A Brief History of Roofing in Virginia

Virginia is rich in history and historical architecture. From stately mansions and plantation homes to log cabins and farmsteads, early Virginia had them all. Today, many of Virginia’s early architecture is still in use. Near constant growth and development, particularly in the Northern Virginia area because of its proximity to the District of Columbia, has added a wide variety of architectural styles throughout the years.

Example of a thatched roof widely used in England.

Example of a thatched roof widely used in England.

Roofing in Virginia is as rich in history as the state itself. While across the pond, ancestors of Virginia’s settlers built homes with thatched roofs, by the time they arrived in the US roofing materials consisted of wood, clay tiles, slate, lead and copper metal roofing.

Example of curved clay roof tiles.

Example of curved clay roof tiles.

Wood tiles and clay tiles were the most readily available roofing materials and were used in Virginia starting in the 18th century. Clay tiles were either flat or curved, s-shaped tiles – much like the Spanish clay tiles widely in the Western part of the country today. Although slate was more durable and considered more attractive than clay, it had to be imported (mainly from Wales) and was therefore expensive. Sources for native slate were known along the eastern seaboard, however difficulties in transporting it meant that Welsh slate needed to continue to be imported. It wasn’t until the creation of railroads and canals in the mid-19th century that made slate roofing more readily available and less expensive.

Example of a historic Victorian home built in the 1800's.

Example of a historic Victorian home built in the 1800’s.

During the 19th century, metal roofing gained popularity, although lead and copper roofing was used in the 18th century. In fact, one of the most stately mansions in Virginia – “Roswell” – had lead roofing. Copper roofing was widely used on coppulas and domes, and continues to be used today.

Another famous Virginia location, Thomas Jefferson’s architectural masterpiece Monticello, also had metal roofing. At that time, tin roofing was Jefferson’s choice. While Jefferson’s Monticello used standing seam tin roofing, other buildings in the east used tin shingles, often laid in a herringbone pattern.

At the end of the 1800’s, asphalt shingles were being produced and offered a less expensive alternative to slate and clay roofing. Today, asphalt shingle roofing continues to be one of the most widely used forms of roofing in Virginia. Also still in use today are wood shingles (mainly cedar), metal roofing, clay tile roofing, and slate roofing.

New innovations in residetial roofing include synthetic and composite roofing. This roofing provides the look of slate and cedar, but offers a less expensive and more sustainable alternative. Composite slate, for example, is often used in restoring older homes and commercial buildings whose original slate roofing is in need of replacement.

No matter what type of roofing you choose for your Virginia home, you can trust that the experts at S&K Roofing, Siding and Windows will provide a quality installation. Visit our Sterling, VA showroom to see the latest in roofing and exterior home improvement products.