A Brief History of Metal Roofing

The history of metal roofing shows its enduring appeal and evolution over time; proving its reliability and durability from ancient civilizations to the present.

Advancements in technology have made it an attractive option for homeowners, businesses, and other buildings, offering benefits such as strength, longevity, energy efficiency, and environmental sustainability.

Ancient Beginnings of Metal Roofing

The origins of metal roofing can be traced back to 2,800 BC in Asia Minor and the Fertile Crescent. Similar to Britain in later years, Bronze and tin roofs were common. The Romans favoured lead for their roofing.

These early examples of metal roofing demonstrated the durability and longevity of metal as a roofing material.
In fact, some of the oldest copper roofs in the world are still standing today, such as the roof of the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany. Copper’s natural weathering process creates a unique patina that gives it a beautiful and distinctive look.

The Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany, with its copper roof.
The Hildesheim Cathedral, Germany, was built between 1010 and 1020 in the Romanesque style. It follows a symmetrical plan with two apses. The green patina shows off its original copper roof. Attribution: Roland Struwe, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Renaissance, Industrial Revolution, and Metal Roofs

During the Renaissance period, metal roofing lost its appeal, however, it gained popularity again during the Industrial Revolution.

During the Renaissance metal roofing lost its widespread appeal. However, it still found its place among the wealthy and in architectural designs. Copper roofing, in particular, was a popular choice due to its aesthetic appeal and ability to withstand corrosion.

During the Industrial Revolution, metal roofing experienced a resurgence in popularity. The introduction of tinplate and galvanized iron sheets revolutionized the roofing industry. These materials were more affordable and easier to manufacture than their counterparts. As a result, metal roofing became a widely adopted solution for commercial and industrial buildings.

Technological Advances in Roofing Materials

The late 19th century brought significant advancements in steel and aluminium production, which further enhanced the popularity of metal roofing. Steel and aluminium offered improved strength and durability, making them ideal for residential buildings.

The introduction of metal sheets with protective coatings also extended the lifespan of metal roofs, making them even more appealing to homeowners.

Metal Roofing in New Zealand

Metal roofing has a rich history in New Zealand, dating back to the early European settlers. In the 19th century, as the country experienced rapid growth in population and infrastructure development, metal roofing emerged as a popular choice due to its durability and suitability for the local climate.

Corrugated iron became the dominant material for metal roofing in New Zealand. It was lightweight, easy to transport, and could withstand the harsh weather conditions, including heavy rain and strong winds, that are often experienced in the country. The distinctive sinusoidal shape of the corrugated profile became an iconic symbol of New Zealand’s architectural heritage.

In the early 20th century, advancements in metal manufacturing techniques allowed for the production of more refined and varied metal roofing options.

Standing seam roofs, made from interlocking metal panels, gained popularity for their sleek and modern appearance. These roofs provided excellent water-shedding capabilities, further enhancing their suitability for the rainy New Zealand climate.

Today, New Zealand boasts various proprietary profiles in addition to standard corrugate, trapezoidal, and tray (standing seam) profiles.

Most metal roofing profiles in New Zealand, both standard and proprietary, are roll-formed from pre-painted coils. Using pre-painted cladding improves both the structural and aesthetic durability of metal roofs.

History of Metal Roofing in New Zealand