Shingle sealant cellophane strip (C) Daniel Friedman Asphalt Shingle Cellophane Strip Guide: leave or remove?
Wind resistance rating of asphalt shingles depends on the combination of manufacturer's glue strips, cellophane separator, & possible additional onsite sealing.

  • ASPHALT SHINGLE CELLOPHANE STRIP REMOVAL - CONTENTS: what's the purpose of the cellophane or paper release strip found over the glue strip on asphalt shingles? Should we remove the cellophane or silicone-treated paper release strip when nailing shingles or should it be left in place?
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about about the cellophane strip protecting the glue strip on asphalt roof shingles: should it be removed or not?

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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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Should the Cellophane Strip on the Back of Asphalt Shingles be Pulled Off?

Cellophane strip on a shingle back (C) Daniel FriedmanOur photo (left) shows the cellophane strip found on the back or "down"
side of a typical asphalt roof shingle. This one is a GAF™ product.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Article Series Contents

What is the Purpose of the Glue Strip on Asphalt Roof Shingles?

Adhesive spots on an asphalt roof shingle (C) Daniel FriedmanOur photo (left) shows a typical 3-tab asphalt roof shingle (this one is made by GAF™). The shiny black strips form the "glue line" on the shingle.

Prevent shingle damage from wind uplift

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

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.

Should we Remove the Cellophane Strip when Installing Shingles? Bottom line: NO!

Asphalt shingle cellophane / plastic strip location vs sealant glue strips (C) Daniel FriedmanThe 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.

Roofing Manufacturer's Advice about the Cellophane Strip on Shingles: leave in place

Shingle_Wind_Resistance_Rating (C) Daniel FriedmanAt 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.


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.

More on the "no" answer to removing roof shingle cellophane strips

Shingle sealant cellophane strip (C) Daniel FriedmanAsphalt roof shingle manufacturers recommend that installers leave that piece of cellophane in place. It does not need to be removed before, during, or after roof shingle installation.

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.

Asphalt Shingle Factory Adhesive Strip in High Wind Areas


Forensic Engineers Views on the Cellophane Strips

Moved to CELLOPHANE STRIP ENGINEERS' VIEW - separate article

Leave the Cellophane Strip In Place Unless It's in the Wrong Position


What Happens to The Cellophane Strip on Asphalt Shingle Backs?

Moved to CONFUSION about CELLOPANE STRIP POSITION - separate article

Reader Question: Is it possible to determine shingle age from presence of paper-type shingle release strips?

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.

  • Bondoc, Alfredo A., Duane A. Davis, Stanley P. Frankoski, and Bruno E. Magnus. "Asphalt shingle." U.S. Patent 4,717,614, issued January 5, 1988.
  • Kalkanoglu, Husnu M., Robert L. Jenkins, and Stephen A. Koch. "Shingle with improved blow-off resistance." U.S. Patent 6,758,019, issued July 6, 2004.
  • Robinson, Norman M. "Adhesive arrangement for shingles and the like." U.S. Patent 5,239,802, issued August 31, 1993.

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.



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