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Architectural Evidence: Studying the Fabric of the Historic Building

Roofs

• Roofing Brief

 

• Coordinate with roofing Brief
• Roof types
• Pitch
• Features
• Materials

Exterior features are especially prone to alteration due to weathering and lack of maintenance. Even in the best preserved structures, the exterior often consists of replaced or repaired roofing parts. Roof coverings typically last no more than fifty years.

  • Are several generation of roof coverings still in place?
  • Can the layers be identified?

If earlier coverings were removed, the sheathing boards frequently provide clues to the type of covering as well as missing roof features. Dormers, cupolas, finials, cresting, weathervanes, gutters, lightning rods, skylights, balustrades, parapets and platforms come and go as taste, function and maintenance dictate.

The roof pitch itself can be a clue to stylistic dating and is unlikely to change unless the entire roof has been rebuilt.

Chimneys might hold clues to original roof pitch, flashings, and roof feature attachments. Is it possible to look down a chimney and count the number of flues? This practice has occasionally turned up a missing fireplace.

In many parts of the country, nineteenth-century roof coverings evolved from wooden shingles or slate shingles, to metal shingles, to sheet metal, and still later in the twentieth century, to asphaltic or asbestos shingles. Clay tiles can be found covering roofs in seventeenth and eighteenth-century settlements of the east coast as well as western and southwestern Spanish settlements from the same period. Beyond the mid-nineteenth century, and into the twentieth, the range and choice of roof coverings greatly expanded.