Tar paper - water barrier

Using tar paper as a water barrier

One of the many layers of protection from moisture intrusion and rot

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Waterproofing new bathroom shower stall is not an easy task. It takes many layers of different materials to get enough protection from water intrusion to get a bathroom shower stall to last 20+ years.

One of these many layers of moisture protection is simple tar paper. When you undergo a bathroom remodeling project - extensive or simple, if it includes a new shower stall, then tar paper is part of the process. But such a curious material. What is this stuff, and how can you make paper out of tar? Well, it's not exactly like making paper out of tar. Tar paper isn't quite as odd as paper that is made from tar - now that would be weird.

Tar paper is simply a thick, heavy paper stock that is deeply impregnated with tar. And tar, of corse, is a very thick petroleum product that everyone is familiar with in usages like roofing and roadways. It's nothing more than oil impregnated paper. But why is it so widely used in bathroom remodeling projects - especially shower stalls? Because tar is a petroleum product it is naturally a barrier to water and moisture.

It also retains much of the flexibility of regular paper stock making it easy to form around features of the shower stall which in our case, includes a bench seat, recessed shampoo boxes, fixtures and more.

The ability for this product to act as a water barrier while still maintaining flexibility are only some of it's advantages. There are other advantages too. For one thing, it is very low cost when compared to some of the other barrier materials used during bathroom remodeling projects. It is also widely available in almost any home improvement store. And it can be disposed of like normal garbage without worries of the green police handing you one bogus citation or another. Even with all this though, it's not to say that tar paper is the perfect moisture barrier for bathroom shower stall remodeling.

In fact, tar paper is far from the prefect solution to moisture intrusion and rot prevention. Far from it. That's why so many different layers of moisture protection are used. Moisture can permeate anything given enough time. The best result that it can provide is no different from any other moisture barrier - it slows down the intrusion of water into the wood and drywall so the inevitable rot is delayed - but never prevented. It's unfortunate but true.

While tar paper is an excellent barrier to slow water from getting to rot prone wood and drywall, it isn't a total solution. The good news is that it is inexpensive, readily available, and easy to work with. But when it comes to preventing rot, there is no barrier available that will reliably block moisture intrusion 100% for a long period of time, say 10 to 20 years. But it does help slow down the process.



Water intrusion has many layers and one of them is tar paper. This chapters pictures illustrate the usage of this product and how it can be formed around the many features of your shower stall.

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