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A History of Metal Victorian Roof Shingles & Sheet Metal Tiles

A History of Metal Victorian Roof Shingles & Sheet Metal Tiles

Metal Victorian Roofs and the Victorian style building dominated architectural design between the 1830s and 1910s. Although the buildings of this 80-year period shared many similarities, there were also noticeable differences between Victorian era buildings constructed at different times. The most popular materials used for Victorian metal roof shingles also changed several times during the period. Let's take a look at how Victorian metal roof shingles and sheet metal tiles changed over the years:

Wood, clay and the beginning of the Victorian era

When the architectural design choices that have grown to be known as the Victorian style emerged, wood and clay tiles were the roofing materials of choice. For higher end buildings, clay was typically used, whereas wood was sought as a less expensive alternative. Clay roofing can have a very long lifespan, especially in areas where the likelihood of impact from high-flying debris is unlikely. This is because clay tiles do not wear down under the stresses of normal environmental conditions.

Wooden roofing has the shortest lifespan of any Victorian era roofing material. Wood is susceptible to mold, bacteria, fire, insect infestations and impact damage. Without access to modern polymer coatings, many wooden roof tiles had to be replaced after 10-20 years. However, due to their light weight, wooden tiles from the Victorian era put the least amount of stress on the underlying structure of the roof.

The mid-1800s and the galvanized steel roof

The invention of galvanization of sheet metals in the 1830s revolutionized the ability to use metal in a wide variety of areas, because it protected metal from corrosion. In 1857, the first galvanized steel roof was used in North America. This type of roofing combined strength and durability with a low weight and low cost; combined with the unique appearance of a metal roof, its popularity increased.

Because of the corrosion resistance, strength and flexibility of galvanized steel, this type of roof is known to last up to 70 years in most cases. The biggest concern that metal roofing has early in its life is denting from debris. Many Victorian metal roof shingle and sheet metal tiles made of still exist in outstanding condition today. This is a testament to their durability.

The late 1800s and the rise of slate roofing

Slate roofing has existed in North America since the 1600s. Since their first use, slate roofs have been revered as a pinnacle of roofing style. This is due to their durability, strong style and high cost. During the Victorian era however, their popularity did not come until the late 19th century, when their use grew.

A slate roof is extremely resistant to the elements, including debris impacts and chemical degradation. It is also completely immune to many factors that would destroy other types of tiles, like fire. The durability of slate roofs built during the Victorian era is so great, in fact, that under the right conditions they are reputed to last at least a century, and the underlying structure of the roof usually wears down before most of the slate tiles do.

Not all Victorian era roofs are made the same

As you can see from the history of Victorian roof tiles, there is no universal roofing material for this era. If you are undertaking a Victorian era building restoration, you must choose the right tiles. Make sure that you consult with a historic building restoration expert to ensure that your restored Victorian roof is historically accurate. For more information on metal Victorian roofs shingles and sheet metals tiles, contact us at Heather & Little today!

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And if you are looking for a second opinion on your project or have a particularly complex issue that needs a fresh eye, we’re here for that too. Tackling tricky challenges is our specialty and we welcome the opportunity to provide consulting advice, with the same exacting attention to detail we bring to all our commissions.
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