How Roofing Materials Have Evolved Throughout American History

If you are choosing the material and style for a new roof, it is always helpful to take a look back and see what has worked throughout the course of history. You may be surprised to learn which roofs have lasted the longest and what type of roofing materials work best in different regions of the United States.

Here is a look at the evolution of roofing materials in America.

Clay, Skate, and Wood

The earliest types of roofing found in the colonies were clay tile, wood, and slate. The National Park Service’s preservation department notes ruins from Jamestown circa the middle of the seventeenth century showed slate and clay in the roof of the Virginia settlement, while Philadelphia and Boston in the North featured many more examples of clay tile. One attractive feature of both slate and clay was their resistance to fire. Once shipping became more feasible in the nineteenth century, the popularity of slate grew throughout the young country.

Wooden roofing was one of the most common materials used in the Colonial period since the sourcing and transportation of wood was so easy to manage for settlers. Because Philadelphia became one of the most heavily populated cities in the eighteenth century, concerns about fire resistance emerged, which led to the evolution of modern materials, but there was little hesitation about continuing the tradition of wood shake and shingle roofing in the country.

Modern roofing materials

By the nineteenth century, metal roofing had begun to make its mark in home building from Philadelphia to New Orleans. Copper and lead roofing set the tone before tin roofing became popular in homes where the roof was painted red. While shingles made of wood were always popular in America, asphalt came onto the scene near the turn of the twentieth century, along with asbestos and steel roofing.

Organic roof materials have always been among the first to deteriorate due to exposure to the elements, but early metal roofs had their share of problems as well. The National Park Services preservation team notes the many possibilities for corrosion in early metal roofing. Of all the roofing materials used, slate has been the most durable since the start of American home building.

Modern developments have brought metal roofing into the conversation because of its ability to mimic the look of asphalt, wood, and clay tile. Options like glass and solar roofing offer even more choices for homeowners from Alpharetta to Stockbridge. History has taught roofers many lessons about what works in Atlanta-area homes, which gives you long-lasting options for your next roof.

Thinking about a new roof, or updating an old one, call Findlay today.

Image: Morgue File

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