In the world of residential roofing, tile roofs stand out for their durability, aesthetic appeal, and versatility. This article aims to enlighten homeowners, roofing contractors, solar salespeople, and solar installers on the nuances of tile roofs, with a special focus on concrete tile roofs. We’ll delve into two specific types of projects: “Lift and Re-felt” and “Picture Frame Roofs,” explaining their significance, applications, and how to determine the best approach for a project that involves a tile roof.

The Basics of Tile Roofs

Tile roofs are a popular choice due to their longevity and resistance to harsh weather conditions. They come in various materials like clay, slate, and concrete, each with unique properties.

slate and clay roof tiles

Slate and clay are two styles of tile roofs.

Slate and clay tiles, while beautiful and quite long lasting, are often considered a premium roof material and come with a hefty price tag. If you have a slate or clay tile roof and are interested in getting solar panels installed on your roof, it is likely that you will need what is called a “Picture Frame Roof” to deal with the fragile nature of these materials. Keep reading to learn more about “Picture Frame Roofs.”

Concrete Tile Roofs

Concrete tiles, as opposed to clay or slate tiles, are favored for their cost-effectiveness and adaptability. They are made from a mixture of cement, sand, and water, and are available in a range of colors and styles, including flat, curved, fluted, and interlocking designs. Their durability makes them suitable for a wide range of climatic conditions, but are more commonly found in warmer and drier climates with little to no snowfall.

Types of Concrete Tile Roofs

  • Flat Concrete Tiles: Offer a sleek, modern look, suitable for contemporary home designs.

Flat tiles are great for sleek, clean look

  • “M” or “W” Concrete Tiles: Also known as “Double S” these concrete tiles are a unique style reminiscent of an artisanal clay tile roof.

M style tile roof

  • “S” Concrete Tiles: S tiles more closely resemble the shape and structure of traditional Spanish clay tiles.

S style tiles closely resemble a traditional clay tile roof

Specialized Roofing Projects

Lift and Re-felt

This process involves carefully removing existing tiles, replacing the underlayment (a crucial waterproofing layer), and then reinstalling the original tiles. It’s an eco-friendly option, as it reuses existing materials, and is cost-effective compared to a full roof replacement. Performing a Lift and Re-felt (or Lift and Replace) is usually cheaper than purchasing new tiles, and can be a great option for roofs that have not been serviced in the last 20-30 years.

Worker on a roof with many uninstalled tiles stacked up around him.

A worker re-installs old tiles after the underlayment has been replaced.

When to Consider Lift and Re-felt

  • Ageing Underlayment: If the tiles are in good condition but the underlayment shows signs of wear.
  • Budget Constraints: Ideal for those who want to extend the life of their current roof without the cost of completely new materials.
  • Historical Preservation: In cases where maintaining the original look of the roof is essential.

Picture Frame Roof

This project is particularly relevant for solar installations. It involves removing a section of roof tiles and replacing them with asphalt shingles, creating a ‘frame’ where solar panels can be easily installed. The old tiles that were removed are stored during the solar installation, and then reinstalled around the newly installed solar array to cover the shingles below.

Image displaying the before and after installation of a picture frame style roof installation.

Why Choose a Picture Frame Roof?

  • Compatibility with Solar Panels: Asphalt shingles provide a more suitable base for solar panel installation than fragile tiles.
  • Aesthetics: It maintains the overall look of the tile roof while enabling the installation of solar panels.
  • Cost-Effective: Cheaper than restructuring the entire roof for solar panel installation. Generally only a portion of the roof area will need to be included in the Picture Frame project. The rest of the roof can be left as is or renewed with a “Lift and Re-Felt” scope of work.

Watch this short video to learn more about “Picture Frame Roofs

Deciding the Best Approach

For Homeowners

  • Consider Roof Age and Condition: Older roofs or those with damaged tiles might be better off with a Lift and Re-felt.
  • Solar Aspirations: If planning for solar panels, a Picture Frame Roof could be more practical, especially if the tiles are lightweight or fragile.
  • Aesthetics: If you are unhappy with the look of your current tile roof, the only way to change it is to replace it with a different material. Make sure to match the weight rating of whatever new tile you decide to use with the existing roof material, otherwise you risk compromising the structural integrity of the building.
  • Budget: A “Lift and Re-felt” is generally less expensive than a full tile replacement, so that can be a great option for someone looking to refresh their roof without breaking the bank. Generally, a “Picture Frame Roof” is only needed for projects where solar is going to be installed on fragile tiles, so it usually a last resort for those situations.

For Solar Salespeople and Installers

  • Roof Evaluation: Assess the roof’s suitability for solar panels. A Picture Frame Roof might be necessary for fragile tile roofs. Otherwise, a “Lift and Re-Felt” is usually the way to go.
  • Client Preferences: Understand the homeowner’s aesthetic and budgetary preferences. If they like the look of their existing roof, a “Lift and re-felt” or “Picture Frame” would be the best options.
  • Technical Feasibility: Consider the structural integrity and potential challenges in installing solar panels on tile roofs. Most lightweight or clay tile roofs are going to need a Picture Frame. Additionally, if the customer does not currently have a tile roof and they want one installed, there may be costly structural reinforcements needed to handle the additional weight that tiles bring.

Tile roofs, particularly concrete tile roofs, offer a blend of durability, beauty, and flexibility, making them a top choice in residential roofing. Understanding the specifics of projects like Lift and Re-felt and Picture Frame Roof is crucial for making informed decisions. Whether you are a homeowner, contractor, or solar professional, recognizing the right approach for each unique situation ensures that the roof not only looks great but also functions optimally for years to come.