02 Feb Into the Past Part 2: Roofing in the Middle Ages
Here at Peak Roofing we are just as interested in the history of roofing as the future of roofing. People in the past had to be innovative with how they protected themselves from the elements because they did not have the technology we have today. Most movies and popular culture portrays homes in the middle ages to be built from wood and stone, but the truth is that most homes in the middle ages were made out of straw. This knowledge brings a whole new understanding to the story of the three little pigs. Recently the Toronto Star reported on a family in Saugeen River, Ontario building a house according to ancient practices with only straw and timber.
But the really important question is how did people in the middle ages keep the rain out? They did it through a roofing method known as thatching. Thatching involves collecting local vegetation (usually grass or waterproof leaves) and weaving them together. The method of doing this has largely been lost but some wealthy individuals are starting to resurrect the ancient art. In fact, so many rich people are jumping on the thatching trend that they are threatening a rare moss with extinction!
The most fascinating aspect of medieval construction is how environmentally friendly it is. Archeologists struggle to find the remains of these buildings because they were almost entirely biodegradable. In modern construction the eco-friendly nature of thatching is a niche market but in the past it was simply a necessity. Sometimes it can be pretty shocking how technological advancement has actually hampered our ability to protect our environment. Even though construction in the middle ages was more difficult it had a very low impact on the environment compared to the millions of tonnes of asphalt shingles that get thrown out every year in present day North America.
When looking at roofing in the past we come to understand why so many people are proud of their trade and get upset when fly by night companies treat roofing as a quick way to make money instead of the art that it is. While thatching is no longer a common form of roofing it is fascinating to think how long it must have taken people to literally weave vegetation together in order to keep dry. With the advent of solar shingles the art of roofing may be transforming yet again into something more akin to what our ancestors used to do. A more environmentally friendly way of living life.
This blog is Part 2 of a 4 part series on roofing throughout the ages: 2 posts looking at the history of roofing and 2 posts looking into the future!
Into the Past Part 2: Roofing in Medieval Times