Concrete Roof Tiles 101
Composed of sand, cement, and water, concrete tiles are a durable and rustic roofing option. If you're considering this classic aesthetic for your home, familiarize yourself with concrete tile costs, how they compare to clay tiles, installation techniques, and more.
Let's review some basic concrete tile components...
Concrete tiles have interlocking ribs on their edges to prevent water from infiltrating the roofing system and are available in a variety of shapes, designs, and colors. Depending on the overall style the homeowners are looking for, the surface texture can be smooth or rough, and the color is typically mixed directly into the sand, cement, and water combination rather than being applied to the outside of the tile.
Concrete tiles come in 3 main appearances:
- Flat profile — No curves
- low profile — Small curves with a maximum rise-to-width ratio of 1:5
- High profile — Large curves with a rise-to-width ratio greater than 1:5
Cost of concrete tiles
Concrete tiles cost less than clay tiles, typically costing between $4.00 - $9.00 per square foot. However, cost varies depending on your location and size of your roof.
The average cost of installing a concrete tile roof is $20,000 - $35,000.
Main differences between concrete tiles and clay tiles
Clay and concrete tiles are similar in their aesthetics and ability to protect homeowners from harsh weather, but what are the differences between them?
Concrete tiles absorb more water than clay tiles. Concrete has a water absorption rate of about 13%, while clay is around 6%. Because of their higher rate of absorption, concrete tiles develop mildew and stains faster than clay. In addition, the added water weight increases the strain on the roof structure.
Clay tiles weigh about half as much as concrete tiles. Clay weighs about 600 – 650 pounds per 100 square feet. Concrete on the other hand weighs anywhere from 820 to 1,100 pounds per 100 square feet. Consequently, roofs with concrete needs need more support to adequately handle the added weight.
Despite the added weight, concrete tiles are suitable for nearly any climate. Clay tiles have a tendency to crack and shatter when exposed to freezing temperature and thawing cycles. Concrete, on the other hand, holds up extremely well under cold temperatures.
Due to their higher water absorption rate and heavier weight, concrete tiles are more difficult to maintain than clay tiles. Clay may crack due to large hail impacts or thawing cycles, but it is otherwise free from the need for regular maintenance.
Color Longevity and Appearance
The colors of concrete tiles don’t last quite as long as clay. Due to the porous nature of concrete tiles, the color fades at a quicker rate than clay. However, this can lead to a distinguished style and may appeal to some homeowners. Because clay is a naturally occurring material, their original color will last for years regardless of weather conditions.
Concrete and clay tiles outperform nearly every other roofing material. Concrete tiles last between 30 - 50 years—much longer than asphalt shingles. Clay lasts for as long, if not longer. (It is not uncommon for clay tiles to last well over a century.)
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Like all other forms of roofing installations, each concrete tile roof will differ slightly from another. This is due to several important factors:
- what material is currently on the roof and needs to be removed
- what condition the roof deck is in
- if the roof deck needs extra reinforcement to support the added weight
- the style of concrete tile
- skylights, chimneys, rooflines, and other individual roof protrusions
Tile roofs are different from other forms of roofing materials due to their type and number of edging pieces and caps.
While shingles have some flexibility to bend and fit different configurations, concrete tile roofs need to be specially made to fit different areas. For example, you may need:
- ridge tiles where two sides meet
- apex tiles where three sides come to a point
- hip ends where the ridges finish
- verge tiles to protect the roof beams on the underside of the roof edge
Each of these factors will differ according to the style of concrete tile you’ve chosen.
Concrete tile sealing
Concrete tiles will require a sealant. Liquid sealants are common for tile roofs and are applied after the installation and allowed to dry. In some cases, concrete tile roofs will need to be resealed 5 - 10 years later.
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The need for a qualified contractor
The primary hurdle of concrete tiles is how difficult they are to install. They are not easy roofing systems to install, as they take longer than traditional options and require specialized tools and an evaluation of the home’s support system.