Materials Used in Making Traditional Roofs

Traditional roofs can be constructed from various roofing materials, from durable clay tiles to more attractive options like natural and synthetic thatch, which offers both insulation value and aesthetics.

Tile roofs are created from earthen clays formed into interlocking shapes by molding them with rolling pins, then fired for hardness. Their reddish-orange hue can be left unglazed or customized to match exterior trim designs.

Clay Tile

Terra cotta clay used in roof tiles is versatile, moldable, and fire-retardant; this allows it to be baked to form flat or curved shapes before being coated with mineral oxides, binders, and fluxes to enhance strength and beauty.

Tile roofs have long been associated with Mediterranean and Spanish architecture, but an array of styles are available that complement all kinds of homes. Flat roof tiles come in various colors and profiles, including traditional shingle looks. Barrel- or mission-style tiles feature interlocking barrel shapes featuring convex “cap” tiles on either end with concave “pan” tiles on either side. Other options for barrel roofs may include ridge caps, starter tiles, or specialty tiles explicitly designed to cover turrets, dormers, or hip roof hips.

Tile roofing has an expected lifespan of 100 years – far surpassing asphalt shingles or metal! Furthermore, its reflective surface and low thermal emittance make it more energy-efficient than other materials, keeping homes warm at night while reflecting more light than dark colors to reduce heat gains in summer months.


Slate is a metamorphic rock with high tensile strength and durability, formed from low-grade metamorphism in which heat and pressure combine with slow cooling rates to transform shale into thin slabs of high strength and durability.

Expertly “cutting” slate using specialized tools produces thin sheets of rock. This patterning, known as foliation, makes slate an ideal roofing material durable enough to withstand extreme weather conditions. While gray is the most frequently seen color for slate roofs, purples, greens, and reds may occur depending on their mineral makeup.

Slate roofing was once used to trim building exteriors and remains popular today in Scotland, Wales, France, southern Germany, and the Northeastern United States. Additionally, slate is often framed in wood for writing tablets in pubs and inns (hence its use with chalk as registering tablets). Slate is sometimes known by its acronym: Slag (pronounced Slake).

Twinkl’s SLATE2 system brings the beauty of slate roofs into homes that would otherwise struggle to support their weight without needing costly structural upgrades to keep it. It gets its elegance right down the block!


Copper roof materials are more costly than traditional ones, yet they are renowned for their longevity and unique beauty. Furthermore, copper is non-corrosive and won’t attract pests such as termites or raccoons that could threaten its protection.

Copper is also fireproof and highly reflective, helping reduce energy costs by keeping the house cool in summer and warm in winter. Furthermore, its low thermal expansion is another advantage compared to zinc or lead expansion, which causes structural issues like deterioration or leaks that might require repair.

Copper roofs can be found in various styles, ranging from flat locks and soldered seams to shingles and chevrons. Copper comes in different tempers influencing its formability – these qualities benefit curved roofs and facades such as domes and barrel vaults. Copper flashings can be added through counterflashing or through-wall flashings for further use in wall designs.


Wood is an elegant and natural material that fits seamlessly with many home styles, providing classic charm to any house with wooden roofs as the finishing touch. They also offer many advantages, such as fire-retardant, that other roofing materials cannot provide.

Energy-efficient roofs that help insulate homes are made from metal roofs. Durable and resistant to fire, these materials require little to no maintenance but additional attention regarding water leaks due to mold growth or fire safety risks. Although durable, metal roofing requires extra care when maintaining it over time. It must be treated regularly with flame retardant chemicals while being susceptible to mold or mildew growth.

Two common wood roof types include shake and shingle roofs. Shakes feature thick, irregular shapes, while shingles have thin sawed surfaces; both types usually use cedar wood but may also include other varieties like spruce, pine, or oak as building materials. A shingled roof may feature either an enclosed valley surrounding it or an open valley containing metal flashing to protect against leakage.


Thatch roof coverings have long been associated with rural life, lending character and identity to individual buildings and communities. Thatched cottages were particularly beloved to 19th-century painters looking to capture rural scenes in an idyllic way on canvas.

Thatching materials such as water reed, long straw, and combed wheat reed can be used in various ways for thatching, including butt-up and wrap-over ridges. A butt-up bank can be formed by forcing bundles together at the apex and binding their butt edges tightly, while wrap-over peaks can be created by pushing one pile over the height and fixing both ends with pins, producing an oval-shaped crest.

Thatching may be costly, but it can reduce damage to older timbers while cutting draughts. Contrary to popular belief, thatched roofs aren’t as flammable as many may think – most thatched roof fires are caused by degraded flues in chimneys or paper debris being left in fireplaces which ignite dry thatch around it; fires may even start from sparks flying off stoves – for maximum safety it may be best to opt for a flush ridge over raised block ridge for best results!