A summary of the different roofing materials

Roofing materials for domestic pitched roofs follow a long tradition in the UK and you would be forgiven for thinking they have not changed radically over the years. However, whilst the materials may not have changed significantly, the form and function of them have evolved a lot recently.

 
Materials used for roofing were generally of local origin, often handmade and had their own characteristics which are visible today in various regional styles. During the late nineteenth century mass production took over for the more durable roofing materials such as tiles and slates and regional diversity began to be lost as the  developing the railway network carried them across the country. 
 

Concrete tiles

Concrete is the most common material used in the manufacture of roof tiles in Britain.

Concrete-(1).jpgRegarded as the most economical roofing material, concrete tiles made their first appearance in this country in Canterbury in 1893, but their use grew dramatically during the building boom of the 1950’s. Concrete tiles are highly durable but will loose their colour over time. All of the major roof tile manufacturers offer concrete roof tiles, so ensure to choose a manufacturer who uses a high quality polymer coating to ensure the colours last that little bit longer.
 
Concrete roof tiles are available in many different shapes, sizes and colours. Primarily plain tiles, double pantiles, double roman and flat or slate appearance tiles.
 

Clay tiles

Clay is regarded as the premium roofing material, it is a natural and sustainable roofing product which benefits from inherent strength and a rich colour that will never fade. Clay roof tiles are available in many shapes and sizes and due to clay being a versatile material, roof tiles can be handmade or machine made.

Clay pantiles began to appear in the 17th century as Dutch and Flemish imports, and their use tended to be confined to eastern and north eastern counties , while clay plain tiles predominated in the Midlands and the South. The exception to this was the Bridgwater pantile from Somerset which had a wide local distribution. 

Today there is a growing interest in clay tiles due to its natural material, together with their reducing price due to the employment of latest ceramic technology means their use has now spread to most areas. Clay is an incredibly versatile material; it can be instantly aged and even made to look like natural slate. Advances in manufacturing techniques coupled with innovative design mean that the premium aesthetics and natural properties of clay are more affordable than ever before.
 
The Clay Roof Tile Council is the UK's independent trade association for the promotion of clay roof tiles in refurbishment and new build projects. For more information, please visit www.clayroof.co.uk
  

Slate  

Slate is another premium roofing material that has been part of our heritage since Roman times. Slate began to emerge as a popular roofing material in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century due to the improvement of transport, and became the favourite roof covering on Victorian houses. 

Slates are usually more time consuming to fix than clay and concrete tiles because each individual slate has to be fixed into place with two nails and/or slate clips.
 
Cheaper imported slates are available, but they are of variable quality.  The cost of imported slates is considerably less than UK quarried slates, but price gives a very good indication of quality. There are also several man-made slates on the market made from materials such as fibre cement and recycled slate.
  
 

Stone

This strong and durable roof covering material was originally used for roofs in those areas where workable stone for slabs was easily accessible.  Sedimentary rocks like limestone and sandstone which can be split along their layers are needed and these are found mainly in the Pennines and in the Midlands, Wiltshire, the Cotswolds, Dorset, Wales and the Weald.   Flags can be up to 4 feet wide and 3 inches thick and need a strong roof structure to support them. Stone flags are generally laid in ‘diminishing courses’ the largest flag sizes at the eaves and the smallest at the ridge. 
 
In parts of the north it was common practice to use a combination of stone flags and pantiles for the roof laying three or four courses of heavy slabs over the wall near the eaves for solidity and wind uplift but covering the rest of the roof with the lighter clay pantiles. Similarly in Dorset and the Cotswolds similarly stone tiles were often laid for the courses immediately over the wall and the rest of the roof was covered in clay plain tiles.
 
Today stone slates are a rather expensive option and for those outside conservation areas where planning guidance is less strict, a good reconstituted stone tile will be a more affordable option.  
 

Reconstituted stone

Reconstructed stone is based on a mix of Portland cement and limestone. Reconstituted stone usually means that pieces of original stone are incorporated into the mix. Moulds are often taken from real stone slates to create an authentic appearance. Manufacturers have carefully matched the colour and style of the original dressed stones in order to offer variants suitable for use in various parts of the country. 
 

Thatch

Thatch.JPGBefore the 17th century most ordinary houses were thatched and although many have subsequently been converted to tiles or slates particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries,  there are still plenty of thatched roofs left in the UK. Thatch’s advantages are its lightness and good heat insulating properties. Its major drawback is the risk of fire. 
 
Thatched roofs can last for a considerable time. Norfolk reed for as much as 80 to 100 years and comb Copper was known to many of the world's oldest civilizations and has been in use for at least 10,000 years.  Copper has been used as a roofing material since ancient times and can be recognised by the greenish roofs/domes on today's buildings. The green colour is the result of a chemical reaction which occurs on the surface of the copper when exposed to air.  This chemical reaction creates additional protection against corrosion.
Copper is rolled to thicknesses ranging from 0.5 to 1.0mm, but 0.6 to 0.7mm thickness is used for roofing. It can be worked at any temperature and does not become brittle in cold weather. It is available in sheets or strips and is generally regarded as a lightweight covering requiring a substrate such as boarding.

Today tried and tested fixing details and techniques make copper an ideal trouble-free building material for roofing, cladding, gutters, downpipes and other architectural details.  Whilst advances in prefabrication techniques and machinery and fixing technology have greatly reduced costs, copper remains an expensive roofing product, which can attract thieves looking to harness its high scrap value.
There are now products available that simulate the appearance of copper and so do not attract thieves.ed wheat reed up to sixty. Newer roofing materials like tile and slate at one time threatened the craft of thatching but it has now made a healthy revival. Thatch requires a specialist installer and needs regular maintenance to keep it weathertight.

 

Zinc

Zinc is used in roofing in the form of rolled sheets or strips which can provide a modern style roof covering, it can also used for cladding and rainwater goods.  Historically, zinc was used throughout Europe to imitate ornamental stone carvings, but today it is increasingly being used on roofs. 

The main attraction of zinc is that it is lightweight and can be used on either flat or pitched roofs, where it can perform down to very low pitches. As such, zinc is proving popular with architects for larger buildings such as schools and apartment blocks.

When it comes to residential homes zinc can be used to create a contemporary look, or to provide a low pitched or flat roof extension that would not be possible in tiles or slates.  Having said that, the use of zinc on private houses remains fairly low as it is not usually favoured by planners.

 

Copper

Copper was known to many of the world's oldest civilizations and has been in use for at least 10,000 years.  Copper has been used as a roofing material since ancient times and can be recognised by the greenish roofs/domes on today's buildings. The green colour is the result of a chemical reaction which occurs on the surface of the copper when exposed to air.  This chemical reaction creates additional protection against corrosion.

Copper is rolled to thicknesses ranging from 0.5 to 1.0mm, but 0.6 to 0.7mm thickness is used for roofing. It can be worked at any temperature and does not become brittle in cold weather. It is available in sheets or strips and is generally regarded as a lightweight covering requiring a substrate such as boarding.

Today tried and tested fixing details and techniques make copper an ideal trouble-free building material for roofing, cladding, gutters, downpipes and other architectural details.  Whilst advances in prefabrication techniques and machinery and fixing technology have greatly reduced costs, copper remains an expensive roofing product, which can attract thieves looking to harness its high scrap value.

There are now products available that simulate the appearance of copper and so do not attract thieves.

 



 

 

 
 
 
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