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The History, Evolution & Future Of Roofing Materials

July 2, 2019
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We often take for granted the solid roof above our heads that keep us safe from the elements. Roofing has been around for as long as history has been written, and most likely even longer. A good roof has come a long way in the thousands of years we have forsaken a hunter gatherer lifestyle and settled down to form towns and cities. Here is a brief history of roofing.

Earliest roofing

Before the modern shingles we think of, roofing was made out of pretty much anything. Archeologists have discovered a number of different roofing materials all over the world. These include animal skins, such as those used in tipis, mud or grass roofing in adobe homes, and of course straw or wood.

Tile Roofing

Before the advent of tile roofing, homes were covered with pretty much anything that would at least slow down the leaks. Roofing much closer to what we know today appeared in China some 5,000 years ago as glazed clay tiles. China was well known for having advanced architectural techniques however, and we wouldn't see this style of roofing till much later in other parts of the world.


Thatching appeared in Europe around 735AD and continued to be the most popular method of roofing all the way up until the 19th century. Thatching is a somewhat more advanced technique of using straw, grass, reeds, or similar material to create a roof. It was popular because the thick roofing not only kept leaks out, it also acted as insulation, keeping the home warmer.

Modern architecture

Roofing remained relatively unchanged until the modern era. Asphalt shingles first appeared in 1901 and rapidly became popular after that, and other modern techniques for flat roofing have also appeared.

Roofing material has changed in style since then, with the addition of color options and the increase of safety guidelines, but the asphalt shingle is still the most popular choice today.

Fire resistant roofing material

Our history has also been riddled with extreme fires. Many of our modern day building guidelines include fire safety due to devastating fires in our past from improper planning. New roofing material is fire retardant and built to resist wildfires, fireworks, lightning strikes, and other ways it can catch fire. Before these fire retardant materials were put into place, 13,200 homes were destroyed in the Great Fire of London.

While flammable roofing wasn't the only cause of the fire, it definitely didn't help, and the increase of extreme fires in California and throughout the rest of the world are making fire retardant roofing a necessity.

The future of roofing

With the concern of climate change, some architects are circling back to the past and creating 'living roofs' to help combat climate change. This style of roofing is still imperfect, but may offer a way to cool off cities, reduce carbon footprint, and add fresh air to city life.

As long as humans have been settling in one place, they have made themselves a roof to live under. Roofing is a critical part of our lives, and it has changed and grown as our needs have changed. Roofing is safer and stronger than ever before, keeping the people and things we love safe.

NY Roofing 553 Prospect Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11215 (646)-838-0441

NY Roofing is a top rated flay & sloped roofing contractor in Downtown Brooklyn. We are GAF certified Master Elite Contractors. We provide full repair & install solutions for our clients. Contact as now for a free estimate

Royal Renovators Inc is Fully Licensed and Insured, with Offices Throughout the NYC Area.
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