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In the United States, fiberglass-based asphalt shingles are by far the most common roofing material used for residential roofing applications. In Europe they are called bitumen roof shingles or tile strips, and are much less common. They are easy to install, relatively affordable, last 20 to 50 years and are recyclable in some areas. Asphalt shingles come in a large number of styles and colours.
The protective nature of paper and fiberglass asphalt shingles primarily comes from the long-chain petroleum hydrocarbons, while wood shingles are protected by natural oils in the cellulose structure. Over time in the hot sun, these oils soften and when rain falls the oils are gradually washed out of the shingles. During rain, more water is channeled along eaves and complex rooflines, and these are subsequently more prone to erosion than other areas.
Eventually the loss of the oils causes asphalt shingle fibers to shrink and wood shingles to rot, exposing the nail heads under the shingles. Once the nail heads are exposed, water running down the roof can seep into the building around the nail shank, resulting in rotting of underlying roof building materials and causing moisture damage to ceilings and paint inside.
Heinola Rural Parish church, in Heinola, Finland. It was completed in 1755 and built most likely by August Sorsa. Close-up of the wooden shingle roof. The patterning is said to originate from Islamic architecture.
Two basic types of wood shingles are called shingles and shakes. The difference is in how they are made, the shingles are sawn and shakes are split. Wood shingles and shakes have long been known as a fire hazard and have been banned in various places, particularly in urban areas where exterior, combustible building materials contribute to devastating fires known as conflagrations.
The use of wooden roof shingles has existed in parts of the world with a long tradition of wooden buildings, especially Scandinavia, and Central and Eastern Europe. Nearly all the houses and buildings in colonial Chiloé were built with wood, and roof shingles were extensively employed in Chilota architecture
Flat roofs exist all over the world and each area has its own tradition or preference for materials used. In warmer climes where rainfall is less and freezing is unlikely to occur, many flat roofs are simply built of masonry or concrete and this is good at keeping out the heat of the sun and cheap and easy to build where timber is not readily available. In areas where the roof could become saturated by rain and leak, or where water soaked into the brickwork could freeze to ice and thus lead to ‘blowing’ (breaking up of the mortar/brickwork/concrete by the expansion of ice as it forms) these roofs are not suitable. Flat roofs are characteristic of the Egyptian, Persian, and Arabian styles of architecture.