Asphalt Shingle Cellophane Strip Guide: leave or remove?
Cellophane strip found on / between asphalt roof shingles:
This article describes the cellophane strips found between individual asphalt roof shingles - atop the glue strip. We explain the purpose of this cellophane strip.
We answer the question: " Should we remove the cellophane strip over the shingle adhesive when nailing shingles or should it be left in place?" We cite authoritative research from industry experts as well as from shingle manufacturers themselves to give a definitive answer to the asphalt shingle release strip removal question: leave it in place.
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The cellophane strip (or in some products a plastic or wax-coated paper strip), found between individual asphalt roof shingles and located just over the glue strip that bonds shingles together is factory-installed to prevent shingles from sticking together while they are still in the bundle - in storage.
This asphalt shingle adhesive glue-strip is intended to bond to the three tabs of the next shingles nailed atop of this one when the roof is later warmed by sunlight. The success with which asphalt shingles bond together as the glue strip is heated by sun exposure is a factor in protecting roof shingles from wind-damage and blow-off.
In most climates exposure to even a few weeks of normal sunlight will cause the glue tabs on the under-side of asphalt roof shingles to soften and adhere to the surface below.
We discuss the function of asphalt shingle adhesive strips, handling the protective cellophane strip, and shingle uplift wind damage prevention in more detail
at CELLOPHANE STRIP ADHESIVE ADEQUACY in HIGH WIND AREAS
at WIND DAMAGE to ROOFS.
Certainly if you wait to remove the protective cellophane strip until the moment that the shingle is about to be nailed, taking it off might do no harm, but because it is nowhere near the actual glue tabs or strip of the shingle course below, removing the release strip will not speed the adhesion between shingles that is intended to resist wind blow-off of roof shingles.
We suspect that few professional roofers will add to their roofing time and cost by taking a step that is not recommended by the product manufacturer.
Watch out: as we warn in this article series, in some cases pulling off the release strip can damage the underside of the upper shingle course being nailed.
The debate about whether or not a protective cellophane strip found atop this glue strip on new asphalt shingles has gone on for years and comes up again as new roofers enter the field. Do we remove the cellophane from the shingles as we place them on the roof for nailing or or do we leave it in place? Does it matter one way or the other?
No, leave the strip alone: In answer to a common reader question, not normally: according to roofing manufacturers, it is not required to remove the cellophane strip on the back of roof shingles before they are nailed.
As you can see in our photo at above-left, when the shingles are separated from the bundle and installed in successive roof shingle courses, the plastic or cellophane strip remains on the back of the shingle in a position where it is nowhere near the adhesive strips now exposed on the shingle course below.
At CELLOPHANE STRIP INSTRUCTIONS we include a "leave the cellophane strip alone" quote from a major roofing manufacturer's asphalt shingle installation instructions.
In short, the people who make shingles tell us to leave the plastic or cellophane sealant protection strip in place, explaining that when the shingles are nailed in place the strip on the successive shingle course will no longer be in contact with the adhesive sealant strip on the upper surface of the lower or previous shingle course. There may be other asphalt shingle products in which the strip dissolves, but the strip offset explanation is unambiguous - Ed.
Yes remove stray cellophane strips in one special case:
Separately at CELLOPHANE STRIP ENGINEERS' VIEW in a discussion with two forensic engineers we point out an occasional problem when the cellophane strip doesn't behave it self and does not remain where it should when the shingles are removed from the shingle bundle.
In that article Mr. Kester, a forensic engineer who includes roofing inspections among his expertise, illustrates this a special cellophane strip removal case: when the roofer separated shingles from the bundle the cellophane remained stuck in the wrong place. It came off of the upper back surface of the shingle (where it's supposed to remain) and instead remained stuck-to and covering the adhesive tabs on the shingle below. In that case the individual naughty cellophane strip, occurring only occasionally during the roofing job, should have been pulled off of its stray position.
At ASPHALT SHINGLE INSTALLATION we include this quote from the GAF Materials Corporation, Grand Timberline™ Premium Architectural Shingle Application Instructions say about the glue strips and cellophane.
You'll note that according to the manufacturer we are to leave the cellophane strip in place, but if site conditions (high wind) require immediate shingle sealing, an extra step, using additional shingle tab adhesive, is permitted. [Italics ours.]
Our photo at left illustrates the "Miami-Dade County Approved" imprint found on the underside of an asphalt shingle that meets Florida's wind-resistance requirements.
WIND RESISTANCE / HAND SEALING: These shingles have a special thermal sealant that firmly bonds the shingles together after application when exposed to sun and warm temperatures.
Shingles installed in Fall or Winter may not seal until the following Spring.
If shingles are damaged by winds before sealing or are not exposed to adequate surface temperatures, or if the self sealant gets dirty, the shingles may never seal. Failure to seal under these circumstances results from the nature of self-sealing shingles and is not a manufacturing defect.
To insure immediate sealing, apply 4 quarter-sized dabs of shingle tab adhesive on the back of the shingle 1" (25mm) and 13" (330mm) in from each side and 1" (25mm) up from bottom of the shingle. Press shingle firmly into the adhesive. For maximum wind resistance along rakes, cement shingles to underlayment and each other in a 4" (102mm) width of asphalt plastic roof cement.
[More details about this are at WIND DAMAGE to ROOFS]
Watch out: Excess tab adhesive can cause blistering of the shingle.
Watch out: tearing off the cellophane strip on some shingle products might remove shingle material, thus damaging the product.
In the warning just above the company is referring to the use of additional roof shingle adhesive, not the factory-applied glue strip.
Also see BLISTERS on ASPHALT SHINGLES.
The film strips on the back of each shingle are to prevent sticking together of the shingles while in the bundle and to keep dirt and debris out of the adhesive material so that after installation the adhesive will work. Their removal is NOT required during application.
Our photograph of the cellophane strip in place on the underside of an asphalt roof shingle (left) clearly shows that the shingle manufacturer says "Do Not Remove This Tape".
The cellophane tape on the back side of asphalt roof shingles is intended to prevent the glue strips from becoming activated prematurely, in storage or shipping, and equally important, to keep the glue-area clean during the roof installation process: jobsite debris (sawdust, dirt) can prevent the sealant from adhering.
What more can we say: the under-side of the asphalt shingle shown at left plainly says "DO NOT REMOVE THIS TAPE"
[Click to enlarge any image]
Once the roof is installed the heat from sunlight will activate the sealing mastic through the cellophane. It does not need to be removed as part of the roofing process.
Actually, trying to remove the strip after installation might also risk damaging the shingle since you'd have to run along the roof slope lifting nailed-down shingle tabs to try to (unnecessarily) pull off the cellophane - risking tearing shingles and causing also extra foot traffic wear. Indeed a few times we have seen actual pits and holes in the backs of shingles when a roofer ripped off the cellophane that was very bonded to the shingle surface.
Moved to CELLOPHANE STRIP ENGINEERS' VIEW - separate article
Moved to CONCLUSION: LEAVE the STRIP UNLESS
Moved to CONFUSION about CELLOPANE STRIP POSITION - separate article
8/19/2014 Matt S said:
I was inspecting a roof the other day, and I found that the strip was made with a paper product (not plastic or cellophane). The roof appeared to be old; however I am unable to verify due to lack of knowledge of the homeowner and the lack of building permits. Would the paper strip help to speak to the age of the shingle? In other words, was there a time when they transitioned from paper to cellophane? Thanks.
Matt that's a very interesting observation. I've installed a few roofs, dating back more than 20 years, without encountering a paper release strip for the adhesive tabs - so the variation may be as much by brand as by age.
These patent disclosures refer to paper release strips on asphalt shingle adhesive spots. The description typically is a silicone-treated paper rather than cellophane.
You'll see the years span quite a range, at least from 1988 through 2004. I suspect that the reason we see more cellophane than silicone-treated paper release strips is that should a segment of cellophane escape and show on the finished roof it will break down more quickly, is thinner, perhaps less costly, and if a piece of cellophane left (as it should be) on the shingle but sitting askew peeks out from beneath a roof shingle it will be be less visible than its paper cousin.
Continue reading at CONFUSION about CELLOPANE STRIP POSITION or select a topic from the More Reading links or topic ARTICLE INDEX shown below.
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(Apr 2, 2014) Pat said:
I have installed the shingles on my house and removed the cellophane and in the 20 years since then I have not lost one shingle. I moved to a senior housing development and the roofs here are 14 years old and low and behold we had a wind storm and shingles are all over the place along with the cellophane and now a contractor is going to try to sell us to replace all the houses that were not damaged to get new roofs. What ever happened to 20 or 25 year shingles?
Why put the glue strips in the first place?
Pat, the glue strips are there to allow the single taps of each upper course to bond to the lower course (with a bit of time and heat from the sun). This bonding in turn prevents wind-damage that otherwise lifts the shingle tabs and blows them off of the roof.
The people with the most at stake in this argument are the roofing manufacturers- we should follow their advice.
Leave the cellophane or paper release strip in place; it's not interfering with bonding, it's job is to prevent the shingles from sticking together while still in the bundle. When the shingles are installed in offset courses up the roof the release strip stuck to the under-side of an individual roof shingle is no longer covering the wind-uplift-damage-prevention glue spots or strips that are exposed on the upper surface of the shingle in the course below.
This is of course a separate question from your last sentence.
(June 20, 2014) Mike O said:
I called the Roofers Union and they backed up the contractor and said leave the cellophane on.
It will disinigrate ( like his brain )
The dumbest statement that I ever heard was next:
The cellophane is for shipping. What a moron. So what he just said to me is that the tar was
placed on the shingle TO HOLD THE CELLOPHANE IN PLACE!!!!!!
That's called "Back up the love roofer"
THE REAL STORY IS THE TAR was put on the shingle to give it added strength and the cellophane was placed on the tar to prevent them from sticking to each other. STICKING key word The tar strip
is there to give STICKING POWER TO THE SHINGLE and stop them from lifting so rain can get in under them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have had my roof since 1999 and only 5 shingles blew off and they were the 5 shingles that still
had the cellophane on them.
Mike, we have researched this question with great care to find and cite authoritative sources and to put the arm waving speculation. The article above gives correct information. Please take another look and let me know if anything you see there is unclear.
(June 21, 2014) Anonymous said:
Try this simple logic: The manufacturer wouldn't have put the goo on the shingle unless it was going to be used to stick to another shingle. Obviously the cellophane strip is to keep it from sticking to other shingles while in transit. The only unanswered question is: Does the cellophane dissolve swiftly after installed, presumably due to the heat of the sun? If yes,the goo would be allowed to serve its purpose - eventually. How long or what minimum heat does it take to dissolve the cellophane? If the cellophane does not dissolve, the goo was put on for no reason whatsoever. If it does dissolve, removing the cellophane manually allows quicker sealing of the goo to the underlying shingle. In not taking the time to remove the cellophane on installation, the installer is gambling that a high wind won't occur before the tape dissolves. I presume also that, if the cellophane is removed, it opens up a lot of opportunities to touch down the shingle a bit crooked, probably without the ability to lift it back up and straighten it. That is another cost factor - lost time and damaged shingles.
Simple but mistaken logic. Please read the article above. You'll see that at installation the self-adhesive tar strips and the cellophane strips remain nowhere near one another once the shingles are installed - see the arrows on our illustration, and also that forced tearing off of the cellophane is not recommended by the manufacturer, in part because doing so can cause shingle damage.
(July 30, 2014) pete ianuzzi said:
so why is there sticky stuff on the bottom, just to hold the cellophane tape in place?? and did mfr.'s original require you to remove this seal. I seem to remember reading that in the small print many years ago...40+years ago
of course not Pete
The functional sticky stuff is the sealant that is present on the upper surface of the shingle in the course below. That sealant is heated by the sun, sealing the next upper course shingle tabs down on to the lower course of shingles.
A small amount of adhesive between the release strip (cellophane or silicone impregnated paper strips) holds the release strip in place bonded out of the way to the underside of the next upper course of shingles. It's not in the way and should be left in place.
(Aug 8, 2014) Anonymous said:
I just read an article at Inspectapedia.com/roof/shingle....Anonymous below is correct!!!!! Although they go on to
say the bottom line is "NO" you do not need to remove it...There IS a "YES" argument....The YES argument makes more sense
then DanJoeFriedman.....The YES indicates that in high wind areas or areas subject to High WInds and Heavy rains, or if the roof was laid in cooler weather, the cellophane probably will not disintegrate immediately thus allowing dirt or
particles to get under the shingle which MAY NEVER SEAL PROPERLY. IN ADDITION TO REMOVING THE CELLOPHANE, IT IS NOT A BAD IDEA TO APPLY EXTRA SEALANT!
ROOFERS don't want to remove it because of 2 reasons....it takes too long AND if your working like a mad man
and just throwing them down, there is a chance that a misalignment would have to be redone and a shingle wasted.
ITS ALL ABOUT THE $
One simply cannot imagine any economic benefit to roofing shingle manufacturers that would accrue from your argument.
But you are part of a considerable group of folks who have trouble picturing where the release strip ends up and where the actual glue strips or spots end up as shingles are placed on the roof. Check out the photo with arrows in the article above and you'll see why leaving the release strip alone is harmless and is recommended.
I should add that in a few instances we have actually seen shingles damaged by the pulling off of the cellophane strip.
Bottom line: remember that the manufacturers have a lot at stake in the successful installation and life of their product. While there may be some arguable compromises on product quality, life, warranty and other worries, following the roof shingle manufacturer's own instructions on how their product should be installed is the smartest approach to roofing.
It is unfortunate that so many people are confused about the cellophane strips and roof shingle tab sealant, particularly as the manufacturers and other experts have written so clearly on the matter. What we have published on this matter is hardly personal opinion. It's researched and cites authorities on the topic.
You are mistaken in your "all about money" claim in this case - the manufacturers don't make any more money with or without cellophane strip removal, but they do know what leads to product success or product failure - which is of great import, and which is why shingle tab sealant is provided in the first place - to protect against wind uplift.
It would appear that your confusion and that of some other readers stems from failure to notice that when shingles are taken out of a bundle (in which the cellophane on an upper shingle's underside prevents it from adhering to the adhesive tabs on the upper surface of a shingle below), and then placed onto the roof in successive courses, the underside of the upper shingle is a good 4-6 inches higher up-roof (depending on the shingle exposure) than the tab adhesive spots of the shingle below.
Thus the cellophane, left in place as the shingles are installed, is now here near the sealant tabs so it can not interfere with shingle adhesion.
Take a look at the annotated photograph just above in this article and you can see that shingle layout.
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