Category Archives: Tile Roofs

Tile Roofing: Costs, Materials, Installation, Pros & Cons

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! 😉


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. Roofing 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.


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. Today, clay and concrete are the two most common types of tiles used to cover roofs.

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.

Upfront Costs


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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 high quality slate, getting tile on a roof will bring you your biggest installation bill. Count on a tile roof costing two times as much as a wood shake roof and three times more than asphalt shingles. Depending on your region, expect to pay between $9.00 and $15.00 per square foot for a ceramic clay tile roof, installed; concrete tiles are 30% to 50% less expensive than its clay fore-bearers.

Thus, a typical 2,000 square feet tile roof will cost between $20,000 and $30,000, installed. Please note that higher-end clay tiles can cost significantly more than low-end and mid-range tiles. 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. As a general rule, though, clay tiles are less expensive to install than natural slate tiles.

When pricing tile roofs, keep in mind that not all clay tiles are alike. Check to be certain that the clay tiles you have in mind have been successfully in use in your region of the world. Tile that performs well in desert areas may not do as well in different climates. Investigate tests that have been made on the tiles you are considering for your roof.

Installation Requirements

A tile roof requires a minimum slope of 4 to 12. Installing a tile roof is not a do-it-yourself project – industry reports calculate that over 96 percent of all tile roofs are installed by professionals. While the basics of laying down tiles is not complicated the cutting of tiles to conform to hips and valleys is another matter. Add in the complications of flashings, chimneys, solar panels and the like and you are quickly beyond the capabilities of even the handiest of handymen.

Another upfront cost encountered with tile roofs is the quality of what is underneath. Since tile is a permanent roof – most guarantees begin at 50 years and go past 75 years – everything underneath must be of similar long-lasting quality during installation. If the underlayment and flashings deteriorate under a perfectly fine tile roof, all of the tiles will need to come down. Fastening systems can also erode before a tile roof breathes its last breath, so high quality nails and screws are an absolute must. This often means the use of high-priced copper or stainless steel.

Underlayment must also be waterproof. A clay tile roof is considered to be a water-shedding system so windblown rain is expected to get in under the tiles and must be accounted for at installation. Self-adhering underlayment that sticks to the roof deck and prevents leakage is the most desirable option for tile roofs.

Since tile is a heavy roofing material (concrete is lighter than clay – 600 to 1,200 pounds per square as opposed to 1,000 to 1,500 pounds per square) the structural support of the building must be taken into account. The typical commercial or residential building can handle the load of a tile roof but a building inspector should be consulted if there is any question of the need for additional bracing. The weight of tile also suggests a final additional up-front expense. If the desired tile is not available locally the cost of shipping heavy tiles can add several hundred dollars to the project.

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