How to Melt Roofing Tar

Roz Calvert

A bucket of roofing tar is hot, smelly and useful for making a durable roof. A tar roof is low maintenance and adaptable to most environments. The beginning of a well-laid tar roof is a good kettle of roofing tar. You can get the right mix with practice heating small batches.

Take every precaution to prevent burns when tarring a roof.
  1. Call your local building codes administration and ask if you need a permit to heat a tar kettle. Find out if certain laws govern the type of kettle and burner you may use. Ask if the municipality has codes about where and when you can use the kettle or that require safety precautions.

  2. Climb up on the roof using a stable ladder and identify all the spots that need tar. Decide if you will tar the entire roof or patch worn areas. Measure the surface to be tarred. Use the measurements to estimate how much tar is needed so you purchase the correct amount.

  3. Create a work zone that is free of children and pets. Clear the area of any debris so you don't trip when carrying the kettle or working near it. Choose a sheltered area to protect the zone from wind, but not near a structure.The work zone should include a concrete surface where you can place the burner.

  4. Place the tar in the cold vat, which is labeled on the burner. Turn on the burner. Follow the manufacturer's instructions about how much cold tar to add and use the suggested ideal temperature. Wait for the tar to flow into the hot vat. Heat only small batches of tar at a time. Heat a very small batch for the first kettle to practice working with the tar.

  5. Remove the hot tar from the burner. Cover it with the lid provided for the kettle. Carry the tar carefully to the work area. Make sure the ladder is secure and the kettle isn't too heavy to carry up the ladder. If possible, use a winch to raise the covered bucket to the roof, instead of carrying it up the ladder.


Do not leave the kettle unattended. Keep a fire extinguisher near the tar burner. Wear work boots, clothing that covers your entire body, gloves and goggles at all times when working with tar.