Tiles are mankind’s oldest manufactured roofing material, with the first use of clay tiles dating back to Ancient China. Throughout history, their durability made them the go-to choice for roofs in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. In fact, today’s roofing authorities are reluctant to say exactly how long new tile roofs will last — they may last forever! 😉
As with all roofing materials, but perhaps not so much as with tile, the upfront costs must be differentiated from the life-cycle costs. With the exception of some very high quality slate, clay tile is the most expensive roofing system you can get.
Count on a tile roof costing two times as much as a wood shake roof and four times more than asphalt shingles.
Depending on your region and the product you choose, expect to pay between $12.00 and $25.00 per square foot for a ceramic clay tile roof installed.
Concrete tiles are less expensive than clay, so they would be on the lower end of the above pricing range.
The color, style, and grade of the tile you choose, including its weight and thickness, is what will determine the actual cost of materials, while installation costs will vary, depending on your location.
Total Cost Installed
On average, a typical 2,000 square feet tile roof will cost between $25,000 and $45,000 to install, depending on the profile, roof difficulty, choice of material, and location. Note: higher-end clay tiles can cost significantly more than low-end and mid-range tiles. Note: It’s not unheard of for a tile roof to cost as much as $50,000 installed, especially when you deal with a complex roof requiring a lot of tile cutting and labor.
Historic Context and Larger Picture — Old School Tiles and Modern Revival
In the United States, tile roofing techniques traveled across the ocean with the Dutch on the East Coast and the Spanish missionaries along the Gulf Coast and out West.
Tiles were formed with clay and fired to produce the familiar orange-ish colors. Minerals could be infused into the baking process to create a colored tile and glazes could also be added to the natural terra cotta to increase the variety of colors.
With the abundance of trees in northern America, wood roofing soon replaced tile as a favorite house covering. Tile would go in and out of favor, owing to the vagaries of architectural styles. In the mid-1800s, when flat-roofed Italianate villas became a momentary rage, the demand for tile surged. In the 1920s American architects introduced Revival styles in Mediterranean, Spanish Colonial, Italian Renaissance and Mission designs which kick-started the clamor for tile roofs once again.
Spanish style clay tile roof on a stucco home in Florida
Today, clay and concrete are the two most common types of tiles used to cover roofs.
Clay tiles were historically hand-formed until the 1870s when tile making machines were first invented. Large manufacturing plants were then established in areas rich in clay such as the Ohio River Valley, northern Georgia and western New York. Today, almost all roofing tiles are machine-made.
The technology to fabricate tiles from cement became available in the 20th century. The gray concrete was impregnated with iron oxides to do duty as imitation terra cotta tile, imitation slate and even imitation wood shakes.
Tiles can be extruded to form nearly any shape. They can be churned out flat, as with shingles that overlap and interlock on a roof. They can be the familiar barrel style which are laid in vertical rows of half-circles. They can be S-tiles that have concave and convex troughs that overlap across a rooftop. No matter what shape tiles take, they are among the most decorative of all choices for roof coverings.