A Brief History of Metal Roofing

July 16, 2021 1:58 am Published by Leave your thoughts

While the vast majority of roofing (especially in residential settings) is done with asphalt shingles, there are plenty of other material options out there, including metal. Metal roofing does not have quite the same extensive history of materials like tile or wood, but it does stretch back a couple hundred years and continues to evolve and grow more popular for both residential and commercial properties.

Here’s a quick overview of the history of metal roofing and how it has developed into what we know it as today.

Metal roofing through time

Sheet metal did not exist until the late 1700s, and its development was a significant step forward in metalworking that opened up all sorts of new possibilities, including metal roofing.

The first known sheet metal roof was in Philadelphia, used by Robert Morris to add a roof to his mansion. In the 19th century, it started to become more popular, particularly for buildings with gentle roof inclines rather than steep pitches. With roofs that were domed or had slight inclines, tile and clay simply could not achieve or maintain the shape required. Sheet metal was especially popular for agricultural and industrial buildings at this time.

By 1829, corrugated iron had been invented and patented, and less than a decade later French metalworkers developed galvanization. By the middle of the 19th century, galvanized iron was being used for the development of post offices, train sheds, factories and more, thanks to its durability and fireproof nature.

Over the decades that followed, the technology for metalworking and working with sheet metal would only continue to improve. Today, we have aluminum roofs that can come in a wide range of colors, patterns and textures, and even materials that can be made to look like other materials like wood, shingles or tile.

Some important buildings in the history of metal roofing include:

  • Christ Church in Philadelphia: Many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried at this church, which was once the tallest building in the United States of America (1754 to 1810). The roof originally featured copper sheets and plates imported from England. By the end of the 18th century, it used rolling sheet metal developed in America.
  • Nassau Hall at Princeton University: A historic building and a site of a Revolutionary War battle, this was the building where George Washington was congratulated on winning the war and signed a peace treaty with England. During a refurbishment of the building after a fire in 1802, the roof was replaced with sheet metal.
  • Monticello: The famous plantation owned by Thomas Jefferson had tinplate iron roofing until 1802 at the plantation house. Today Monticello exists as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • S. Mint in New Orleans: One of the first metal roofs in the southern U.S., this roof was installed in 1857 and featured galvanized, corrugated iron to make it fireproof. Today it exists as part of the Louisiana State Museum.

For more information about the benefits of metal roofing and its history, contact the team at Superior Products Inc. today.

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