A Brief History of Roofing


Having a roof over our heads is a basic human need. It dates back to primitive times, having shelter can mean the difference between life and death. In fact, the first rule of survival is to build a shelter. We simply can not survive for long if exposed to the elements.

Ok, that’s a bit grim. Let’s lighten it up and talk about The Evolution of Roofing. Like anything, roofing materials have changed over time. They have evolved for aesthetics, durability, availability, and efficiency. So, why don’t we take a trip down memory lane to see where we’ve come from and imagine where we might go next when it comes to the beautiful world of roofing.

The Evolution of Materials in Roofing

We could go back as far as the time’s humans were cave dwelling, but instead, let’s fast forward a few thousand centuries and focus on the beginning of the 19th century. At that time, tiles were used for roofing and were made of slate, wood or clay.

Roofing in the 20th Century

Time marched on into the 20th century, and it was an exciting time in the world—chemistry was making giant leaps, and things were becoming more efficient in general. This created the perfect environment for the first composite shingles. Early versions of composite shingles were made of felted fabric covered in tar.

Then in 1903, roofing changed forever when Henry M. Reynolds of Grand Rapids, Michigan invented the first asphalt shingles. These were created with a combination of bitumen, laced with shards of quartz, brick, slate, or other similar minerals. What was excellent about asphalt shingles were that they were good at keeping heat in and the weather out. This was an enormous breakthrough for most homes that didn’t have central heating.

Changes have been made to the asphalt shingle over time regarding the shape and exact material composition. Standard ones are rectangular, and the most common size measures 12 inches wide by 36 inches long. Strip shingles commonly have three tabs along the length of the shingle and are called three-tab strip shingles. It’s quite a feat that asphalt shingles have lived on for more than 200 years.

Roofing in the 21st Century

These days, however, people are once again rethinking the materials that are used to shelter us from the storm. Designers and contractors are considering the impact of construction on the planet; they are beginning to utilize more green technology.

For example, living roofs are becoming an exciting option for both commercial buildings and homes. It seems a shame to waste all that surface area, and therefore people are experimenting with gardens and living roofs of all sorts. One of the more talked about examples in Canada is Vancouver’s new convention centre. The building has a six-acre living roof – the largest in the country. And it features more than 400,000 indigenous plant and grasses and is a functioning and healthy bee habitat.

Another technology that people have high hopes for are solar panel shingles, which could change whole industries if they become widely available and cost-effective. Of course, they are best used in climates that enjoy plenty of year-round sunlight, and there are currently barriers to the widespread use of them like cost and efficiency. But advancements are being made—it will be interesting to see how the technology changes over the coming years.

In Conclusion

We often take our roofs for granted and don’t think of what life would be like if we were exposed to the weather. So let’s give cheers to all the determined people in the past and present who have made roofs as reliable and dependable as they are today.

For residential and commercial roofing services, contact our 24/7 Emergency Roof Repair Team in Vancouver B.C.