The Evolution of Roofing Through the Ages

Roofing is a critical part of the construction industry – some would argue it is THE most important part of a building, whether commercial or domestic.

Roofing has evolved over thousands of years, dating back to Neanderthal times, when sod or foliage was used to shelter early intelligent humans. Ever since, roofing has been adapted and redesigned according to available construction materials and new technology.

Roofing in Early Britain

The Romans first introduced slate roofing to Britain around 100BC and this proved to be far superior to the local roofing methods of the time. Slate brought a permanence to buildings around the country. Slate roofing was based on earlier methods introduced by the Greeks using clay tiles.

Thatched roofing was enormously popular in Britain at around 735AD, mostly due to the reduced cost and availability of materials. Many examples of thatched roofing still exist around parts of the UK and northern Europe, but today, they are expensive to maintain and still suffer from degradation. Thatch is reed-based and highly flammable, and this is a major part of the reduction in uptake of thatch and the reason roofing further evolved.

The part the Great Fire of London played in roofing changes in Britain

The 12th Century tragedy of the Great Fire of London forced a change in the way London’s housing was roofed. Although since disproven, the spread of the fire was originally attributed to the use of thatch in the city’s roofs.

More than 3000 lives were lost in the now infamous fire, and this led to a ban on reed and thatched roofing, announced and endorsed by King John. This led to a significant uptake of clay roof tiling, and this became the roofing material of choice at the time in the city.

Because of its availability, slate was commonly used at the time in Wales and the North West regions. Slate performs well in colder conditions, and is better than clay, which is vulnerable to frost damage.

Green roofing

Green roofing began to make an appearance in the commercial roofing market in Germany in the 1960s. Green roofing is an environmentally-friendly concept, which helps to manage surface water runoff, particularly in city areas, which can become vulnerable to flooding during heavy rain.

Eco-friendly green roofs not only help the environment with surface water management. They can become havens for endangered wildlife, such as bees, and can be planted carefully to adapt to the seasons of the year. Green roof systems require a layering technique, including water barrier, drainage and insulation layers before a planting medium on the top.

More about green roofing.

EPDM roofing

It was during the 1960s that also saw the introduction of EPDM rubber roofing. The longevity, durability and flexibility of EPDM have seen it grow rapidly in popularity ever since. Because of its ease of application and life expectancy of more than five decades, EPDM has become the industry go-to as a sustainable solution to outdated roofing materials, such as bituminous felt.

Find out more about EPDM.

Liquid EPDM

The latest version of EPDM rubber is available in liquid form and is proving to be ideal for flat roofing. Liquid EPDM can be applied over other roofing materials, subject to preparation, and offers 100% waterproofing for fascia’s and gutter boxes too.

Learn more about liquid EPDM application techniques.

The British construction industry is continuously evolving, and the introduction of new technologies accelerating. Roofing has evolved through the ages, and today we are enjoying some of the most remarkable roofing systems in history.