As lovers and students of old buildings know, asbestos was a common building material for everything from siding and roofing to the much vilified pipe-insulation.

Asbestos shingles--and STYLE!

Asbestos shingles--and STYLE!

It’s use started in the late 1800s and its legacy lasted well into the last century. Sure, the material–invented somewhat by accident history has it by the Keasbey & Mattison Company–is the stuff of mesothelioma (the particular kind of cancer over-exposure to it causes and the topic of many-a late night law firm advertisement). But the water that may have passed under the bridge of history is how well it worked. And how beautiful it could be. The roof pictured here is likely a century old. How many new roofs like this do you see going on?

Now I’m no idiot (of course that case is easily arguable). I’m not advocating ramping production up again. But what I do notice on the few asbestos roofs left–probably in the world–is that roofers clearly saw the home’s peak as a place to highlight the soaring lines and make them sing with style, grace and pride.

I’m also super tuned into this because I’m re-doing my own roof here at MyFixitUpLife HQ and we’ve spent a great deal of time and effort on copying this centegenarian ideal.

We’ve strived to make our roof a destination point for neighborhood eyes inasmuch as it is just about the largest single area on this–or anyone’s–house. Our roof is period-appropriate and I hope it pays homage to the roofers who came before us who hand-nailed their heavy, gnarly, and brutal stuff with enough dignity, style and craft to please the eyes and keep water away across the gap of  two distant centuries.


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  1. 4 Responses  to “Asbestos Roofing”

  2. Aug 29, 2011
    That's true, old asbestos has an amazing beauty to it. You don't see that anymore, it's sad.
  3. Aug 29, 2011
    Asbestos is a very real problem and some of the costs associated with it's removal are just necessary evils. The roof pictured about (though kind of a small picture) is nice and you're right you don't see many like it, especially in new construction. Advancements in roofing materials have come a long way and continue to advance all the time (just look at solar roofing panels). There are many ways to attain that period appropriate look without the associated carcinogenic risk. Houston Roofers
  4. Jonny
    Aug 29, 2011
    We replaced a roof with asbestos shingles and it cost a fortune to haul them to a special landfill which takes toxic materials. In hindsight, I wish I had just left it alone.
  5. Jeremy
    Aug 29, 2011
    I wish I owned a demolition company, or an asbestos removal company back when we started finding out that this was bad for our lungs..So many of the buildings around where I live were asbestos heavy.