Is Roofing Tar Flammable?- Uses And Other Aspects Of This Substance

Roofing Tar Flammable

Last Updated on July 31, 2023 By Emma W. Thomas

Yes, roofing tar is flammable. It is a black, sticky substance used in roofing to waterproof and seal surfaces. Due to its petroleum-based composition, roofing tar can ignite and burn, making it a fire hazard if not handled and stored properly.

Does Roofing Tar Catch On Fire?

The possibility of roofing tar catching on fire is a concern for many homeowners. With roofing tar being widely used in building construction, understanding its fire-resistant properties can be essential. This listicle outlines the significant aspects of this topic.

1. Nature of Roofing Tar:
Roofing tar is a thick, black substance used as a sealant for roofing applications. Its primary role is to provide waterproofing for the roof.

2. Fire Resistance in Roofing Tar:
While roofing tar is not outright flammable, it can catch on fire under certain conditions. Most specifically, roofing tar can catch fire when it comes in direct contact with an open flame or extremely high temperatures over prolonged periods.

3. Fire Ratings on Tar Roofs:
Manufacturers often indicate the fire resistance properties of the roofing tar products. Some products may have a ‘Class A’ fire rating, representing the highest level of fire resistance.

Fire RatingMeaning
Class AHighest Level of Fire Resistance
Class BModerate Fire Resistance
Class CLowest Level of Fire Resistance

4. Heating up Roofing Tar:
During application, roofing tar often requires heating. However, it must be done cautiously as overheating tar can lead to fire hazards.

5. Safe Application of Roofing Tar:
Professional roofers are skilled at applying roofing tar safely without causing fire hazards. They ensure that the heated tar does not come into contact with open flames.

6. Prolonged Exposure to Heat:
Roofing tar can degrade over time due to prolonged exposure to intense sunlight and heat, reducing its fire resistance and making it more susceptible to catching fire.

7. Avoiding Fire Hazards:
Avoid fire hazards by maintaining a safe distance between open flames and roofs coated with tar. Moreover, ensuring regular maintenance of tar roofs can prevent fire risks.

8. Flame Retardant Additives:
Some manufacturers enhance the fire resistance of their roofing tar by adding flame-retardant chemicals. This increases the product’s ability to withstand high temperatures without catching fire.

In conclusion, while roofing tar is not inherently flammable, certain conditions can make it prone to catching fire. Seeking professional help during application, ensuring regular maintenance, and choosing tar with higher fire ratings can significantly reduce fire risks.

Different Types Of Tar, And Whether They Are Flammable

Type of TarIs it Flammable?
Coal TarYes, extremely flammable when in liquid form.
Pine TarYes, highly flammable due to the presence of turpentine.
Wood TarYes, combustible, especially when it is hot.
Bitumen (Asphalt tar)Not typically flammable unless exposed to extreme heat.
Crude Oil TarYes, can be flammable under the right conditions, but less so than other types.
Peat TarYes, can catch fire easily, even containing a small amount of moisture.
Shale TarYes, flammable, but less volatile compared to other types.

What Is Roofing Tar?

Roofing tar is a thick and sticky substance that is waterproof and is usually used in roof application activities. It is derived from crude oil and comprises a refine coal type and other petroleum additives. It is a very durable substance and can remain intact while still providing outstanding waterproof protection.  

Roofing tar is available in many colors to suit and match any roof shade to your taste and preference. They can also be blended using their different formulas to achieve the desired shade that matches a roof.

Why Is Roofing Tar Flammable?

Roofing tar is derived from crude oil and contains some refined coal and other petroleum products. Petroleum itself is highly flammable. Roofing tar is not as highly flammable, but it is combustible. It is sensitive to extremely high temperatures but in temperatures lower than 90F, the roofing tar is unlikely to burn up. 

Temperatures higher than that will either light up the roofing tar or turn it into a liquid, making it unsuitable for use in the roof. Roofing tar does not easily ignite, and one is required to heat it to its boiling point where it is converted to a flammable vapor before it lights up hence classified as highly combustible. 

What Are The Uses Of Roofing Tar?

Roofing tar is used to fix leaks, and in some cases, it can be used as an adhesive whereby underlayment and other materials are laid as roof protection. It is important to consider the brand type of roofing tar when buying as many types depend on the intended use. It is used on flat and slow-sloping roofs as it tends to be thin and pliable when hot. 

When cold, it becomes stiff and less pliable, and for this reason, it should not be used on roofs with more than a gentle slope as it might soften and drip off. Sometimes, roofing tar is used to patch holes or cracks on flat roofs and seals the areas around vent pipes and other protrusions. Roofing tar is suitable for these uses as it is long-lasting and weatherproof

What Are The Types Of Roofing Tar?

Roofing tar is among the most extensively used roof fixing materials. Some of the roofing tar types include;

Coal Tar Pitch

It is a special type of roofing tar formed by exposing coal tar to high temperatures. Coal tar pitch has a high melting point of 150 degrees Fahrenheit with a dark brown residue appearance and is mostly used for paving, drainage systems, and roofing. It has high water resistance ability, chemical attack, and oxidation. It is long-lasting, with its roof lasting up to over 30 years with proper inspection and maintenance.

 Preventive maintenance of a coal pitch tar roof helps extend the life of a roof through the record-keeping of important information. Some of the information includes the type and color of roofing tar used, installation date, and other roofing profile data. 

To protect and maintain coal tar pitching roofing, you should ensure that you familiarize yourself with material compatibility rules in case of the future need to fix the roof. It helps avoid mixing the coal tar pitching with another type of roofing tar such as asphalt, with different properties such as their melting points. 

Asphalt Roofing Tar

Asphalt roofing tar is used to make roll roofing, shingles, and built-up roofing. It comes in the form of an individual piece, either as a rectangle or a hexagon, interlocked, laminated, or in a strip. Most asphalt shingles roofing tar are interlocked to provide great resistance to strong winds. Laminated ones are usually thicker than other asphalt shingles. 

Roll roofing asphalt tar is mostly used in residential places, whereas built-up roofing asphalt roofing tar is usually used in industrial, commercial, and institutional roofing structures.

Coal Tar Bitumen

Coal tar bitumen ( also known as type III tar) is a residue extracted from distilled petroleum. It is mostly used to make a protective membrane of roofing structures. Coal tar bitumen has a high equiviscous temperature (the temperature at which a liquid attains maximum viscosity or thickness) than other roofing tar types. 

Its high equiviscous property makes it suitable for use on roofs with steep slopes. At room temperature, the coal tar bitumen is stiff such that it is sometimes referred to as steep asphalt. Coal tar bitumen is more refined than other roofing tars as its refining process takes longer.

For this reason, it is more susceptible to most weather conditions and less waterproof. On the other hand, it is more durable than coal tar pitch. Due to its susceptibility to weather conditions, it has limited uses such that it can only be used on roofing structures with steep slopes and in regions experiencing hot climates.

What Are The Pros Of Using Tar Roofs?

There are several advantages of using tar roofs including;

Easy To Install

Tar roofs, compared to other roofing options, are easy to install. Sometimes the tar roof requires several layers. Setting up and constructing these roof layers can be quite easy such that some people opt to do it themselves due to the simplicity involved in the process. Even if you were to hire a roofer, the labor cost is low compared to other roofing types. It may be easy but very tedious, and for first-timers, it is better to hire a professional roofer, which is the safest choice.


 Most tar roofs are completely waterproof, making them suitable for use in places that receive frequent heavy downpours. They also can withstand harsh weather conditions such as snowstorms and Colorado experiences. When used on flat roofs, it does not allow snow or water to collect, which is very common in many flat-roof houses.


The majority of tar roofs have gravel coated on their surfaces. Gravel protects the tar from breaking down due to intense sun rays since it reflects them away. Tar does not absorb the sun’s rays hence keeping the building cool and nice. A building with a tar roof does not need a cooling system which sometimes consumes a lot of energy.

Low Maintenance 

Since roofing tar is durable, it is easy to maintain. It is uncommon for a tar roof to require intense maintenance due to its long-lasting nature. Their very rare damage is easily noticeable. One of the most common problems associated with roofing tar is being punctured, which is easy to tell, and repairing them is quite simple. 

Its repair and maintenance are also very affordable since roofing tar materials are cheap and labor cost is cheap too. Tar roofing is termed a smart investment as it does not heavily weigh on your pockets considering the period of its service.

The Cons Of Using Tar Roofing

There are also some cons associated with using roofing tar including;

Poor Installation

The poor installation often leads to premature reinstallation or replacement. If tar roofing is poorly done, there are two major problems likely to occur. First, poor connections of the tar roofs lead to large leakages being formed. 

Another problem is that even if the layers are properly done and the hot tar is wrongly applied, it may burst into hot flames, burning down the entire property. For this reason, despite the installation being simple and easy, a lot of professionalism is required to avoid unnecessary accidents. 

Environmentally Harmful

Another concern associated with roofing tar is that it damages the environment during both its manufacture and disposal. Roofing tar is toxic and petroleum-based. It gives off toxic fumes during application and sometimes afterward. It is also hazardous when disposed of and can sometimes create huge messes during the roofing process. 

Contractors and other roofers must always wear protective masks when applying tar roofs due to the noxious fumes produced. It should also be done with the residents away as it can cause health issues.

What Is The Difference Between Roofing Tar And Asphalt?

Tar is a dark brown viscous liquid obtained from organic materials through destructive distillation. It can be produced from coal, petroleum, peat, or wood. On the other hand, asphalt is a black and sticky substance derived from petroleum and other natural deposits. It is mainly used in road construction, where it acts as a sticker or binder when mixed with other aggregate particles.

 Both tar and asphalt are waterproof and can be used to produce roofing felt or seal flat roofs. Sometimes, asphalt is referred to as roofing tar as they tend to be great roofing options with their waterproof ability. 


Roofing tar is just flammable but not highly flammable. Its chemical reaction is not fast enough to be termed as a highly flammable substance. However, when exposed to high temperatures of over 90o F, it becomes combustible as long as there is a continuous supply of supporting heat. Roofing tar is mostly used as a roofing option due to its waterproof ability and its high melting point.