Everything You Need To Know About Concrete Tile Roofs

stacked concrete tiles on roof

If you’re planning to upgrade your roofing system, concrete tiles are an excellent option. But you must first understand everything you need to know about concrete tile roofs. Apart from being durable, they’re energy-efficient, come in various styles to match any architectural design, and provide longevity.

Concrete tiles can be just what your roof needs to achieve the perfect balance between performance and visual appeal. Read up on all the benefits they offer, maintenance steps, and some advantages and disadvantages you should be aware of.

What Is a Concrete Tile Roof?

concrete tiles on new roof structure
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Sometimes referred to as “flagstones,” concrete tiles have small ridges and grooves for easy water drainage. This feature makes them perfect for areas with heavy rainfall, where water tends to pool on the roof.

A mixture of water, cement, sand, and iron oxide (a pigment) is placed under high pressure and heat to manufacture concrete tiles. The result is a beautiful, water-resistant, sturdy material that can withstand extreme weather and offer enduring protection.

A standard concrete tile installation involves:

  • Removing any old roofing
  • Replacing the underlayment (this is a must)
  • Attaching the tiles using battens

While this shouldn’t be an overly difficult process, many situations can involve a steep roof pitch, structures such as chimneys, skylights, or atypical roof shapes. For your peace of mind, discuss any and all possible scenarios with a professional roofing contractor.

Concrete tiles have three different profile variations that can complement various architectural style preferences.

  • Flat: This style has no curves, sitting flat on the roof structure. With flat tiles, you can achieve a clean, crisp look that most home buyers, architects, and designers prefer.
  • Medium: With a medium profile, your concrete tiles will have a height of one inch or less for every five inches of width. These S-shaped barrels best represent the Mediterranean architectural style and can easily be adapted to contemporary homes.
  • High: This particular tile profile translates to a height of more than one inch for every five inches of width. Out of all profiles, high profiles resemble Spanish tiles the most – a nod to old-world charm.

Types of Concrete Tiles

concrete roof tiles at a construction site
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Selecting the right concrete tile type can make all the difference. Each category brings its own unique blend of attributes, from attractive designs and performance to eco-friendly qualities. The most common concrete tile roofing options include:

Synthetic Tiles

With synthetic tiles, you can look forward to a long-lasting, budget-friendly, and visually attractive roof. This particular type of roofing is made from a combination of cement, water, fine aggregate, and polymer raisins that round out the texture and color.

The downside is that manufacturing synthetic tiles uses more fossil fuels, a process that is detrimental to the environment.

Natural Tiles

Natural tiles are made using less energy and environmentally dangerous materials, a significant point in their favor. Manufacturing involves mixing cement with water, fine aggregate, clay, and other minerals. Natural tiles are generally used in small homes or businesses in rural areas of the country.

Fiber Tiles

Fiber tiles are the most lightweight of the three types. Manufacturers mix certain quantities of fiberglass, cement, and sand to produce this durable composite roofing type. While fiber tiles are fairly new, they can certainly hold their own against traditional concrete tiles.

Pros of Concrete Tile Roofs

concrete roof
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Concrete tiles can be a stunning yet practical addition to your home. If you’re not sold on this roofing type just yet, take a closer look at everything it has to offer:

  • Longevity: Concrete tiles have a notable life expectancy of between 25 and 100 years, significantly higher than the lifespan of asphalt shingles or metal roofing.
  • Versatility: No matter the architectural style, concrete tiles can emulate more expensive roofing types and provide the desired look.
  • Increased curb appeal: Concrete tiles come in countless color hues and blends to match any particular taste. From rich browns, reds, and oranges to pastels like blue and purple, the possibilities are endless and bound to meet your needs.
  • Durability: Concrete tile roofing protects against high winds (of up to 180 miles per hour), rot, pests, and fire. It has a Class A fire rating, with a fire spread index of zero to 25.
  • Heat and cold resistance: Concrete tiles boast excellent resistance to extreme temperatures. When installed according to code regulations, concrete tiles can even surpass seismic load requirements.
  • Eco-friendly: If you’re environmentally conscious, concrete tiles are the material for you. This green product is made from non-toxic, natural materials such as sand, cement, and oxide. Not to mention that concrete tiles are 100% recyclable.
  • Energy efficiency: This is another point in favor of concrete tiles. Their reflective and high thermal mass qualities translate to lower heating and cooling costs, allowing them to absorb, store, and emit heat as needed.
  • Easy repairs: In case of damage, broken or cracked concrete tiles can be comfortably replaced without much effort or cost on your part.
  • Lifetime warranty: With concrete tiles, you’ll benefit from a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Soundproofing: Concrete tiles have noteworthy soundproofing capabilities, often used in residential and commercial roofing for their ability to block disruptive, unpleasant noises.

Cons of Concrete Tile Roofs

There’s no question that concrete tile roofing offers remarkable benefits, making it one of the most sought-after roofing materials available. Nevertheless, there are certain drawbacks you should consider before making your final decision.

  • Weight: Concrete tiles aren’t lightweight. In fact, because concrete can place substantial pressure on a roofing structure, a structural engineer will need to inspect your home and determine whether your roof needs reinforcement before installation.
  • Higher cost: When shopping around for a new roof, you’ll notice that concrete tiles are more expensive than other roofing materials like slate or clay tiles. This is mainly due to the challenging nature of the installation process.
  • Impact vulnerability: Concrete tiles feature outstanding resistance to wind and fire, but that’s not to say they’re all-enduring. If exposed to heavy foot traffic, falling tree branches, and frequent hailstorms, your tiles can crack.
  • Color fading: Over time, exposure to the elements and UV rays will cause concrete tile colors, like orange or red, to fade. And if you need to replace some of the tiles, you’ll have a harder time matching the new tiles to the rest of the roof.
  • Maintenance: Concrete tile roofs require routine maintenance, just like any other roofing type. The underlayment is of particular importance, as it will require replacement approximately once every 20 years. This process involves removing the tiles, installing new underlayment, and re-attaching the tiles, all of which costs time and money.
  • Moisture retention: Concrete tiles are porous – a serious drawback in areas with heavy rainfall. If improperly weatherproofed, concrete will absorb and retain every type of moisture you can think of. Not only will the tiles become even heavier than they already are, but they’ll develop mold and mildew issues.

What Makes Concrete Tiles Different Than Other Roofing Types?

If it comes down to a choice between concrete roof tiles and other roofing materials, it’s helpful to know how they stack up against each other. Here’s a comparison list to make your selection as stress-free as possible.

  • Asphalt shingle roof: Over time, an asphalt roof can dry out, lose granules, and crack. Concrete tiles are more durable, weather-resistant, long-lasting, and impact-resistant than asphalt shingles.
  • Slate roof: Concrete roof tiles are more lightweight and economical than slate roofing.
  • Metal roof: Apart from being more fire-resistant than metal roofs, concrete tiles are also more aesthetically versatile and resistant to freeze, hail, and impact. Metal roofs can withstand extreme weather conditions up to a point, after which they may rust or become dented and scratched.
  • Wood roof: Prone to cracking, warping, rot, and pest attacks, wood roofs require regular maintenance and treatment applications. With concrete tiles, you get a low-maintenance, easily repaired roofing material that is more aesthetically versatile and lasts three to four times longer than wood shake roofing.
  • Clay tile roof: Compared to clay roof tiles, concrete tiles absorb more water and weigh more, meaning your roof will need to be structurally sound to handle a concrete tile roof. On the other hand, concrete tiles can weather extreme temperatures much better, cracking or breaking less than their clay counterparts.

Bottom line: In almost every aspect, concrete tiles are superior to other roofing materials, offering visual interest, functionality, and durability. Whether you’re looking for elegance, a simple look, or striking effects and originality, concrete tiles can provide all that and more.

How To Maintain a Concrete Tile Roof

side view of concrete roof tiles
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With concrete tile roof systems, maintenance is all about keeping them intact. Follow these steps to get the most out of your clay tile roof.

  1. Keep the tiles clean: Since concrete is porous, it absorbs moisture, dirt, grime, and mold particles. Without regular cleaning, your tiles will begin to deteriorate due to damaging buildup. Plus, too much residue will become impossible to clean, requiring a complete replacement of the damaged tiles.
  2. Avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals: When cleaning your roof, stick to eco-friendly cleaners that won’t harm the surface of your concrete tiles. Bleach and other heavy-duty solutions must be diluted and completely rinsed off to prevent damage.
  3. Keep foot traffic to a minimum: Concrete tile roofs can crack or break if exposed to frequent foot traffic. Stay off the roof as much as possible and only step on the tiles if absolutely necessary. Also, avoid burdening your roof with heavy equipment, such as when you’re cleaning or performing repairs.
  4. Conduct bi-annual roof inspections: By nature, concrete tiles require minimal maintenance. That said, you shouldn’t put off occasional inspections, especially after the winter and summer seasons. Check your roof carefully after high winds, severe hail, or an earthquake to ensure your tiles aren’t loosened, blown off, or cracked.

Cost of a Concrete Tile Roof

Numerous factors influence the average cost of a new clay tile roof, including:

  • Shape, size, and pitch of your roof
  • Complexity of the roof installation – including old roofing removal, possible structural reinforcements, and underlayment replacement
  • Any needed customizations, such as ice dam barriers or water shields in areas with cold, wet climates
  • Installation method used (concrete tile roofing is either nailed directly to the underlayment or installed on battens)
  • Material quality

Here’s a quick rundown of the typical price range of installation based on roof size:

Roof Square FootageAverage Installation Price Range
1,000$7,000 – $19,000
1,500$10,500 – $28,500
2,000$14,000 – $38,000
2,500$17,500 – $47,500
3,000$21,000 – $57,000

You also will need to consider these additional costs:

  • Roof deck replacement: This service can run from $2 to $5 per square foot.
  • Inspection by a structural engineer: Most structural engineers charge between $300 and $900 for roof and home integrity inspections before roofing installation.
  • Structural roof reinforcement: If needed, reinforcements can cost between $5 and $14 per square foot.

FAQ About Concrete Tile Roofs

How Do I Clean a Concrete Tile Roof?

Using a low-pressure washer, aim the water at the tiles from a safe distance to loosen up any buildup, debris, dirt, and grime. Then, use a brush to scrub away any deposits and ensure your roof is spotless. But it’s better to hire a professional roofer, as they also can apply a specialized sealant for long-lasting protection against UV rays and severe weather conditions.

Is Underlayment Necessary in Roofing?

Since concrete tiles tend to retain moisture, underlayment is absolutely necessary to prevent water penetration or damage to your home. After about 20 years, the underlayment will need replacing, which you can determine during one of your routine inspections.

What Pitch Should My Roof Have To Qualify for Concrete Tiles?

According to the International Residential Code, roofs with one layer of underlayment must have a pitch of at least 4:12. Lower roof pitches require two underlayment layers to ensure appropriate waterproofing.

Get Professional Installation Services

All things considered, it’s no wonder many homeowners opt for concrete tile roofing. It provides security, functionality, breathtaking designs, and heavy-duty protection against the elements. If you’re sold on this type of tile, reach out to a highly-rated roofing contractor in your area. You’ll find useful recommendations and a price that fits your budget.

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Andie Ioo

In my free time, I enjoy traveling with my husband, sports, trying out new recipes, reading, and watching reruns of '90s TV shows. As a way to relax and decompress, I enjoy landscaping around my little yard and DIY home projects.