A Quick Look at the Fascinating History of Roofs
Roofs have always been made from whatever resources were available in the area at the time. For example, cavemen didn’t have access to things like metal and glass, so they made roofs out of earth and plants. These types of roofs were called sod roofs and though they provided good insulation against the elements, they leaked when it rained and they did not keep rodents and other vermin out of the home.
Glazed clay roofs came about around somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago in China and flat earthenware tiles were used between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago in Greece and Babylon, eventually moving through Egypt and to Rome, known as the “City of Tiled Roofs”. The Romans were known for using a variation of Greece’s clay tiles when they took with them to England around 100 BC. Clay roofing materials are still very popular today due to their durability along with the fact that they are aesthetically appealing.
In 735 AD, thatched roofs started to be used and by 1035 AD, wooden shingles were being used. In the 12th century, King John made a law in London that banned citizens from using thatch and reed. Instead, they were to convert to clay tiles. The law was put into effect in order to prevent fires from spreading. King John was ahead of his time, as New York City and Boston did not establish fire codes for roofing until the aftermath of the Boston fires in 1679.
By the 19th century, the industrial production of clay roofing was happening thanks to advances in transportation and the subsequent availability of steam engines. Composite shingles also came about in the 19th century. Composite shingles are a mixture of felt or woven fabrics along with pine tar and sand. Asphalt also became popular in the composite roofing business in the 19th century, as it could be produced in mass for very little money. The fabric was saturated with the asphalt and then covered in a mixture of materials such as talc, sand or limestone. Composition roofing is generally credited to S.M. and C.M. Warren Company. In the early 1900s, concrete became the thing to use for roofing. It was often mixed with a pigment to make it look as if it was clay tile roofing.
The first green roofing systems were used in Germany in the early 1970s. Today, technological advances in glass, polymer and smog-absorbing materials has even more people scrambling to convert to green roofing. Saving energy has become the trend and producing earth-friendly roofing is not likely to end any time soon.
Today, modern technology does not mean that roofing is only for shelter. Cosmetic appeal is also possible. Many houses and buildings have gorgeous skylights or roofs made completely out of glass. Some buildings and homes even have retractable roofs that mechanically slide back in nice weather.
Most of the changes in roofs have taken place in the last 200 years, although it is still common to use materials that are readily available. North America tends to use wood, metal, slate and tile. Wood and metal is most popular in southern parts of North America while slate is usually used in Northeastern North America. The Midwest is partial to using wood to build their roofs and tile is popular in the Southwest.
This article was composed by Ty Whitworth for the team at roof patch.