Pros and Cons of Terracotta Roof Tiles

A terracotta tile roof is one of the most attractive roofing options on the market. The tiles feature a rich orange or red color and come in varying shapes and styles. If you are keen, you must have seen one such roof in one of the many fashionable homes in the country.

Are you considering installing a terracotta tile roof? It is imperative to familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of this roofing option before making a final decision. Luckily for you, we outline some of them below. As a bonus, we also include a few buying tips.

What are Terracotta Tiles?

Terracotta tiles are clay tiles with a rich orange or red color. They consist of a readily accessible type of clay that manufacturers mold into tiles before heating them at high temperatures in a kiln. Some people also refer to all clay tiles that have an orange or red color as terracotta.

Terracotta Roof Tiles History

The history of Terracotta roof tiles and clay tiles, in general, goes as far back as 10,000 B.C. in China.  From this area and the Middle East, clay tiles spread to Asia, Europe, and the rest of the world.

Many civilizations in history have used these types of roofing tiles, including the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians. The tiles were also popular in the Greek and Roman eras. It was the settlers who later introduced the trend in America by the 17th century.

The widespread adoption of clay tiles in the U.S. was mainly due to their fire resistance. Frequent fire incidents prompted the introduction of building and fire codes in states like Boston and New York, which encouraged tile roofs.

Today, terracotta tiles are still a popular roofing option in the United States and around the world. Many people prefer them to other roofing materials like asphalt due to the many advantages outlined below.

Terracotta Roof Tiles Advantages

Terracotta roof tiles are not perfect, but there is a reason they continue to be a popular option for many. The following are some of their advantages.


On average, a terracotta roof’s lifespan is 50 years. But they can even last for 100 years in the right conditions. Their longevity makes them a valuable roofing option in the long term since you never have to incur reroofing costs in the future.

However, this extended lifespan is dependent on proper installation and maintenance. So, ensure the contractors you hire are experienced in installing tiles. You can ask for evidence of previous work or testimonials from happy customers.


Terracotta tiles are highly durable and weather resistant. They can withstand extreme weather conditions like hail, heavy rain, and high winds. Also, they have a class A fire rating which makes them fireproof and appropriate for areas prone to wildfires.

Having a highly durable roof means repairs will be minimal, and you will not incur additional costs during the roof's lifetime. The worst you would expect is a few broken tiles, and these are easy to replace.

Energy Efficient

Terracotta tiles are dense and will not allow heat to escape through or penetrate your roof. The layering of the tiles also leaves a gap between them that acts as natural insulation.

An energy-efficient roof will keep your home warmer in winter and colder during the summer. Therefore, your air conditioning will not have to work as hard, and you will save a lot on cooling and heating bills.

Low Maintenance

Terracotta tiles require low maintenance compared to other roofing alternatives, thus lowering the cost of ownership. However, it would help if you cleaned the tiles once a year to remove dirt and debris. Otherwise, they can lead to algae and mildew growth when left to accumulate.


Terracotta tiles come from natural clay. Moreover, the production process does not involve the use of artificial materials or chemical products. After the roof reaches the end of its usable life, you can reuse or recycle the tiles.

Variety of Options

Terracotta Tile Roof

You can mold clay however you wish. Therefore, terracotta tiles come in many shapes and styles to suit varying roofing needs and preferences. They will fit any roof regardless of the architectural style, whether medieval or contemporary European.

Increases Your Home's Resale Value

Do you intend to sell your house in the future? It will fetch a higher price on the market if it has a terracotta tile roof. Potential homeowners are aware of the value of a quality roof and will be willing to pay more to get a house with one.

Cons of Terracotta Roof Tiles

No roofing solution is perfect, and terracotta tiles are no exception. Here are some of the disadvantages of terracotta roofing tiles.

Terracotta Roof Tiles Price

Terracotta roofing tiles are not cheap compared to other roofing options such as asphalt or wood shake. On the lower end, you can pay around $8 per square foot. The cost can also be as high as $25 per square foot.

Buying materials alone will cost you $3 to $7 per square foot. And you will pay between $5 and $18 per square foot for the labor. The high cost of labor is a result of the complex nature of the installation process.

However, terracotta tiles are not an expensive roofing option in the long term despite the high initial cost. That's because they require minimal maintenance and can last a lifetime. Moreover, their energy efficiency will save you money in energy bills.


Terracotta tiles are heavy, weighing around 600 to 650 pounds. You need to reinforce the deck before installation. Otherwise, the roof could cave in under pressure. That means hiring a structural engineer to examine the roofing structure and recommend solutions.


Although they are highly durable, terracotta tiles are brittle. Therefore, they are likely to crack or break under impact. It would help if you took care while walking on the roof since you risk damaging the tiles. Fallen branches can also damage the tiles.

Challenging to Install

Generally, tile roofs are challenging to install. The process is usually labor-intensive due to the weight of the tiles. And it requires specialized knowledge and skills. Even some experienced contractors may have trouble installing a terracotta tile roof.

Poor installation could jeopardize the durability and longevity of the roof. That's why it is imperative to hire a contractor who has installed a tile roof before. Again, make sure you screen the installers beforehand to avoid problems down the road.

Not Waterproof

A terracotta tile roof is a water-shedding system. That means the water could still penetrate through the roof. Every terracotta roof should have an underlayment to avoid leakages. Roofs with slopes between 2.5:12 and 4:12 should have a double-layered underlayment.

Not suited for Cold Environments

Terracotta tiles could break when exposed to icy environments. They are, therefore, not suitable for colder regions.

Terracotta Roof Tiles Types

Terracotta Roof Tiles

Before you buy, you need to know the different types of terracotta tiles on the market. Here are six popular styles from which you can choose.


Flat terracotta roof tiles look like asphalt shingles since they have no ribs or water pans. They blend the sophistication of clay with the minimalist nature of shingles.


Spanish tiles feature an "S" shape, with each tile having a pan and cover. This design allows adjacent tiles to interlock, forming rows of waves on your roof. Spanish tiles need eave closures and venting to ensure they remain waterproof.


These tiles resemble barrels, hence the name. The convex and concave tiles alternate, giving your roof a distinct appearance. The design also forms unique shadows that change the look of your roof depending on the sun's position.


French tiles have locks on the top and sides, allowing them to interlock on all sides. Their unique design features two grooves instead of one. That allows water to drain off the roof quickly and produces a shadow effect that enhances your roof's aesthetics.


Pantile tiles are usually lighter than their counterparts and are appropriate for regions where the weather is not extreme. They feature a flattened "S" shape that also resembles rows of waves on the roof.


These tiles have flat ribs and not the usual rounded ones. These bumps create a unique aesthetic effect due to the striking diagonal shadow lines. The tiles are perfect for homeowners who prefer a symmetrical appearance for their roofs.

The following table shows what you should expect to pay for each option.

Type of Terracotta Roof Tile



$8 – $9


$8 – $10


$10 – $13


$9 – $11


$8 – $10


$9 – $11

Where to Buy Terracotta Roof Tiles

Unfortunately, there are not many local manufacturers of Terracotta roof tiles in the country. However, you will not have trouble finding a local supplier or distributor within your vicinity with a bit of research. One popular terracotta tile roofing manufacturer is Ludowici. Others include Boral Roofing and Crown Roof.

Final Thoughts

All roofing options have their pros and cons. Terracotta tile roofs are elegant, durable, long-lasting, and energy-efficient. However, they are also costly, heavy, brittle, and inappropriate for cold environments. Overall, they are an excellent roofing option, all factors considered.

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