Roof tiles made of bitumen?

I accidentally spotted some A5 sized pieces of roof felt/bitumen (like we use on garages and sheds here in the UK) on an American house, placed to look like tiles. Is that common over there and why?
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On Sunday, July 3, 2016 at 5:57:03 PM UTC-4, James Wilkinson wrote:

Do you mean this?
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asphalt_shingle
Generally they're not individual shingles, but a larger piece with the profile of three shingles cut into it.
They are extremely common in areas where it does not get too hot, and where wildfire is not much of a danger. They are the most common residential roofing material where I live (Michigan).
They are favored because they are inexpensive and require not much special skill to install. A homeowner and his buddies can generally accomplish the task satisfactorily.
Cindy Hamilton
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Why not just use huge rolls of it like we do on sheds and garages?
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On Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at 1:33:09 PM UTC-4, James Wilkinson wrote:

Their appearances is intended to simulate wooden shingles or shakes, or slates.
We roll out asphalt "paper" underneath shingles. The shingles have some sort of mineral granules to make them last longer.
I've got a low-pitch roof on a porch; they rolled out material that looked to be identical to our asphalt shingles, but it was much wider (and, of course, longer). The cost for that was more than for standard shingles.
I'm not clear on the economics of the industry; it seems like it would be cheaper to use the roll roofing everywhere. On the other hand, people are used to the "three tab" shingles that imitate more expensive roofing, and there probably would be resistance to the change in appearance.
We also have standing-seam steel roofing (typically enameled in some color), but that is more common on commercial buildings. I see it from time to time on old farm houses, and on modernistic dwellings. It's a lot more durable than asphalt shingles, and correspondingly more expensive.
In the south and southwest, clay tile is common, but it doesn't hold up well to the freeze-thaw cycle, so it's uncommon up here in the north.
Bottom line, it's all about cost. People will use the cheapest thing that doesn't embarrass them in front of their neighbors.
Cindy Hamilton
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On 7/5/2016 2:25 PM, Cindy Hamilton wrote:

I've been seeing more of that type especially the farther north you go. I think it has an advantage in the snow will slide off and not build up to unsafe levels.
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I've seen the odd house with steel roofing, that must be so loud when it rains.
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On 7/5/2016 8:03 PM, James Wilkinson wrote:

Not if properly installed. The steel is on a dampening pad. Not like the old tin roofs used on barns and sheds.
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The ones you showed don't look too bad, but I've seen one with plain silver-coloured corrugated metal. The house looked like a barn. Yet the rest of the (recently built) house was done tastefully and not on the cheap.
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