Have you ever stopped to think about the importance of your roof? Roof Architecture protects you and your family from the elements and insulates you from the weather. If you browse the internet you will find a huge array of different roofing materials. Roofing has a long and interesting history which has led us to the great selection of roofing material choices we have
, the number of different residential architectural roofing styles is mind-boggling.
As Architects, we think of Roof Architecture as a necessity but also a simple feat of engineering capable of channeling water down slopes into valleys and along eaves. We appreciate how a roof directs the flow of water away from walls and foundations. Roof Architecture has been said that the roof is really the keystone of civilization. “No other invention deserves as much credit as the roof for bringing mankind out of caves and into dwellings and communities of their own design.” Before our ancestors figured out how to construct a dwelling they relied solely on caves for shelter.
The evolution of today’s modern roof is amazing. Here is a brief look at the progression:
- Archeologists have evidence of very early use of roofs made from a wide variety of substances, including animal parts, and wood, found naturally in the environment.
- In tropical areas, palm fronds were a practical and lightweight choice. The Plains Indians used the skins of animals like buffalo and deer along with rocks, and clay. Mud and straw roofs were frequently used in ancient Africa. Wood was also an option usually used in conjunction with another material like mud or woven fibers that were placed over it to fill in the gaps.
- China has been using clay tiles as far back as 3,000 BC. It wasn’t until the Ancient Greeks and Roman civilizations that tiles became common in Europe. Northern Europeans preferred locally available slate or wooden tiles. Wood was popular for the roofs of Nordic churches. Slate is still dominant in Northern Europe and nearby countries like France.
- By 735 AD thatch became common in Britain, but was also used in many equatorial countries, like Hawaii, Bali, and Fiji. Thatch made from sugar cane leaf was also used in Africa and Kenya. Thatch is not only a cheaper alternative to tiles, but it’s also much more fire-resistant than wooden shingles. Thatching remained popular in the 18th and 19th centuries among the American pioneers as materials were readily available and easy to install. They used thatching, which included a layer of sod underneath, to insulate their prairie houses. Unfortunately, these roofs risked frequent leaking and even collapse during heavy rain.
- Southern Europeans typically used baked clay for their roofs, resulting in the signature “Terra-cotta” look of Spanish and Mediterranean architecture. Tile use spread to many countries when homeowners learned of their durability and water-resistant qualities. These tiles have a timeless quality and many have passed the test of time.
- Asphalt shingles were developed in America in the 1920s. Asphalt is a combination of a base of cellulose or fiberglass with granules including mica, oyster shell, slate, and clay. These materials are sealed with resins and polymer-modified bitumen. Different coatings, materials, and adhesives are used to improve durability, waterproofing, heat and cold resistance. Asphalt shingles are easy and inexpensive to manufacture and install. They have become a mainstay for many American homes.
- Metal roofing has been used throughout history because it is extremely durable and can be bent to fit the shape needed. These metal roofs were prohibitively expensive and used only by the wealthy or on temples or museums. Copper was a popular choice for roofs in Ancient Rome. Ancient Egyptians used aluminum and alum compounds to strengthen their roofs. Zinc was first used in the 1700s and remains popular today. Copper has always been a popular choice of metal roofing because of its ease of handling and the beautiful way it ages. The Kronborg castle used copper roofing in 1587 and didn’t require renovation until 2009!
Today’s roofing is a splendid combination of the best elements that have worked for centuries, coupled with the technology and trends of today. Your roof choice will be influenced by local climate, availability of materials, and cultural preferences. You can choose from hundreds of styles and shades of ceramic or concrete tiles. An inexpensive asphalt roof is always an option. Metal roofing is versatile and highly durable, as well as energy-efficient, light, and recyclable. This makes it a great choice for today’s green building trends. Whatever roofing style you chose for your home you can be sure that a long history of human ingenuity and craftsmanship is behind it. The choice is entirely yours.