Roofing – How far we’ve come

Exteriors, General, Roofing

Just one look at any modern building will tell you, we’ve come a long way with our building technologies. People have utilized numerous natural and manmade resources and techniques throughout history and it has lead, ultimately, to the safe, weatherproof roofing of today. From mud, wood and straw, to tiling, shingles and man-made polymers, it’s the roof of buildings which has allowed human beings to create a life for yourself.

Every different civilisation throughout human history has had a different take on the roof of their buildings. Due to environmental demands and the natural resources at people’s disposal every different location would have a different set of tools and methods for building roofs. The finished product and the materials used to produce roof give historians an accurate portrayal of how technologically advanced a civilisation may have been.


The evolution of what we would describe as a modern roof only came into existence within the last 200 years but the real history starts significantly earlier than that. The Greeks and Romans were the first to experiment with varying roofing styles. The Romans brought us slating and tiling as early as 100 BC. Thatch roofs were introduced and implemented around the year 735 AD and it wouldn’t be for another 300 years until wooden shingles were first seen.

In the 12th century a law was passed, as a bid to help reduce the spread of fires in London, that all citizens had to replace their thatch and reed roofs with tiles made from clay. The passing of this law marked the beginning point for mass-produced, uniform roofs. Dreadnought clay tiles began production in 1805 and industrial roofing at that time had little insulation but a good slope for rainwater and other debris. Around 100 years after that concrete tile roofing was first utilized.

Whilst the roofs in England began to evolve rapidly many civilisations abroad were still dependent on the regional availability of resources. Parts of America saw much more dependence on wood and metal whereas much of Europe was now completely converted to clay. Even to this day, roofing styles are still based around local materials. However a wider variety of resources are available globally. Today, materials such as slate, and felt are amongst the most common roofing materials. With the advancement of technology and the growing global conscience of green homes, insulation and carbon footprint of materials is becoming increasingly important.

One thought on “Roofing – How far we’ve come

  1. This article is a neat history of roofing and how it has developed over time, but you make an important point about global energy awareness. Making sure that our lofts are insulated in the roofspace can go some way to make a householders bills smaller, but more than that, when it comes to renewing a roof more people are thinking about the materials they use and the impact on the environment and so green roofs such as sedum is becoming a popular choice as it is eco-friendly.


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