All About That Slate: The History of Slate Roofing

classic slate roof on a house
Nearly everyone would agree that slate is one of the most beautiful materials you can use to cover a roof. But where did this idea come from? At what point did it become possible to use slate as a roofing material? As slate is a natural material – unlike many of the products used for roofing today – you will probably not be surprised to learn that it has a long history as a reliable roofing option. As you are considering your options for the roofing material you are going to use on your own home, it may be interesting to learn a little more about the history of this beautiful rock.

It Goes Way Back

To find the roots of slate roofing, you have to go way back in the history books. More than 700 years, in fact, as there is evidence that slate was used as a roofing material in North Wales, England during the early 14th century. As is often the case when a material is used for a new purpose, it was too expensive for most people to acquire initially. However, it was commonly seen on castles, where the budget would allow for such a high-end product.

Although slate can be dated to many centuries ago as a roofing material, it really didn’t pick up steam until just a couple centuries back. It was actually the Spanish who developed a way for slate to be harvested in a relatively affordable manner, such that it could be used on homes. Spain has carried on a tradition of slate mining, and most of the slate roofs seen in Europe were born somewhere in Spain.

A Natural Fit

So why would slate be chosen as a roofing material, when there are so many rocks in nature to pick from? It comes down to composition. Slate is naturally a good fit for roofing because of the characteristics that it offers. On the one hand, it is breakable, so it can be formed into thin sheets with relative ease. Yet, on the other hand, it is also extremely tough, so it works as a covering for homes and other structures. Where other rocks would be too hard to break, or too soft to provide protection, slate perfectly falls in the middle of those extremes.

Coming to America

In the United States, it was only in the late 1800s when slate roofing would become available to more than just the elites. Much of the slate roofing produced today comes from the state of Vermont. One of the things that separates Vermont – and other Northeast locations – from the rest of the world is the unique colors which are found in the slate throughout that region.

Recently, slate has largely been overtaken by cheaper asphalt shingles in the residential market. However, plenty of homebuyers still love the look and performance offered by slate, even if it does require a greater upfront investment. If you decide to go with slate on your home, you can be sure that you will have a beautiful roof which will stand the test of time.