Tile roofing has been around for many centuries. In fact, archeologists have unearthed clay tiles in China dating back to 10,000 BC. Today, consumers adore it for its classic look, elegant style, and natural earth-toned colors.
The three common roofing tile materials are clay, concrete, and slate. These come in a variety of styles and colors and will complement most home designs. But is tile roofing the right option for your roof?
Below, we look at the pros and cons of roofing tiles to help you make an informed choice. By the end, you should know whether tile roofing is the way to go. And if yes, what material is the best among the three?
Table of Contents
Pros of Roofing Tiles
The best roof should offer you protection from the elements. But it should also provide economic and aesthetic value. Do roofing tiles qualify? Let us find out.
There is no denying that roofing tiles look more appealing than asphalt shingles and wood shakes. They come in various styles and colors to suit any design, whether you want a gothic or European contemporary look.
If you prefer the old-fashioned look, slate tiles are the best option. Miners cut them from natural rock. Therefore, they have subtle color and texture variations that give your roof a unique look. Surprisingly, they are also available in various natural colors. These include grey, green, red, black, and purple.
Clay tiles have rich color and character, especially handmade ones. Like slate tiles, they have subtle variations in color and texture but are also available in various designs. Moreover, they retain their original color over time.
Concrete tiles don’t have the natural beauty of clay or slate. However, technology has made it possible for them to mimic the look and design of clay and slate.
Concrete tiles often fade over time when exposed to the elements. However, you can repaint them. You have to consider the added costs, though.
According to the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, clay, slate, and concrete tiles can last 50+ years. They can last for 100 years or more if properly installed and maintained. That means they could even outlive the house.
The lifespan of roofing tiles is a great selling point considering asphalt shingles last between 20 and 25 years. However, it is imperative to note that the underlayment will not last as long. So, you will need to reinstall it sooner regardless of how long the tiles will last.
Tiles are extremely weather resistant. They will withstand heavy rain, high winds, hail, and other extreme weather conditions. Moreover, clay, concrete, and slate have a class A fire-resistance rating, the highest possible rating available.
However, clay tiles are prone to cracking in colder environments. As a result, they are common in hotter areas. That is why you will hear people calling them Spanish tiles in places like Latin America and Spain.
Also, concrete tiles are porous and will absorb moisture. That may not affect the structural integrity of the tiles, but it may lead to chalking and discoloration. However, you can easily clean that off.
No roofing can survive without regular maintenance, and tile roofing is no exception. However, you will not worry about replacing your tile roof for a long time. And if there are repairs, they will be minimal and easy to fix.
Maintaining a tile roof entails inspecting it often for any signs of cracks or chips. Should you find any, ensure you fix them as soon as possible to avoid leakages and further damage.
Over time, dirt and debris will accumulate on the roof. These may block gutters and cause algae growth. Therefore, it is imperative to clean your roof after every three to five years. However, avoid pressure washing as it may damage the tiles.
Tiles have a high thermal emittance and high solar reflectance. The former is a measure of how much heat a material can emit instead of absorbing it. On the other hand, solar reflectance indicates the ability of a material to reflect light rays.
Another advantage of tiles is the gap that is usually between the tile and roof deck. This thermal barrier prevents the heat from transferring into the house, thus reducing your cooling bills, especially if you live in hot environments.
Concrete, clay, and slate tiles come from naturally occurring materials. Unlike their synthetic counterparts, these can be reused and recycled to make other tiles or even roads. Furthermore, energy-efficient roofs are great for the environment.
You may not appreciate the importance of having a pest-resistant roof if pests are not a common problem in your area. But if they are a nuisance where you live, you can rest assured that your roof is safe from the little creatures.
Cons of Roofing Tiles
We have been painting a rosy picture thus far. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows with tile roofing. Here are common problems associated with clay, concrete, and slate tiles.
Tile roofing can cost twice or more than asphalt shingles. The cost rises further when you factor in installation costs, which are also on the higher end.
However, the roof can save you money in the long term. First, it will require minimal maintenance and repairs. It will also save you a lot in cooling bills.
The following is a table that compares the cost of clay, concrete, and slate before installation.
Cost per square
600 to 1500
400 to 1000
900 to 1600
Tiles are the heaviest roofing material. Therefore, you have to ensure your roof has a deck that can support the weight. That is another reason why you should hire a professional. They will examine your roof and determine whether it can withstand the pressure.
Do you have an asphalt roof and are considering upgrading to a tile roof? You will no doubt have to reinforce the existing structure.
Tiles don’t weigh the same. Here is a table comparing the three different materials.
Weight in Pounds
600 to 650
820 to 1200
800 to 1500
Challenging to Install
Tile roofing is not easy to install. It requires special flashings, and the tiles are very delicate. Therefore, you may need to hire a certified professional who has experience in installing tiles. Experience is critical since not every professional may have installed tiles before.
Installing slate tiles is the trickiest of the three. That is because you need to sort and grade the tiles on-site before installation.
Remember, not all roofing contractors have handled tile installation before. Many specialize in specific types of roofing. So again, don’t forget to ask for proof of experience.
Despite their long-lasting qualities, tiles are brittle and will crack or break due to impact. That can happen when you mishandle or step on them during installation and cleaning. Falling branches are also common culprits.
You can avoid cracking and breaking during installation by hiring an experienced installer. Also, you need to get rid of overhanging branches that could potentially fall on the tiles.
It is imperative to learn how to walk on a tile roof during cleaning and maintenance. First, wear soft-soled shoes with a good grip. The soft sole will lessen the impact and protect the tiles, while a good grip will prevent falling.
Once on the roof, walk without exerting too much pressure and ensure you distribute your weight evenly. Don’t be tempted to run or leap from tile to tile to avoid increasing the impact force.
Also, don’t just step anywhere. Your feet should be where the edges of adjacent tiles overlap since there is structural support below.
It is clear the benefits of tile roofing far outweigh the disadvantages. Although the cons are notable, they are certainly not enough to tilt the scales the other way.
Are you already considering roofing tiles but are still not sure what material to pick. Perhaps the following summary might help.
Concrete is the cheapest option but is also the heaviest and can absorb moisture. Although it lacks the natural appeal of its counterparts, technology can transform it to mimic clay and slate.
Slate wins “the most classic look” contest but is the heaviest. It is also the most expensive both to buy and install.
Clay is the lightest and the compromise as far as price is concerned. However, it may not be the option for colder environments due to its tendency to crack.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common queries about tile roofing:
Q: How Many Roof Tiles will I Need?
The number of tiles your roof will need will depend on several factors. They include the size of the tiles, the area of your roof, and the roof pitch. Manufacturers have made it easier to calculate by indicating the number of tiles you require per square foot.
The math is straightforward. But learning how to calculate the area of your roof first is imperative. Afterward, multiply the roof area and the number of tiles per square foot.
Q: Do the roof Tiles Fit my Roof Pitch?
Clay and concrete roofs require a minimum slope of 3:12. With slates tiles, you need a pitch of 4:12 or higher.