While the basic purpose of a roof is to protect, sheltering the internal parts of a building from all forms of weather, there was a time in history when the roof design was part of the building’s character and added to its appeal and aesthetics. Whether it was Queen Anne turrets, Georgian hipped roofs, the slopes of Shingle Style designs, or a church’s sheet metal fabrication roof, it had an important job to do.

Popularity of Use
Sheet metal roofing became popular in the 19th century. Before then, lead and copper were used mainly for protective flashing. Typically these metals were used where it was difficult or inappropriate to use wood, slate or tile because of the roof shape or pitch. Imported from England, copper sheets were used on cupolas and domes. This continued until sheet metal fabrication manufacturing facilities were built on this side of the pond towards the end of the 18th century.

Sheet Iron Roofing
First known to be manufactured during the American Revolutionary War, sheet iron was produced at a rolling mill located near Trenton, New Jersey. Sheet iron roofing was used to replace the roof on Princeton’s Nassau Hall which had significant fire damage in 1802.
Corrugated Iron
Originally patented in England in 1829, the process of corrugating stiffens the sheets and allows the sheet metal roofing to be used over a greater area on a lighter frame. It also reduced the cost of installation labor and time. Many marketplaces, build in the early 19th century, were covered with corrugated iron sheets.

TinPlate Iron
Commonly known as “tin roofing,” tinplate iron was extensively used in Canada in the 18th century. Sheet metal fabrication mills were built as this material became the most common sheet metal roof due to its low cost, low maintenance, and light weight. It was common to find tin shingles embossed with interesting patterns into the late 19th century. Tin roofs were painted, typically red or, to imitate the patina of copper, green. Terne plate is a slight modification of tin-plate roofing where the plates were dipped into an alloy of tin and lead, resulting in a duller finish.

Tinplate was popular as a roofing material for Canadian churches. In Quebec, the church’s roofs and spires are often painted silver. Tinplate is also fire resistant and was used for roofing material on the Fort Frederick Martello Tower in Ontario. Other examples of sheet metal roofing in Canada can be found on the roofs of The Cathedral Church of St. James in Toronto, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, also in Toronto, and St. Thomas Anglican Church in St. Catharines. The Heather & Little Limited website has more resources available if you would like to learn more information.

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