Concrete tile roof

Do you love the look of a tile roof? Are you interested in learning more about what kind of tile roof is best for you? Read below to see the pros and cons of each material and what option makes the most sense for your roof.

worker installing a concrete tile roof

Tile roofs are one of the top 5 most common roof types installed in the US, and for good reason. Tile roofs offer many benefits over other materials, including increased durability, lifespan, maintenance, energy efficiency, fire safety, and aesthetics. However, a tile roof can have a higher upfront cost compared to some other materials like asphalt shingles.

 

Most tile roofs are constructed from either Concrete or Clay tiles, so we will be comparing these two materials to see the pros and cons of each. If you are interested in learning more about other kinds of tiles, including stone-coated metal tiles, click here to read more.

 

Clay tile

Clay tiles are one of the oldest roofing materials around, with some roof tiles discovered in China that date back to 10,000 BC. They have stood the test of time and are regarded as a very durable roofing material that can even outlive you.

a 2-piece artisanal clay tile roof

They are constructed from natural clay which is formed into a tile shape and then baked in a kiln until the clay hardens into a ceramic tile. The kind of clay determines the color of the tile, which is why the tiles on a roof are often slightly different shades of the same color. Terra-cotta is the most common kind of clay for roof tiles.

 

Concrete tile

Concrete tiles are a modern innovation on the classic roof tile. They are created from a mixture of sand, cement, water, and some binding agents. The mixture is compressed in a mold at high pressure and then solidifies to create the roof tile. Because the tile can be easily molded into different shapes, there are many style options for concrete tiles. There are flat tiles, S-shaped tiles, and Cap-and-pan style tiles which mimic the look of a classic Spanish-style clay tile.

 

Flat concrete tiles Curved concrete tiles
S-type concrete tile Installing concrete tile roof

 

Concrete tiles often interlock on the sides for security and to provide better protection from water intrusion. They can also be made to replicate a number of other roofing styles, including slate, wood shake, and of course clay tiles.

 

Concrete vs. Clay… which is better?

Here is the part where we compare the two tile types. Keep in mind that the differences between the two can differ depending on the style of tile and how they are installed.

 

  1. Cost

Without a doubt, concrete tiles are the less expensive product out of these two. The materials cost less and they are easier/simpler to install than clay tiles, which can lead to a difference in price as high as 50% (this depends on your location, installer, and product manufacturer)

  1. Weight

One of the most important considerations when installing any tile is if the building can support the weight. Both concrete and clay tiles are considered heavy roofing materials, with concrete tiles weighing 20-40% more than clay tiles for the same area. You must make sure that the structure of your roof and house can support the weight of a tile roof. It is also worth mentioning that lightweight concrete tiles do exist, however they are more expensive than the normal style. To read more about lightweight concrete roof tiles, click here. 

 

  1. Water Absorption

Both concrete and clay tile will absorb water when it rains, however concrete tiles will absorb up to 50% more water per square foot than clay tiles. This amount of water absorption can significantly increase the weight of the tiles, which is another reason why a stronger structure is necessary for a tile roof.

 

  1. Durability and Cracking Resistance

While both styles of tile are exceptionally durable and can last well over 50 years, they do not last forever. For a clay tile roof, cold weather and freezing is the most damaging for the tiles. Clay tiles are much more susceptible to cracking when frozen when compared to concrete tiles, and for this reason they are only recommended for areas that experience little to no freezing.

Cracked clay roof tiles

In contrast, concrete tiles do not crack when frozen and are suitable for installation in any climate. That being said, clay tiles are extremely durable if not frozen, and on a well maintained roof can even last longer than 100 years. Because of that, clay tiles are generally considered to be more durable and longer lasting than concrete tiles

 

  1. Maintenance

Concrete tiles can require a little more maintenance if you want to remove the staining that can occur on the porous surface. Also, the coloring on concrete tiles can fade over time. Clay tiles are colored by the natural minerals in the clay, and will fade much less over time. A bit of power washing is all that is needed to bring these materials back to looking brand new.

 

  1. Solar Compatibility

Concrete tiles are easier to install solar on. This is mainly because they are more resistant to cracking when people are walking on the roof to install the solar panels. However, don’t let this discourage you from going solar if you have or want clay tiles. You can definitely have solar on clay tiles, it is just more expensive and difficult to install. You’ll want to make sure you hire an installer with experience on tile roofs.

 

  1. Aesthetics

This really just depends on your personal taste. Do you enjoy the look of an authentic clay tile? This question is becoming less and less important as concrete tiles become more similar in appearance to clay tiles. For most applications, concrete tiles will do an amazing job protecting your house and will look great.

 

However, because the color of a concrete tile comes from added dyes and colorants, the color may fade over time as the material weathers. Because the surface of a concrete tile is more porous than a clay tile, more microorganisms such as algae will begin to grow on the tile surface, leading to staining over time. This can be remedied with routine maintenance, including power washing your roof every 5 years.

Man powerwashing a tile roof

Overall

If you are looking for a premium product that will match the aesthetics of your house and last a lifetime but are not concerned about high upfront costs, then clay tiles seem to suit your needs the best. If you want the look and protection of a tile roof but don’t want to spend thousands more, then a concrete tile roof will be perfect. Additionally, if you are in a colder climate where freezing is more of an issue, then concrete tile is your only good option. If you are thinking about getting solar panels, then concrete tiles are probably the best option.

 

However, there is one other road you could take if you want a tile roof but both of these options do not suit your needs. Stone-coated metal tiles are a great work-around for houses that cannot support the weight of genuine tile, but still want that look and durability. Click here to read more about the benefits of stone-coated metal roofing.