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From Straw to Shingles: The Evolution of Roofing Materials

From Straw to Shingles: The Evolution of Roofing Materials

From Straw to Shingles: The Evolution of Roofing Materials

We often take our roofs for granted and rarely consider how others apprehended roofing in the past. Roofing materials have a rich and varied history. As long as mankind has laid under the stars, they’ve had something to shelter them from the elements. It’s important to understand that history to become grateful for what we have while paying attention to where we’re going in the future. In the following paragraphs, we will take you on a journey from straw to shingles by following the evolution of roofing materials. Read on below for more.

Roof Materials From Ancient Times

We first see roofing structures in pit-houses, a house built in-ground and used for shelter. The ground surrounding the pit house often offered a modicum of insulation when we finally started building roofs on top of houses above ground. We began to form perpendicular walls, and house structures resembled modern ceiling and frame structures. At the time, roofs were covered in softer materials like grass, reed, straw, and leather.

The roofing shingle was one of the first innovations of historical roofing. The shingles were typically chipped stone plates and processed wooden shingles. In 1000 BC, we invented the first profiled tiles. A monk in Ancient Rome created the oldest tile system, which spread throughout the Mediterranean. Ancient Romans also innovated a form of roof construction that used concrete domes. What was the building that used this design? The Pantheon. Unfortunately, we’ve completely forgotten many Roman inventions over the years.

Thatched and Tiled Roofs

Thatching materials appeared in Europe at the beginning of 737 AD and remained the most popular roofing method until the 19th century. It’s an advanced technique that uses grass, straw, reeds, or other materials to create a roof. Because of these materials, it was also a great insulation medium that kept ancient people warm for years. Tile roofing comes in numerous materials and is much closer to modern roof architecture than its previous iterations. There are even Chinese structures that boast glazed clay tile roofing materials. While China was certainly an innovator in this regard, other parts of the world didn’t see this form of roofing until much later.

Metal Roofs

The blueprints for metal roofing were patented in England in 1829. Its creation greatly reduced installation time and labor because of the corrugated stiffened sheets, which allowed it to expand over a much lighter framework than most materials. Tin roofing was used quite a bit in Canada in the 18th century but not in the United States until much later. Copper was implemented in American roofs such as the Christ Church, constructed in 1727. Given the price of most metal roofs, they’re typically used for religious buildings, like the Temple on the Mount or various cathedrals.

Types of Modern Roofing Materials

We’ve reviewed quite a few ancient and classical iterations of roofing materials. But what about modern-day roofing materials? There are a ton of them out there, and many more people that will provide services to repair and replace them. From hail damage roofers to construction contractors, there are a number of materials that you take advantage of. Before you do, let’s look at some of the top modern roofing materials.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are used by many people worldwide and are undoubtedly the most popular choice on this list. Henry M. Reynolds in Michigan created it. It took a while for him to get the formula correct, but when he did, asphalt shingles spread like wildfire across the US.

They’re affordable and easy to install. Replacing and repairing them is also relatively easy. There are different shingles, from high-end agricultural shingles to basic ones. However, they aren’t very durable. They last upward to 30 years, contingent on the weather conditions they’re exposed to.

Slate Roofing

The first slate roof came from England and was built around 1400 AD. These are materials that most people use on military structures or castles because of how much construction would cost. In the 1800s, Spaniards quarried the material and produced slates for homes nationwide.

Slate is a popular and sleek option as far as roof materials for homes are concerned. It’s a beautiful, durable, modern option that lasts decades. However, slate is incredibly heavy, and not all houses can support its weight. They also require a specialist who knows how to install them, and they’re expensive, which can be a turn-off for some buyers. If you’re looking for aesthetic appeal, a slate roof is for you. No article on the history of roofing materials would be complete with a mention of the slate roof.

Clay Tiles

Clay tiles are a great roofing option for people who enjoy natural materials. They’re made from molded and earthen clay and fired for a durable structure. It’s a great option for houses in the desert and tropical climates. They don’t require too much maintenance because they absorb less moisture overall.

However, like slate roofing, clay is expensive. They are lighter than their concrete counterparts, which can add a ton of weight to the structure of a home. This can cause problems with your walls or foundation. Clay tiles are fragile and easily break if the contractor is unfamiliar with the installation process.

Concrete Tiles

Concrete tiles are durable and can easily mimic other kinds of materials. For instance, why would you want to get a slate roof when concrete tiles can mimic it? Concrete is also much more affordable and can last at least five decades. That said, it’s a heavy material that puts a lot of stress on the home’s structure. Since it absorbs a lot of water, it also requires more maintenance.

Green Roofing

This isn’t as modern an invention as you think. A good example of green roofs is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which utilized a large aqueduct system that placed flowers and plants around the structural building and on the roof. Today, we see that same legacy in the form of living roofs, which are small gardens that you grow on the roof. It’s a tremendous help in insulating your home, managing water runoff, and expelling clean oxygen. That said, there’s a huge cost behind this project, and it requires a lot of maintenance, so don’t take advantage of this kind of roof lightly.

Solar Tiles

Solar tiles have photovoltaic sheets that overlay on top of existing shingles on your roof. Solar roofing has many benefits, the least of which involves getting off the grid entirely. Solar roofing is a much more sustainable method of helping you do your part to save the environment, but it’s costly and requires a ton of maintenance.

Overall, there are many different kinds of roofing materials, all with a long and illustrious history. If you want to get your roof serviced, check out our services here at Pro-Home Services! We’ll take great care of you.

From Straw to Shingles: The Evolution of Roofing Materials







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