The history of GRP roofing

A look at the history of GRP fibreglass roofing, where the products came from and how they got on your roof.

In 1935, Corning Glass joined forces with Owens-Illinois, both companies had been experimenting with fibreglass to further develop the product. In January 1936 they patented the word “Fibreglas” and by 1938 the two companies merged to become Owens Corning.

With the approach of World War II and due to the shortage of many natural products. Carlton Ellis of DuPont was awarded a patent for polyester resin in 1936. The Germans furthered the manufacturing process of this early polyester by refining its curing process. Early in World War II, British Intelligence stole these secrets and turned them over to American firms. American Cyanamid produced the direct forerunner of today’s polyester resin in 1942.

Early polyester resins quickly ended up in a number of manufacturers hands. Owens-Corning had been experimenting with fibreglass cloth and resin combinations to create structural elements for airplanes. By 1942, the company was turning out fibreglass and polyester airplane parts for the war effort.

The early 40’s was an important time for fibreglass, According to Daniel Spurr, author of Heart of Glass: Fiberglass Boats and the Men Who Built Them, the first boat made from fibreglass and polyester resin was built by Ray Greene from Ohio in 1942.

It was the development of polyester resin that started the fibreglass boat building revolution and meant that the resins got more versatile and fibreglass or glass reinforced polyester was increasingly used.

GRP or fibreglass roofing was born from the systems that were used in the marine industry to mass manufacture boats. The resins have been re-engineered to cope with a roofs expansion and contraction and fire tests have been put in place to adhere to building regulations but in essence, the GRP roofing materials you are about to use have been keeping boats afloat across our fine nation since the early ’40s.