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Modern Day Vs Old World Roofing Techniques

Though you probably don’t think about it often, the roof over your head is very important. It protects you and your home from extreme weather conditions. Mainly, it keeps the rain out which otherwise could cause leaks, rot wood, and create moldy conditions. In addition to protection from the outside weather, a roof affects the overall look and style of your home. However, it can only protect and look aesthetically pleasing if the roofing materials and techniques are done well. Generally speaking, all roofing needs to be installed over a solid, sturdy roof deck and then flashed properly at every valley, wall intersection, and penetration. Let’s look at modern day roofing techniques versus old world methods.

Old World Roofing Methods

Historically, old world roofs often consisted of materials such as wood shakes, metals such as copper that eventually ages with a green patina, or slate tile. European settlers’ homes had clay tile or sometimes slate. These curved tiles were used in America as early as the 17th century. By the mid-19th century, many tile roofs were replaced with sheet metal since metal was lighter and easier to install and maintain.

Wood shingles have always been a popular roofing choice in the United States. Depending on what wood was plentiful in the region, popular choices included white pine, cypress, oak, red cedar or redwood. Sometimes, a protective coating of brick dust and fish oil or paint made out of red iron oxide and linseed oil was applied to the surface for more durability. By the late 1800s, asphalt shingles and roll roofing were used, and there were many roofs that were covered with roofing material that contained asbestos, aluminum, galvanized or stainless steel, or lead-coated copper.

Modern Day Roofing Techniques

Roofing materials of today are manufactured with safety in mind and no longer contain dangerous components such as asbestos or lead, both of which were widely used during the 1920s through the 1960s. It wasn’t until 1989 that asbestos would become illegal through an Environmental Protection Agency EPA issued ban and Phase Out Rule. Homes built today commonly use asphalt shingles that are asbestos free. However, if the home you are looking to roof is of the old world style or builT during a historic period, replacing its roof will require some extra safety precautions in both removing the existing materials and properly disposing of them in an environmentally friendly manner.

While some modern day houses are opting to go with solar panels, green living roofs, or costly metal, asphalt roofing is the most common modern day roofing material used in the United States. The reason for this is that it is affordable and durable. Most shingles are made out of a composite that is intended to stand up to weather elements and last for years. It is also available in a wide range of styles and colors to attain almost any look, including architectural shingles that create a three-dimensional look much like the old world wood shake style.

Asphalt shingles can often be overlaid on existing shingles to avoid the need of removing the existing roofing. There are two main installation methods to attach the shingles to the roof: through-fastener and clip-fastener systems. One uses a screw or a nail that penetrates through the panel, whIle the other uses specialized clips that attach to the panel or shingle.

Whether it’s modern day techniques or old world roofing, the first step is to start with a sturdy roof deck and then lay roofing felt according to local codes, of which no building codes existed in America until the 1920s, preferably thirty-pound roofing felt. Roofing nails should always be long enough to penetrate through the roof decking and the roofing material by at least ¾ of an inch.

While working to properly cover a roof remains to be a tedious, intense physical labor chore, roof installation methods have also become more streamlined and efficient with measures taken to ensure the safety of the workers. There are also various attic venting options available. To get the most years of life out of your modern day asphalt roof shingles, proper installation and continued preventative maintenance is important.


Contributed by: Royal Renovators Inc. 118-35 Queens Blvd Forest Hills, NY 11375 (718) 414-6067

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