History of Tile: Get To Know Your Roof


Tile is a very popular choice for roofs, and for good reason. Tiles not only give your home a beautiful, classic look, but they’re also durable and hold up well to high heat – a very useful feature in Arizona. But tile has been used for roofing for millennia, and it’s definitely stood the test of time.

History of Tile Roofs

Tile roofing has a surprisingly long history that dates back millennia. We know that clay tiles were used for roofing in China and Mesopotamia out of glazed clay millennia ago, and from there, tile roofing spread across Europe and Asia. It made its way to ancient Greece and, eventually, ancient Rome, usually in the form of earthenware tiles.

The tiles in each region reflected their respective cultures and even reached the status of art in some cases. The tiles covering roofs in Chinese temples, for example, were intricately formed and beautiful. The complex lotus patterns on the end caps reveal that individual artisans replaced complex manufacturing at some points in history.

Tile roofs came to America mainly with colonists who wanted the architecture to match the architecture from their home countries of the Netherlands and Spain. From there, they’ve become some of the most popular roof types in the country.

When Were Concrete Roof Tiles First Used?

Concrete roof tiles seem to have their origin in 19th-century Germany. The lore says that they were first used by a creative farmer, whose invention of the thin concrete planks inspired all his neighbors to purchase from him until it reached mass production status. One thing we know for sure is that concrete roof tiles made their way to the Americas in the 20th century.

How long does a tiled roof last?

Tiled roofs can last more than 100 years when properly made and maintained. Decorative clay tiles, common in large-scale developments, are mostly for appearance and aren’t installed for that level of performance. In those cases, the real roof protection is the underlayment — the tiles are there to make the house attractive. In Arizona, true tiled roofs last around 50 years, and some have even made it to 80 under the hot Arizona sun, but the underlayment should be replaced every 25 years or so.

What were roofs made of 100 years ago?

A hundred years ago, they certainly didn’t have the high tech, highly effective flashing and underlayment we have today, but they created effective roofs from a variety of materials, including clay tiles, wood shingles, and cement asbestos tiles, which were the height of modernity at the time. Every region of the country had its own unique style and function preferences. Here in Arizona, bungalow roofs and mission styles with their clay tile roofs were in high demand, but pueblo-style was also in favor with its classic flat roof design.

What are Spanish roof tiles called?

Spanish roof tiles are also called double roman tiles, barrel tiles, and Spanish barrels. They consist of semi-cylinder tiles laid in a functional and attractive interlocking pattern that protects the roof.

What were roofs made of in the 1700s? 1800s?

In the colonial 1700s, residential roofs were primarily made of wood shingles. Oak, pine, Cyprus, and most commonly, cedarwood tiles were the most common types of shingles. Slate roofs, while expensive, were also in use in the 1700s. Around the world, they were using a wide variety of different kinds; including slate tile roofs, terracotta clay, and even copper and tin roofs. These types of roofs didn’t reach prominence in the States until the 1800s. Sheet metal tin roofs were the first factory-produced roofing material and gained popularity quickly.

In the mid-1800s, a significant innovation was the introduction of asphalt tiles and rolls. They provided a new level of durability using asphalt tiles with felt and a special coating that made a cost-effective option for residential housing.

Certainly, here in Arizona, tile is an ideal roofing material, proving to be both durable and beautiful. You can’t do any better than that!

If you are looking for the ideal roof for your Arizona home or just have questions about your roof, we are here to help! Reach out to us at (480) 426-1915.

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