Techniques > Briefs > Roofing for Historic Buildings > Historic Roofing Materials in America

Architectural Character ( roof section)

Types for roof:
• impermeable membrane (flat, slightly pitched)
• shedding: pitched
• inspection using boom truck
• (PHOTOS- Show these two types of tiles)(Example of tile roofing on Breakers Mansion, Newport RI)

• Examples
• Architectural Conservation Audit • Case Studies

Clay Tiles

European settlers used clay tile for roofing as early as the mid-17th century; many pantiles (S-curved tiles), as well as flat roofing tiles, were used in Jamestown, Virginia. In some cities such as New York and Boston, clay was popularly used as a precaution against such fire as those that engulfed London in 1666 and scorched Boston in 1679.

Tiles roofs found in the mid-18th-century Moravian settlements in Pennsylvania closely resembled those found in Germany. Typically, the tiles were 14 to 15" long, 67" wide with a curved butt. A lug on the back allowed the tiles to hang on the lathing without nails or pegs. The tile surface was usually scored with finger marks to promote drainage. In the Southwest, the tile roofs of the Spanish missionaries (mission tiles) were first manufactured (ca. 1780) at the Mission San Antonio de Padua in California. These semicircular tiles were made by molding clay over sections of logs, and they were generally 22" long and tapered in width.

The plain or flat rectangular tiles most commonly used from the 17th through the beginning of the 19th century measured about 10" by 6" by 1/2'', and had two holes at one end for a nail or peg fastener. Sometimes mortar was applied between the courses to secure the tiles in a heavy wind.

In the mid-19th century, tile roofs were often replaced by sheet metal roofs, which were lighter and easier to install and maintain. However, by the turn of the century, the Romanesque Revival and Mission style buildings created a new demand and popularity for this picturesque roofing material.

Add material from: Clay Tile, Roofing for Historic Buildings, NPS