Facebook Pixel Spacer

A Look at Historic Roofing Materials in Texas

The materials and techniques companies use today in roof replacement and everyday residential roofing resulted from historic advances made since the beginning of civilization. Before we were able to mass-produce shingles, humans had to build roofs out of whatever they could find.

Ja-Mar Roofing & Sheet Metal would like to take a second to go a little in-depth into each one of these historic types of roofs that led to the modern roof. Know a bit of history behind all of these different styles to see how far roofing has come.

Animal Skin

The earliest known roofs date back to 40,000 BC, when Siberians fashioned roofs out of wooly mammoth skins.

By Nandaro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Thatched Roofs

Roofing with thatch goes back thousands of years but is still used around the world today from England to Fiji. Thatch is weather-resistant, low-maintenance, and the materials are readily available, making it popular across cultures.

By Nandaro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons


When metal roofs first came about, they were cheaply made and very poor in quality. The historic example would be a chintzy tin roof on a log cabin. However, advances in metalworking allow for a longer lifespan for metal roofs as well as many different looks.


Copper has been used in roofing systems for thousands of years because it’s extremely durable, low-maintenance, and lightweight. It’s estimated that copper roofs can last for over 1000 years — in fact, the copper roof of Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany, constructed in the year 1280, survives to this day.

Roof Tiles

Tile roofs have been traced back to the 3rd millennium BC. In the early 1200s, King John ordered London citizens to replace thatch or wood-shingled roofs with clay tiles to prevent fires from spreading from house to house. Ceramic tiles are still popular today, especially on the Spanish style buildings in Texas.


From its earliest Egyptian roots, the Mediterranean tile has become one of the best looking (and best functioning) historic roofing materials today. These roof tiles are made within a kiln and crafted to perfection. It offers heartier insulation than normal tiles. The tiles are also tube-shaped, helping to guide rainwater to gutters attached to the roof.


Clay tiles have been in use since 4000 B.C. in ancient China. First, clay is put into a mold. The clay then dries, then is fired in a kiln. The tiles are then fitted together like a puzzle until the roof is complete. With advances in technology, clay roof tiles have been retrofitted to fit different climates, from hot Spanish weather to frigid Canadian winters.

Concrete Tiles

In the late 19th century, concrete roofing tiles were created as a lower-cost substitute for traditional clay tiles. Concrete can mimic the appearance of clay tiles and is resistant to hail and snow.


Compared to their clay counterparts, French tiles look very similar. The key difference lies in the materials, which are made out of either ceramic or slate. This makes their insulating processes a bit different, which can benefit the owner of a house in different ways depending on where they live.

Asphalt Shingles

Available in organic and fiberglass varieties, asphalt shingles are by far the most common residential roofing material in the U.S. They were invented by an American in 1901.

Green Roof

A “green roof” is a roof of a building that is covered with grass, plants, or other vegetation. Known for their sustainable properties, there are several famous living roofs in the U.S., such as the roof of the Rockefeller Center and the Ballard Library in Seattle.

Solar Shingles

Solar shingles were first made available for commercial use in 2005. Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingles first appeared in Colorado in 2011 and are now available in nearly 20 states (including Texas!) and Canada.