July 22, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

Historical Evolution from Mud Roof to Modern Roofing Solutions

3 min read
history of roofs

history of roofs

Together with food and procreation, a shelter is also on top of the list when it comes to survival of the human race. Shelters have always been our protection against harsh weather conditions and predators. The roofs covering these shelters have been made available through natural resources.

The history of roofs came together with the construction of houses. Rooftops keep homes protected, and we tend to take for granted the long history of their development, as modern roofs do not give us many problems. Imagine living in a time where materials like thatch, mud and animal skin were used to make roofs. These roofs were unstable, leaks were a common thing, and insects and vermin were the unwanted guests attracted by the roofing materials in the ancient times.

The Chinese started to create waterproof roofs from glazed clay tiles around 3000 BC and from there the roofing technology developed across the world. In Greece and Babylon, flat earthenware roof tiles developed around the same time. The Romans brought roof tiles to England which was mostly adopted by the wealthy. Other watertight thatching techniques used were not perfect as they could catch on fire very quickly. In London, there was a catastrophic fire in 1666 which caused the citizen to replace all thatched roofs with clay tiles instead.

In the 19th century, the industrial production of clay roofing tiles made way. With the practice to add pigment to clay roofing tiles, the concrete roof tile got introduced a 100 hundred years later. During the 19th century, asphalt also became available which became popular in the mass production of roofing products at a low cost.

The Germans started to develop and market green roofs during the 1970s, but prove of green roof experimentation are found in Germany, seen on homes from the 1940s. Therefore, it can be said that it is a misconception that green roofs are a new technique in today’s roofing construction. Green roofs today are in fact an old roofing technology that is becoming trendy in our modern time due to the green movement.

Over the last 200 years, the roofing materials have been changing significantly. People do however tend to make use of the materials that are available in their regions. In northeast America, mainly slate roofs are used while wood and metal are being applied in the southern parts of North America, tile in the southwestern part and wood is more common in the Midwest.

We can say that old mud roofs gave origin to the clay roofing materials of today. Nowadays, clay roof materials still look stunning once installed, and they have developed over the years to become very resistant to mold and decay. Clay tiles are fire resistant and can last for decades.

Technology is advancing every day, and new rooftops may consist of glass, polymer, and smog absorbing tiles. As society is becoming more green-conscious, energy saving materials are becoming the main stream with sustainability being the goal.

Hurricane Irma which hit the northeastern Caribbean on 12 September 2017 is the latest reality check that all man-made things are still very vulnerable to natural disasters. Hopefully, soon the construction techniques will be able to develop in such a way that even these dreaded disasters will not stand a chance against the rooftops over our heads.