Do you love the distinctive and attractive look of roof tiles? If the answer is yes, then you are among a growing number of homeowners who pick tiles as the roofing material of choice for their homes.
A tile roof is a costly upfront investment, especially if you opt for clay tiles rather than concrete ones. However, tiles offer many great benefits including durability, longevity, energy-efficiency, great curb appeal, low maintenance, hurricane-grade wind mitigation (with proper installation and maintenance), fire safety, and more.
Traditional (non-metal made) tiles are most commonly available in either concrete or clay, and come in a multitude of shapes, profiles, and colors.
The Difference in Cost Between Concrete vs. Clay Tiles
For all the reasons mentioned above it should come as no surprise that clay tiles can cost about 20% to 30% more than concrete tiles, with an average cost of clay tiles hoovering around $14.50 to $25.50 per square foot installed.
More exotic tiles can easily cost as much as $20 to $30 per square foot installed, though. Thus, there is a lot of variation in price to be expected, depending on how fancy a tile you want to pick.
In terms of total costs installed, a basic tile roof could cost anywhere from $29,000 to $51,000, depending on the size of your house, roof difficulty, tile choice, and location of your property.
New Shingle Roof
New Metal Roof
New Flat Roof
See costs in your area Enter Your Zip Code
Since both, clay and concrete tiles are expensive in comparison to most other roofing choices, you’ll need to consider whether all the added benefits that real tiles have to offer are worth the extra expense.
Keep in mind that the total life-cycle cost of tiles is actually quite low compared to composition shingles, since clay tiles can last for as long as 100 years, while concrete tiles should protect your roof for 50 years plus.
Verdict: if unique style and authenticity is what you are looking for, then tiles can be a sound choice for your home, provided you are also willing to invest in the structural reinforcement of your roof truss structure.
When choosing between concrete or clay tiles, it is important to understand the properties of each material, and the major differences between the two including the important cost considerations.
What is a Clay Tile?
Clay tiles are produced by baking molded clay. The density of the clay is determined by the length of time and temperature at which it is heated. Colors of clay tiles range from shades of white, yellow, orange and brown.
The most common clay tile color is the Terra-Cotta. Another alternative to these natural earth tones is to add enamels to the tile and make any color of roof tiles. This process is called “ceramic” and consists of spraying enamel over the tile before baking it.
High temperatures of the kiln permanently bond this color to the clay tile so it will not peel or fade. As a result, there are a wide variety of tile profiles, styles, finishes and colors available. Because clay tiles are made from a natural earth derived material, they are environmentally friendly and easily recycled.
Clay tiles are resistant to strong winds and cannot be destroyed in a fire. Because of the way they are shaped, clay tiles protect the underlayment of your roof, while also creating an air pocket, thereby helping to insulate and isolate any unwanted heat or cold from being transferred into your home’s attic space.
Top Clay Tile Roof Manufacturers and Suppliers:
Ludowici is one of the oldest and most renowned clay tile manufactures based in New Lexington, Ohio. The company offers a wide range of tile profiles for residential, historic, commercial, and institutional projects.
MCA Tile is another prominent manufacturer of clay tiles based in California. MCA tiles are designed for residential, commercial, and institutional applications.
If you prefer to source and buy your tiles through a supplier, ABC supply carries a large selection of concrete and clay tiles.
What is a Concrete Tile?
Concrete tiles are made of mixture of sand, cement, and water, which are molded under heat and high pressure. The exposed surface of a tile may be finished with a paint like material.
Concrete tiles have additional water locks, or interlocking ribs on the edges that prevent water infiltration. Concrete tiles come in three main appearances:
1. Flat profile – no curves.
2. Low Profile – small curves and has a rise to width ratio equal to 1:5 or less.
3. High Profile: large curves and has a rise to width ratio greater than 1:5.
Concrete tiles can simulate the appearance of traditional clay tiles, wood shakes, slate, and stone. Like clay, concrete tile surfaces can be textured or smooth, and tile edges can be ragged or uniform. They are resistant to hail, wind, and fire, making them a very safe roofing material when properly installed.
Top Concrete Tile Roof Manufacturers and Suppliers:
Eagle Roofing is a prominent US manufacturer of concrete tiles. Their products can, once again be ordered by a professional contractor through ABC supply.
Boral manufactures both concrete and clay tiles available in a large variety of profiles.
What are the primary differences between Concrete and Clay Tiles?
1. Water Absorption
Concrete roofing tiles have a water absorption of about 13%, while clay roofing tiles have a water absorption of about 6%. Consequently, this higher rate of water absorption leads to the development of mildew and stains on concrete tiles.
Absorbed water also increases the already heavy weight of a concrete tile and puts increases pressure on the roof structure. These issues are very minimal in clay tiles due to their low water absorption rate.
Concrete tiles can weigh almost 40% more than clay tiles. Concrete tiles can weigh anywhere from 820 to 1.100 pounds per square (100 sq. ft.), depending on the style, while most clay roofing tiles weigh only 600 – 650 pounds per square. As a result, it is more difficult for the roof structure to adequately support the heavier weight of concrete tiles vs. clay tiles.
In some cases, concrete tiles are not recommended for use on buildings, unless the roof framing is reinforced to support the added weight.
Propensity to crack and shatter
In colder climates, clay tiles have a tendency to crack or shatter due to freezing and thawing cycles. As a result, clay tiles are mostly found in warmer climates.
Conversely, concrete tiles are not as susceptible to damage due to freezing temperatures, and therefore can be used in almost any climate.
Heavier weight, higher rate of water absorption and formation of mildew makes concrete tiles a lot more challenging to maintain than clay tiles, which are almost free of these issues.
For example, on ceramic finishes in Matte and Glazed clay tiles, absorption and mildew rates are almost nonexistent. This means that a clay roof would be practically maintenance free.
4. Color Longevity and Appearance
Since clay is a naturally occurring material, clay tiles maintain their original color for years despite being subjected to weather conditions.
Ceramic finishes offered by many clay roof tile manufacturers, are baked in high temperatures of around 2,000 degrees, creating a non-porous finish that will virtually last forever.
On the other hand, the color-thru technology used in concrete tiles is not as effective in maintaining the original bright tile color, and concrete tiles are known to fade over time.
Due to its porous nature, concrete tiles are also more prone to stains than clay tiles.
While both concrete and clay tiles outperform most other roofing materials in durability, at the end of the day clay is a more durable material than concrete. Concrete tiles may last between 30 to 50 years, while clay tiles may well last over 100 years.
You can still see beautiful clay roofs on many buildings in Europe, which have been there for centuries.
Stone-Coated Steel — A Viable Alternatives to Tiles:
One major disadvantage of concrete, clay, and Terra Cotta tiles is that they are very heavy and may often require reinforcement to the roof structure in order to support all the weight of tiles.
Fortunately, there is an attractive, lightweight, and less-costly alternative to traditional tiles; stone-coated steel tiles.
Did you know? Stone-coated steel tiles offer comparable performance, but without the added weight of clay or concrete, meaning that you will not have to reinforce the structure of the existing roof: https://www.roofingcalc.com/stone-coated-steel-roof-cost/
For instance, Barrel Vault tiles from Boral Steel (previously Gerard USA) do a fantastic job imitating the look of traditional clay tiles, but at a fraction of the material cost (averaging $3.00 to $5.00 per square foot of material, depending on the size of your order and your location), and with no added weight to worry about.
Top manufacturers of stone-coated steel roofs:
Decra, Boral Steel (previously Gerard USA), and Metro (acquired by Boral Tile) are some of the prominent manufacturers offering stone-coated steel tiles in the US.
Need a Roofer? Get 4 Free Quotes From Local Pros:
Enter Your Zip Code:
13 thoughts on “Concrete vs. Clay Roof Tile Cost 2022: Pros & Cons of Tile Roofs”
I live in south Florida and have been here over 50 years and I’m a General Contractor and I have yet to see any tile roof that needs to be replaced. As long as the trusses and plywood or 1×6 are repaired or any wood members replaced and sealed the roof can last longer than I.
I will certify any of these systems that are repaired and give them many years of life as long as they are done correctly.
My point, do not let them tell you your tile roof expires. Ask for a mitigation or 4 point inspection and you will be surprised.
My partner lives in a 1920 house in Coral Gables Miami Fl and he has insurance.
Thanks for sharing your perspective Rudy!
You have no clue how exceptional your post is. My family had a chance to buy a house in New England, close to Canada, with a gorgeous, clay roof. But… the house was abandoned and empty for four years and suffered some mishaps. That’s how we were able to afford it. The neglected roof suffered some damage.
Everybody and their uncle suggests to change the roof and put the metal on. Nobody even considers trying to save the slightly damaged beauty that is there. Nobody.
One contractor who said, he knows a guy who knows the guy who does that kind of job quoted the price that exceeds the house’s purchase price by four times. We felt in love with the house the way it looks now, metal roof, besides not being what this house needs, to keep its charm and beauty is also very expensive. If you flip houses for profit, you may cut corners, borrow money to pay for a sloppy repairs and find a sucker to pay for your bad choices. But if you find a dream place to live in, you want it to be done right and be done at reasonable cost.
So far we weren’t even able to find a person who would know what to do and where to buy needed supplies. Forget the reasonable pricing. Now, with the global pandemic, I don’t even dare think what the future of this dream place will turn out to be. But what a refreshing pleasure to find someone’s post, who understand the value of saving and preserving the job well done by the workers long ago.
Thank you. It gives me courage to keep trying.
I agree, a good explanation of the differences.
That said, it would be fair to mention maintenance and repairability. Clay is very brittle and very difficult to walk on unless you know just where to place your foot (where the overlap of the two tiles is the strongest). While concrete tile can be that way also, it has a better resistance to weight, especially the flat concrete tile. Still, you need to know where to step!
And concrete tile is much more readily repairable, though color match may come into play. Clay, if installed without the concrete cement in between, can also be repaired fairly easily if you can gain access to the point of the needed repair. Sometimes using plywood as a bridge walking surface can help avoid additional breakage when doing repairs. However, you need to secure the plywood, particularly on pitched roof slopes.
Anyway, just my two cents worth!
Great points, thank you Paul!
When we had our roof redone, the contractor saved all the concrete tile to use over. We came up short because of the broken tiles and needed to buy more. The contractor went to a bone yard that had all different kinds of concrete tiles and found some that were a close color match but were not the same size.
The contractor got creative and used the “new” tiles for a section of the roof that was separated from the rest, so that the color and size differences were completely undetectable.
But which one is better — flat tile or barrel/S-shape tile? My HOA wants me to use s-tiles, but I’ve heard flat tiles are better in hurricanes.
A flat tile has a lower profile and hence less of a chance of being lifted and torn-off by the wind.
That being said, it ultimately comes down to the quality of installation, roof-frame bracing in Florida, etc.
You make a great point about how you need to consider the weight of your roofing materials before you start a project. It can be important to have some structural analysis done of your roof trusses to make sure that they can support the weight of clay or concrete roof tiles.
As you mentioned, you might need to reinforce the roof framing before you can even start your project. Thanks.
Soild post about the differences between clay and concrete roof tiles. Was investigating for an Arizona real estate client. Thank you.
I’ve always loved the look of clay tiles on roofs, but I wasn’t aware that concrete tiles were even an option. Having read this, the cost of concrete tiles seems to be lower than the cost of ceramic tiles, which may be an important point of consideration for many homeowners. Still, I think for us, it’s ultimately worth it to pay more upfront in opting for clay tiles to get that classic look and longevity. The fact that clay tiles will likely last about 25 to 50 years longer than concrete is definitely a plus.
Hi Roof Guy,
I would appreciate some informational help. I have been burnt and scammed every time I have tried to have work done on my house. Now that my mom passed, I am trying to start dealing with her house. And it needs a lot of repairs. I’m disabled and low income, so I don’t have a lot of money. Her house is in Fontana, CA and is about 25 yrs old. The roof is clay tiles (I believe and not concrete). The roof titles look like most of them are in good shape.
We know there is a leak above the garage, and are not sure if the roof may have been fixed before. We couldn’t find a receipt. So with that being said, there may be some other leaks, too.
What are the steps to take the tile off to fix any leaks, re-sheet, re-seal, use re-use any and all good tiles? I am not sure exactly how these these steps work with tile roofs. Also, what are the steps, with costs, on what is needed for a good job to be done and at fair cost?
As you can see, I am in real need of help in locating an (honest, good, and fair priced) contractor/roofer/remodeler.
Please help with any advice you can offer. The roof is just one issue. I just need some help and understanding of what is what to match the costs.
Thank you so much for any help/advice that you can offer! Vic
So, most high-end and properly installed clay tile roofs can last 50 to 100 years, so given the age of the house is only 25 years, you should have plenty of live left in those tiles!
It sounds like the leak may have to do with the chimney flashing. If that’s the case, it shouldn’t be too expensive to repair. The best piece of advice I can offer you is find a tradesman who specializes in tile roofs and has good reputation for honesty and taking pride in their work. There should be plenty of companies that specialize in tile roofs in California, so you can either use the form on our site to try to find a pro for a tile roof repair or find a tile installer locally. A professional tile installer will know what to look for, how to properly walk on a tile roof without damaging the tiles, and how to properly re-flash the chimney, if that is the culprit.