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White house with a dark roof and text: Types of Historic Roofing Materials and Choosing The Best One

Types of Historic Roofing Materials and Choosing The Best One For Your Home

A structure is only a home once it’s fitted with a roof. Effective roofing helps keep you warm, protects you from harsh and unfavorable weather conditions, protects you from wild animals, and so forth. While the importance of roofing is often overlooked by design professionals, it remains a vital aspect of any construction project.

Modern roofs come in all shapes and sizes and can be made from numerous materials. In the past, simpler historic roofing materials would be used to complete houses. While relatively simple in nature, these archaic roofing materials were highly effective. Some roofing materials have withstood the test of time and are still used in modern construction.

Roofing is a human practice that dates back thousands of years. All major civilizations had their own form of roofing. While some options have faded with time, like asbestos roofing used in ancient Egypt, others remain in use and are highly preferred. Read on to learn about historic roofing materials and how to choose the best material for your home.

A brief history of Roofing

Researchers have tried to narrow in on the first roofers in human society. While there are conflicting reports, one thing remains clear; man has always been interested in proper roofing techniques.

In China, for instance, evidence points to man-made roofing structures dating as far back as 5000 BCE. Similar reports have been filed on numerous other civilizations, including the ancient Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, and the aforementioned ancient Egyptians.

Over time, roofing practices have significantly evolved. Today, you have countless materials and roofing options to choose from. Roofing technology has grown by leaps and bounds since the 18th century, and improvements are still being made to many modern roofing solutions.

Historic roofing materials are still used today

Wood shingles

Wood has long been one of the most utilized natural resources. Different structures have been constructed using wood, ranging from ships to homes and even weapons. Wood was naturally available and could be easily gorged to suit your project.

This is why wood shingles are one of the oldest historic roofing materials. Also known as shakes, this material has been used for thousands of years. Typically, different wood would be used, depending on what was endemic to a region. The shingles would be hand carved and strategically placed on the roof.

Today, roofing experts still use wood shingles. However, manufacturing has dramatically advanced, and most wooden shingle roofs can last 30 years or longer. Roofing professionals like O’LYN Roofing can help you determine if this is the best roofing option for your home.

Clay tiles

One of the most popular historic roofing materials is clay tiles. Clay tiles have been used as far back as the 17th century when they were first introduced by French monks. In fact, some structures using clay tiles in the 17th century are still viable today. With little maintenance and timely repairs, clay tiles can last for ages.

After professional installation, this type of roofing option can remain intact for several decades without needing any further work done on it except for routine maintenance, such as cleaning off debris. Also, repairing small cracks that appear over time due to weather exposure or other factors that may cause damage to its surface over time (such as hail).


Slate is arguably one of the oldest roofing materials still in use today. Slates can last for centuries with proper care, and some have survived throughout history. Slate roofing combines the homeowner’s dream as it’s durable, has accessible maintenance practices, and has a high aesthetic appeal.

Slate can be sourced in different colors, most commonly red, blue, purple, gray, and green. These options mean you can play around to achieve the perfect roof for your home. Unlike most generic roofing options today, this diversity allows you to customize your roof for that unique feel.

Sometimes, the adjoining nails will wear out long before the slate. This is the homeowner’s dream, as you don’t have to think about roof replacement for a long while.

Factors to consider when choosing the best roofing material

With many historic roofing materials to choose from, experts like O’LYN Roofing in Norwood, MA, can help you decide what works best for your project. Some of the considerations to think about before settling on one material include the following;

  • Durability – How long will the roof last after professional installation?
  • Cost – What are the material’s installation, maintenance, and repair costs?
  • Sustainability – Is the material easy to source, and what implications does it have on the environment?
  • Performance – How does the roofing material hold up against extreme weather conditions like blizzards and hurricanes?
  • Warranty – How long does your roofing contractor offer the warranty?

For some of these factors, you’ll need the help of a roofing expert. This way, you’ll find the perfect solution that works for you and be happy decades from now. Contact O’LYN Roofing experts for all your roofing needs in Norwood, MA.