The History of GAF

1897 Ruberoid Shingles, The Ruberoid Co., Metal Sign

GAF, now a renowned name in the manufacture of roofing materials for both commercial and residential application, has deep roots which date to the late 19th century – its origins date back to The Standard Paint Co., which was founded in 1886 in Bound Brook, New Jersey. 

Ruberoid was developed by William Griscom, a Standard Paint Company chemist. Ruberoid referred to “rubberoid,” which identified the material by its rubber-like qualities. The Ruberoid product was further enhanced in 1898 when ceramic granules were added to Ruberoid rolls to increase durability and fire resistance.

Standard Paint, in an effort led by Griscom, then introduced individually cut asphalt shingles made from rag felt and individually hand dipped in asphalt in 1912. The individually cut shingles proved to be easy to install, inexpensive, and weatherproof by comparison to their predecessor asphalt rolls.

Standard Paint Company adopted the name of its flagship product, Ruberoid in 1921 and rebranded the company as Ruberoid Co. In 1933, Ruberoid introduced “Tite-On” shingles, the first interlocking asphalt shingles. 

In 1925, I.G. Farben was formed from a merger of six chemical companies: BASF, Bayer, Hoechst, Agra, Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron, and Chemische Fabrik vorm. The American holdings of the German company, I.G. Farben, were organized into American I.G. in 1928. American I.G. was later renamed to General Aniline & Film or GAF for short. 

The United States joined the allied cause in World War II in 1941; that same year, the American assets of GAF were seized by the government as enemy property. The United States Justice Department continued to oversee GAF’s operation until 1965 when government-held stock was sold in an offering to the public.

Following the Justice Department’s public offering, Sawyer’s, a manufacturer of photographic equipment, was acquired by GAF. Ruberoid then merged with GAF in 1967 and adopted the General Aniline & Film Corp. name, which was later formally changed to GAF Corporation. The same year, Ruberoid engineer Phil Bottoli laminated two strip shingles together to create a the “Timberline” shingle. 

The 1970’s and 1980’s were marked by GAF’s presence in film and cameras: GAF even became the official film of Walt Disney World and Disneyland. This partnership led to the manufacture of the world famous “View-Master,” a stereoscope toy which allowed children to cycle through small cardboard disc “reels” of transparent color photographs on film. Much of GAF’s profitability during this period was the result of the success of its chemicals division which sold and produced engineering thermoplastics and mineral granules used for roofing shingles. 

By 1978, GAF had begun a five-year period of massive divestment. GAF was left with only its chemicals and building materials lines by 1983, when Samuel J. Heyman took control of GAF. Heyman moved GAF’s headquarters from Manhattan, New York to Wayne, New Jersey. GAF then sold its engineering plastics division in 1986, however remained one of only two manufacturers of butanediol, an industrial solvent used in the manufacture of plastics, elastic fibers, and polyurethanes.

Heyman sought to take GAF private in 1987, however the October 1987 stock market crash resulted in a decline in GAF’s performance through 1988. Heyman, though, persisted and completed a leveraged buyout alongside a select group of GAF management in March of 1989. The company continues to be privately owned and in the Heyman family to this day.

During the 1990’s GAF began to focus solely on the manufacture of roofing products after Heyman sold GAF’s chemicals division under the name of International Specialty Products, Inc. GAF introduced self-adhered thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) membranes in 2003: these membranes helped to reduce commercial roof installation costs through quick installation without the need for messy adhesives or hot asphalt. 

GAF also introduced the first pre-coated energy-efficient modified bitumen membranes and the first energy-efficient asphalt shingle in 2004 and 2005. ElkCorp was later acquired by GAF in 2007 and soon thereafter introduced “Advanced Protection Shingles.” Advanced Protection Shingles were the first in the roofing industry to pass two key wind uplift tests and a new long-term performance test.

“EverGuard Extreme” became the first TPO membrane that could withstand the high temperatures of peel and stick solar panels in 2010. This served as the first solar grade single-ply TPO membrane. GAF then became the first roofing manufacturer to offer a lifetime limited warranty on all of its laminated shingles. The following year, in 2012, GAF became the first manufacturer to offer a lifetime limited warranty on its entire roofing system.

Most recently, GAF completed the acquisition of Quest Construction Products, which included United Coatings, HydroStop Coating Technologies, and StreetBond Pavement Coatings. This acquisition made GAF the leading supplier of liquid-applied roof products in the United States.