Learn How to Determine a Roof’s Age!


When attempting to determine the age of a house when no documentation can be found, it can often be estimated by looking at the roof. Depending on the type of material used along with style and architecture, it is generally possible to pin the age down to a specific building era. The changes in architectural styles and building methods over the years as well as the many ways roofs have been installed are generally clues that will indicate how the age of a home.

The use of certain elements can make age determination much easier. In addition, knowledge about material and the roofing history of a house can also help to accurately estimate its age. Following is information about the various material to help in making such a determination.

  • Wood Shakes/Shingles – Wood as a roofing material has been around for a long time. In order to accurately age a house with a wood top, some other indicators are usually necessary, including the style of the home and the way the shakes and shingles were likely made. Shakes were made by chopping and splitting wood into thicker, more flat layers than shingles, which were not available until there were the tools necessary to make them.
  • Stone and Slate – Along with architectural style and possible production method, the mineral makeup, appearance, and condition of stone and slate tiles can help determine the age of a house with this type of roof.
  • Thatch and Sod – These types of coverings can be tricky, since the life expectancy greatly depends on which material is used. Sod can last indefinitely as long as the supporting wooden structure underneath remains intact. Thatch roofs are constructed from many types of straw and reed, with each type lasting only a certain amount of time ranging from 15 and 50 years. The pitch on both these styles will affect the life of the roof as well, so all of that is taken into consideration along with location and weather conditions.
  • Asbestos – Since the use of asbestos was discontinued due to its carcinogenic properties, it is fairly easy to date a building top made from this material. It was only available between the 1920’s and the 1970’s. By judging the condition, a fairly accurate estimate of age can be determined on any home still using this substance.
  • Clay and Ceramic Tile – Clay and ceramic tile is another roofing material with a long service life; therefore, dating this substance involves assessing the style of the tile, how it was made, condition, building architecture and location. These materials are still used today, though more modern versions can be easily distinguished from very old ones dating to before the 1600’s.
  • Asphalt – Available since the late 1800’s, asphalt shingles have a fairly long life that can be dated by determining the substance used as the matting to which the asphalt is affixed, since various types have been used over the years. Today, asphalt shingles made from fiberglass content matting make up most of the residential roofs in the United States.
  • Masonite Fiberboard Shingles – A failed attempt at extra-durable shingles, Masonite fiberboard was available from the 1990’s up until very recent time. Any home with this substance is either a newer home or it is a replacement roof, in which case it is of no help in determining the age of the house.
  • Metal – Metal roofs are extremely durable, and have been available in a variety of metals for years, including aluminum, steel, copper and zinc metal sheets, shingles and panels. Age determination will depend on metal used, condition, type of home, and regional location among other criteria, as metal building tops have been around since the 1700’s.

It is obvious that as simple as this might seem, a lot goes into properly determining the age of a house and its roof based on the various materials that have been used. It may involve quite a bit of detective work; however, knowing the age of a home and its roof is something worth finding out and will likely be an interesting journey down the avenue of past architectural styles to find out!


Source by C. Michael Hunter