The History of Tile Roofing

Talking about the best roofing materials is extremely hard without mentioning tile roofing. Roof tiles are one of the best roofing materials in the world, offering durability and great beauty for your home.

Many homeowners know about clay tiles and other tiles but not much about where they came from. And yet, tiles have a very rich history.

Bison Roofing experts offer information on different roofing materials to help customers make more informed decisions. We will be reviewing the history of tile roofing. This will help you understand why this type of material is so popular and perhaps why you should consider having them in your house.

The History of Tile Roofing - Article

General Overview

It’s unclear where such materials came from, but tile dates back to several centuries before Christ. History records that the earliest man lived in caves and natural shelters before starting to work in temporary homes.

The earliest shelters were some flat stones and thatch. Later, man began making more advanced shelters, starting from the Neolithic period. Experts record the start of these materials with the finding of cinerary vessels like huts, specifically in Italy and Saxony, among other regions.

Tiles have also been traced to ancient Greece, where they still carry a huge cultural history even today. Beyond the Neolithic age, too another earliest record of these materials is found in ancient Egypt. These were the most civilized societies in the world, which is why it’s easier to relate them will use such materials.

It’s also recorded that Spanish missionaries played a huge role in spreading the use of tiles on roofs, as seen in many ancient Spanish settlements. It started in minor Asia many years before Christ moved to Egypt, Greece, and eventually Europe.

Hera’s Olympia ruins hold some of the oldest evidence of tiles roofs with all their architecture intact. It’s amazing how these materials can withstand the taste of time and handle extreme weather conditions for a long time.

Today, just about everyone knows about tile roofing. It seems more economical in the long run to have tiles on a new roof than other materials.

Where Did Tile Roofing Come From?

As you may have imagined, a clay tile was the first to be made. In the past, there was no cement or other materials used in making modern tiles. And their clay roofing tiles have the longest years on the market. Even though modern clay tile roofs have more advanced features, they are still made from the same material as the first roof tiles, which is soil.

It started in China

The first clay roofing tile is believed to have come from China around 10,000 years B.C. And then, it traveled to the Middle East a little later when traders started interacting with other regions.

A clay roofing tile was made by baking soil and exposing it to extreme heat to make it water-resistant and more durable. Although its mode is brittle, a clay roof tile can last for over 100 years when properly cared for.

Egypt and Babylon

Egypt and Babylon are the two regions with the earliest forms of human civilization. They are known for creating more advanced machinery and other items.

Roof tile and clay shards were used vastly in these regions after being copied from China and the Middle East. It extended to the Greeks and Romans, who also used terracotta tiles on their roofs too.

From Europe to the U.S.

Some of the European settlers who moved to the new country of America carried along clay roof tiles. And by the 17th century, many homeowners in the U.S. were using these materials as their preferred roofing materials.

The first sign of clay tile roofing in the U.S. can be traced back a few years ago when archeologists discovered examples of tiled roofs on Roanoke Island, North California. These tiles date back to 1585 and are still in the best shape.

Aside from that, clay tiles were known to be popular in early English settlements of Jamestown, Virginia, and St.Marys, Mary Land.

Flat tiles made from soil were also common in the Spanish settlements around Florida. There are also historic clay tiles in New Orleans where French Spanish settlers used them in their homes.

 Clay tiles slowly began finding their way into parts of the world. Their durability has always made them a preferred material over wood shingles and other roofing solutions.

Tile Roofing Coming to The New World

There are traces of clay tiles in the Upper Hudson River Valley dating hundreds of years ago. And experts have found their origin and how they were exported into the new world.

Clay roofing tiles were exported to the Dutch settlers from Holland through the east coast of America. But around 1650, there was already a good size of production around the Upper Hudson River Valley. The factory transported the terra cotta tiles to Amsterdam, where the demand was also rising rapidly.

It is due to the strength and durability of a tile roof that many other regions sort to try them on their buildings. Hence, by 1775, during the American Revolution, there were already several manufacturers running the business.

More roof tile varieties were introduced during this period, starting with colored and glazed options. The New York City area started receiving more and more natural terracotta clay tiles.

Used on both commercial and residential buildings, original roof tiles were considered the best solution for fire 

resistance. The Great Fire of London created fear in people that required people to find a lasting solution. That is where the fire redundancy of roof tile materials came in.

Fire codes were created in most cities, encouraging the use of terracotta roofing tiles. They were also durable, easy to maintain, and without thermal conductivity.

Even so, the fire codes were not so much followed in areas outside major cities. Hence, wood shingles were still the main material in such areas. Besides, the wood materials were far more affordable, lighter, and easier to install.

Builders were also using slate and metals like copper, iron, and zinc as an alternative to fire-resistant materials. Many of them were way cheaper than clay tiles.

For this reason, clay tiles became quite dormant. They remained unfashionable until the 19th century. During this time, other materials considered more affordable and easier to use were installed on most homes.

Tile Roofing in America and Other Parts

 Today, clay tiles have become one of the most popular roofing materials in the USA. The development of modern technologies like cement mortar has made things easier and more interesting. But it was not always like that.

Let us look at the history of tile roofing in America and how it became to be so famous.

Clay Shards in Ohio

It has been a huge challenge tracing the development of clay tiles in Ohio compared to other roofing materials. Even so, its architectural and cultural history is still a fascination that amuses modern enthusiasts.

There is a quaint of the old village of Germantown that seems to record the first use of tile roofs in Ohio. Philip Gunckel laid out this village in 1814 and named it after Germantown, and it still remains so today.

The locals wanted to imitate European luxury villas that were more durable and offered greater beauty. Early French and Spanish settlers in these regions began manufacturing brick from clay, which would increase the demand and use of clay tiles.

It was the decision by Zoarites, a German religious sect, to produce roofing tiles in Ohio that really initiated the use of these materials in the region in 1820. They built a town called Zoar and created a foundation for other roofing companies to thrive on using tiles and other materials. Their efforts were at a much larger scale than that of Mr. Robinson, who had started the business in a German Town.

In 1941, another enthusiast known as Edwin Berrett arrived in the country and joined his brother in a small pottery shop that became the first in East Liverpool. The shop developed into a major industry, creating an even bigger demand for tiles.

In 1902, A.W. Brown was elected as the president of a tile roofing plant in Lexington, Ohio. The company also contributed majorly to the growth and development of the material. Many other companies were established, perhaps to meet the rising demand or just because business was good. Whatever the case, they contributed to the popularity of tile roofs we see today.

Tile Roofing in Other Cities and States

Today, tiles are used in many other parts of the USA, including San Antonio, TX. Mitchell Clay Co initiated the first step to spread the material to these regions in 1866. But they discontinued the production after five years.

Other companies attempted to do the same in many other parts of the country. For instance, Celadon Terra Cotta Co. became the first company to make a real breakthrough in 1888. Another plant was built in Ottawa in 1890, and another in Chicago Heights, Illinois, in 1893.

That was the beginning of the successful tile business we see today across the USA. Today, you will find tile roofing in every county. They have spread from cities into inner parts of the country, offering great durability and fire resistance.

Final Thought

Even with such a rich history, you need an experienced roofer to install your tile roof. And that is where Bison Roofing comes in. The company offers high-quality roofing services with long-lasting solutions. Call now to learn more about tile roofs or to schedule your next roofing project.