What are the Different Types of Roofing Tiles?

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Roofing tiles date back to at least 10,000 BC when the Chinese used clay tiles to protect themselves from the elements. Since then, people around the world have used tiles for their roofs. Today, there are an array of options for homeowners to choose from. But what are the different types of roofing tiles?

What Are Roofing Tiles?

Roofing tiles are, as you would expect, the tiles that make up your roof. They keep your house safe from the elements, are nailed to your roof deck to keep them up there, and last a long time. Plus, they can be creative!

Roofing tiles are an alternative to roofing shingles, but with several differences. Shingles are cheaper, costing about $3.00 to $5.00 per square foot, and made of asphalt (which is waterproof) and fiberglass, as opposed to clay and concrete. However, asphalt shingles don’t last as long, with the average lifespan being 15-30 years, and roofs are much easier to install.

Shingles are much lighter than tiles, so if your house can’t handle the weight of clay and concrete tile roofs, shingles are a good choice. 

Roofing Tile Types

Roofing tiles come in different shapes and sizes, providing a mixture of function, durability, and style.


Photo Credit: Loadmaster / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Clay roofing tiles are some of the oldest materials, dating back 5,000 years. They are long-lasting (over 100 years) and durable enough to withstand elements like sun, wind, and rain. Thus, clay tile roofs are ideal for areas with tropical climates, like Florida and Southern California.

However, they are also some of the most expensive roofing materials. For example, the typical price range for installing clay tile on a 1,500-square-foot roof is between $13,000 and $36,000, averaging $24,500. They aren’t well suited for areas with harsh winters and hail, so clay roofing isn’t recommended if you live in a cold climate.


Concrete roofing tiles offer similar qualities but are more expensive, with prices ranging from $19,500 to $36,500, averaging $24,000. Like clay tiles, they last over 100 years and resist fire and water. Concrete is heavy and thus requires a roofing structure that can withstand the weight.

However, concrete tile roofs don’t like hail or falling tree branches, which can cause the tiles to crack and expose your home to the elements. If you live in a heavily wooded area, remove trees hanging over your roof before installing the tiles.


Slate roof tiles on a home in Greenbelt, Maryland
Photo Credit: Picryl

Classy and beautiful, slate roofing tiles are durable enough to withstand fire, water, wind, and hail. Slate is versatile and accommodating to your budget. For example, regular slate costs between $17.50 and $35 per square foot, whereas synthetic slate costs between $9.50 and $16 per square foot.

Slate is heavy and, like concrete, requires a reinforced housing structure to support the weight. 


Metal tiles come in varieties like aluminum, copper, zinc, and steel. They are lightweight and easy to install, making them popular across the United States. Metal tiles are durable, long lasting (around 70 years), and eco-friendly – you can recycle them after they fulfilled their roofing duties. Additionally, metal tiles are cheaper than clay and concrete, averaging $6.50 to $13.00 per square foot.

However, their strengths come with weaknesses. Metal tiles might be durable, but they dent easily (especially in rain or hailstorms), making them hard to repair. Metal tiles are also noisy and don’t offer much insulation.  


As its name suggests, composite roofing tiles are made of multiple natural and artificial materials such as asphalt, fiberglass, clay, and paper. They easily duplicate any tile (with custom color mixes) and are lightweight, durable, and long-lasting. They also come with good warranties (up to 50 years) and are easily installable.

Composite tiles have gravel toppings that can cause buildup, so you’ll need to clean them every few years. Additionally, composite roofs cost about $25,690 on average, so they can be expensive.


Photo Credit: Jon Callas / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

If you want your house to go green, consider fitting your roof with solar tiles. These durable electricity-producing tiles run on batteries and are powered by sunlight.

However, going green costs a lot; solar roof tiles are expensive (averaging $49,700), and the electric bills generated can take a big bite out of your wallet. Additionally, solar tiles require special maintenance, repair, and installation services. Thus, you need to ask yourself if the price is worth it.


Multiple types of synthetic tiles exist.

  • Slate: Synthetic slate is cheaper than regular slate (as mentioned above) because it’s made of composite materials. Synthetic slate provides the same fire resistance but with a lighter weight and less maintenance.
  • Cedar: Synthetic cedar is also made of composite materials, meaning it won’t warp, crack, split, rot, or attract fungus. It’s also lighter and easier to install than regular cedar tiles.
  • Spanish: Synthetic Spanish tiles are an alternative to clay tiles. They are recyclable, fire resistant, and come in a variety of colors, all while requiring low maintenance.

Why Are Roofing Tiles Better Than Other Materials?

Photo Credit: Pxhere

Roofing tiles are expensive compared to other materials, but for the benefits they bring to homeowners, tile roofs are worth the investment:


Tile roofs are both long-lasting and highly durable. As mentioned above, tiles like clay and concrete can last up to 100 years if properly cared for. Meanwhile, shingles last around 15 to 30 years.

Tile roofs are also more resilient against fire, water, wind, hail, and insect damage than shingle roofs. This also means fewer repairs, saving you money. 


Tile roofs come in many colors, shapes, and sizes and can be shaped to match any architectural style. Do you want your tiles to resemble wood shakes? Sure. Chipped stone? You got it. Shingle-style slate? Why not. Spanish style? No problem.

Tile roofs also add curb value to your home. When the time comes for you to sell your home, having a tile roof can attract potential buyers. Houses with tile roofs sell better and faster than homes with different roof styles.

Shingle roofs are also versatile, but with a few differences. Shingle roofs are customizable, but are usually small, thin, and rectangular with the option to mix and match. Tile roofs are more upscale and classier while occasionally being more rounded, like the Spanish style’s ripple effect.

Energy Efficiency

Tile roofs are energy efficient regardless of climate or location, reducing heat loss or gain. When tiles are installed, there’ll be gaps under the tiles, creating a barrier to keep the house cool in summer (from the sun) and warm in winter. The result is lowered energy bills (due to less heat and air conditioning) and more money saved.

Shingle roofs aren’t as energy efficient as tile roofs. Standard shingles absorb more heat (especially dark colored ones), making your house hotter and leading to greater air conditioning use. However, energy efficient shingles exist, reducing heat absorption by 15 percent. 


Tiles are made out of raw materials that don’t deplete natural resources. If you need a roof replacement, you can crush them for recycling rather than throw them away, doing your part to help the environment.

Asphalt shingles are made of petroleum, and thus are not sustainable. Though shingles are recyclable, and are used as a component for roadway pavements, the EPA claimed that 17% of shingles went to the landfill. The raw material of asphalt shingles consists of carcinogenic hydrocarbons, which cause an increase in cancer. 

How To Choose the Best Tile for Your Home

Choosing the best tile for your home can be arduous, with many types of tiles. However, the following factors will help you find the right tile for your roof.

  1. House Style. Your house’s design will help determine what type of roofing tile to use. If you have a historic home, you want tiles designed for that home. For example, roofing tiles.
  1. Roof Structure. Picking the right tiles for your home depends on the purpose. If you’re adding a new roof, you can be creative with what tile you choose. If not, your house’s structure and roof slope will decide. 
  1. Budget. Since you don’t have infinite money, your tile choices will be limited by your budget. Certain tiles are more expensive than others, so go for a tile that’s not too cheap and not too expensive. Refer to the Roofing Tile Types section above to see how much each material costs.
  1. Durability. The more durable your roof is, the more money you save on maintenance. Because of this, you want your roof to be made of durable materials to protect you from the elements and minimize repairs. 
  1. Energy Efficiency. Roofing tiles might be energy efficient, but you’ll still have to pay energy bills. The more energy efficient your tiles are, the lower your energy bills will be.

FAQ About the Different Types of Roofing Tiles

What is the longest-lasting roof tile?

Concrete, clay, and slate have lifespans exceeding 100 years, with slate potentially lasting up to 200 years.

I live in a rainy area. What is the best roof for me?

Metal roofs, as they only have a few seams. That makes them easier to seal, thus protecting you from the rain.
However, slate roofs are worth considering, as they repel moisture to keep the rain out of your house.

What are the best roof tiles for areas with hot climates?

Terracotta is used in areas with intense sunlight, such as Spain, Italy, and the Southwestern United States. Terracotta tiles are baked in a kiln, giving them strong heat resistance, perfect for areas with hot climates.

Concrete tiles are thick, so it takes longer for the sun to penetrate them. Metal roofs create airspace between the decking and roofing, creating a thermal “barrier” to keep your house cool.

Raising the Roof

Deciding what kind of roof to put on your house is important and complicated. If you’re unsure what kind of roof to install, we’ll connect you to local roofing experts who can help you determine what roof is right for your home.

Main Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures

Stuart Kushner

Stuart Kushner is a writer and aspiring product designer based in New York City. When he isn’t doing either, Stuart enjoys heavy metal music, exercise, and trying new food and drinks.