.

If you work with tar paper and come into contact with it, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water to remove any residue. In addition, you should seek medical attention immediately if you accidentally ingest tar paper.

Is Tar Paper Flammable?

Tar paper is made from layers of fiberglass or other fibers infused with asphalt, a flammable substance. As a result, tar paper is flammable and can burn if exposed to an open flame or other heat sources. Therefore, it is best to treat tar paper with caution and to handle it carefully.

Tar paper is not typically used as a structural building material or an interior finish, as it is not fire-resistant.

Does Old Tar Paper Contain Asbestos?

Some types of tar paper contain asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral fiber once used in various building materials for its fire-resistant and insulation properties.

However, asbestos has been linked to several serious health conditions, and its use in building materials has been restricted or forbidden in many countries. That means modern-day tar paper no longer contains asbestos.

If you are concerned that your tar paper may contain asbestos, you can have it tested by a qualified professional.

How Long Can You Leave Tar Paper On A Roof?

Removing tar paper from a roof as soon as you install the permanent roofing material is best. If you use tar paper as a temporary roofing material, it should be removed and replaced with a permanent roofing solution within 30 or 60 days

If you use tar paper as an underlayment for permanent roofing material, leave the tar paper in place until you install the roofing, then remove and dispose of it properly.

What Happens If It Rains On Tar Paper?

If rainwater hits the tar paper, the paper will absorb the water, and the tar or asphalt coating will prevent the water from soaking through to the underlying layers.

Although tar paper effectively keeps water out, it is not entirely waterproof. If there is heavy rain or the tar paper becomes saturated with water, it may begin to leak. 

When this happens continuously, the fibers in the tar paper will break down and fray, ultimately impairing its ability to keep your roof's integrity. 

Can You Install Shingles on Wet Tar Paper?

It is generally not recommended to install shingles on wet tar paper. Instead, you should install shingles on a dry surface to ensure a proper bond. 

If the tar paper is only slightly damp, it may be possible to install the shingles, but it is best to allow the tar paper to dry out completely before proceeding. 

Wet tar paper can take a long time to dry, which could delay the installation of the shingles. In addition, the wet tar paper may not provide a stable foundation for the shingles, which could result in them shifting or becoming loose over time.

What Do Roofers Use Instead of Tar Paper?

roof covered tar paper black on

Roofers still use tar paper as a moisture barrier in construction and roofing. However, there are alternative options for use in place of tar paper. Some of these alternatives include:

Synthetic Underlayment

This waterproof material is made of synthetic fibers such as polypropylene or fiberglass. It is often used in place of tar paper because it is more durable and resistant to tearing.

Rubberized Asphalt Underlayment

This waterproof underlayment is made of asphalt mixed with rubber. Even though it is more expensive than tar paper, it is also stronger. 

Peel-And-Stick Underlayment

This waterproof material is made of a layer of asphalt or rubber covered with a layer of adhesive. It is easy to install and is often used in conjunction with other roofing underlayments.

In addition to these options, other materials, such as polyethylene film and polyurethane sheets, may be used as a moisture barrier in roofing and construction. 

To Wrap Up

bitumen roofing gas burner roll tar

Tar paper is a common building material used to waterproof roofs and walls. If you're removing tar paper from wood, it's important to do so carefully to avoid damaging the wood. We hope the information in this post will guide you on how to proceed.

For more articles, check out these related posts:

What Size Plywood For a Mobile Floor?

How To Remove Hardwood Flooring For Reuse

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