Clay and concrete roof tiles are both excellent roofing materials. They are durable, energy-efficient, and fire-resistant. However, they have several differences seeing that they consist of different raw materials. If you want a tile roof and have no idea what to go with, we compare the two below to help you make an informed choice.
Manufacturing clay tiles involves mining, mixing to consistency, slicing to size, and heating in a kiln. It usually requires a lot of intense energy and takes around three months to complete. The process also releases large amounts of carbon dioxide.
On the other hand, concrete is easier to manufacture. The process involves proportionately mixing concrete, water, and cement and vibrating in a press. You use less energy, and it takes around 15 to 30 days. Also, there is less pollution.
Concrete and clay tiles are both durable. However, the nature of the manufacturing process presents a significant difference. Concrete tiles are uniformly strong, while clay tiles are harder on the outside. Therefore, damaging the outer surface could expose the soft inner surface of clay tiles to deterioration.
Despite being durable, both clay and concrete tiles are brittle. Therefore, they will crack or break under impact. Be careful when walking on the roof during cleaning and maintenance to avoid damaging the tiles. Also, you may need to eliminate branches that could potentially fall and break the tiles.
Longevity is always a point of concern for home and property owners. But with concrete and clay tiles, you need not worry. Both materials are long-lasting and could even outlive the house. However, proper installation and maintenance is a prerequisite to such longevity. If you have to compare the two, clay has a relatively longer shelf-life.
So how long does a clay tile roof last?
While a concrete tile roof will last for 50+ years, a clay tile roof can last for up to 100 years or more. However, it is imperative to note that the underlayment will not last as long as the roof. Therefore, you will have to replace it sooner.
The two materials also differ in water absorption. Concrete tiles are porous and have an absorption rate of 13%. High water absorption means more weight and thus more strain on the roofing deck. A higher absorption rate also translates to a higher likelihood of fungus growth and staining.
Are clay roof tiles waterproof?
Not exactly. Clay tiles will still absorb water, though not as much as concrete tiles. They have an absorption rate of around six percent.
Both clay and concrete tiles require minimal maintenance compared to other roofing materials. However, concrete tiles may require extra attention. That’s because their porous nature makes them more prone to fungus growth and staining.
While staining is only an aesthetic issue, algae and mildew growth can morph into structural problems if you don’t address them promptly. For instance, they could lead to leakages. Luckily, regular cleaning will usually suffice.
Clay and concrete tiles are both heavy roofing materials compared to other options like asphalt and wood shakes. But concrete is the heaviest. Nevertheless, installing either roofing tiles necessitates a structural reinforcement of the roof deck. That means extra costs, but the roof could cave in otherwise. The following table compares the two options.
Weight in Pounds
600 to 650
820 to 1200
High cost is a point of concern with concrete and clay tiles. Not only is it expensive to buy the tiles, but the installation cost is high as well. The need to reinforce the deck to deal with the weight issue also compounds the problem.
Despite the high initial cost, concrete and clay tiles are more affordable in the long term. That is because they are durable and will not require regular repairs and maintenance. Moreover, they will save you a lot of money in energy costs.
How much are Clay Roof Tiles?
Clay tiles usually cost more than concrete tiles. You should expect to pay $600 to $1500 per square for materials alone.
How much are Concrete Roof Tiles?
Concrete tiles are a cheaper alternative. Buying the materials alone will cost you between $400 and $1000. The following table compares the cost of the two materials after installation.
Cost per square
Clay tiles will usually have slight variations in size, shape, texture, and color. That gives the tiles a rich color and character. On the other hand, concrete tiles are uniform in size, shape, texture, and color. However, technology has made it possible to manufacture concrete tiles that resemble clay and other roofing materials.
Clay tiles usually retain their original color over time. That is not the case with all concrete tiles. Those that have been painted after manufacturing tend to fade after years of UV exposure. High water absorption can also stain concrete tiles and alter their original appearance. The process is reversible, though.
Concrete tiles are heavier than clay tiles, and installation may be more labor-intensive. However, they are often bigger than clay tiles, making installation more efficient. Their uniformity also means they are quicker to install than clay tiles.
Clay and roof tiles will withstand the harshest of climatic conditions. They have a class A fire-resistant rating and can withstand heavy rain and high winds. However, clay tiles don’t do well in extremely cold environments. They could crack when exposed to freezing and thawing. Concrete tiles don’t share this problem.
As seen, concrete and clay roofing tiles share many similarities but also have fundamental differences. If you were considering a tile roof, we hope the comparison has made it easier to understand these differences.
In summary, a clay tile roof could last longer, but it will cost you more to install. Also, it may not be the best option if your area experiences extremely cold temperatures. Concrete tiles are a cheaper alternative and a more environmentally friendly option. However, they are heavier and have a higher water absorption rate.