Clay roofing was first brought to the United States in the 17th century by European settlers, and the trend stuck due to its durability and fire resistance. Clay tiles are Class A fire rated and do not burn. Their durability, ease of maintenance, and low thermal conductivity have made clay tiles one of the most popular roofing materials for nearly two centuries.
While it’s most common to find clay tile roofing in Florida or California, it can work with almost any design scheme. Combining one of the most traditional building materials with more modern materials like glass, metal, or wood makes for a unique, beautiful architectural juxtaposition that will make your home design really stand out. Additionally, clay tiles will maintain their rich, warm, earth tones for 100 years.
Clay tile is created by shaping and firing clay/dirt consisting of aluminum, silica, carbonaceous material, magnesium, water, and other natural components. The clay is harvested and brought to a manufacturing plant where it is blended, ground, and screened for impurities. It is then dried to remove moisture and fired at a very high temperature. Created by extreme heat in a kiln, clay tiles are unaffected by the sun’s UV rays. Clay tiles have one of the longest life expectancies of any roof covering when properly installed and maintained.
Because of the relatively high cost of clay tiles, it has become common to substitute concrete for clay tile roofing. Although concrete tiles do not retain the same color or quality as clay tile roofing, they do present a viable cheaper and lighter alternative. Today it is also common to see “clay roofing ” made of various aggregates, and even metal roofing can mimic the classic look.
Cost of Clay Tile Roof
Installing a roof of clay tiles starts around $7-$10 a square foot for lower-grade tiles in standard shapes and earth colors, or $11,900-$21,000 for a basic 1,700-2,100-square-foot roof. Custom-glazed colors and custom-shaped premium clay tiles can be $10-$30 or more a square foot, or $17,000-$63,000 or more for 1,700-2,100 square feet. The price of your installation can also increase depending on the complexity of your roof, e.g. a steep slope, multiple levels, or skylights. It’s also important to note that these prices don’t cover the demolition and removal of any existing roof.
Though the initial investment can be quite expensive, the low life cycle costs of clay tile roofing can save you money in the long run. Clay tile roofs are impervious to insects, rot, and fire. In terms of maintenance, you won’t incur costs related to mold, stains, or color loss. Clay tile roofs have also been known to last for 100 years, so it’s likely the only roof you will ever need. You may also want to investigate the possibility of earning state or federal tax credits for upgrading to an energy efficient clay tile roof.
Eco-Friendly and Energy Efficient
Clay tiles are made from natural materials, so they don’t require the use of any harmful or endangered raw materials for production. Additionally, modern tunnel kilns have made the process of manufacturing clay tiles more energy efficient. Nearly all of the production waste–clay, water, and glaze–can be recycled and rejected or broken tiles can be crushed and reused.
Clay tiles can increase the energy efficiency of your home. Clay tiles have natural thermal resistance from the raw materials from which they are created, and, since they are installed individually, rather than in sheets or in overlapping style, the natural airspace around the tiles creates a natural ventilation that provides a thermal barrier for heat transfer to the roof deck. This Above Sheathing Ventilation(ASV) can result in greatly reduced heat flux transfer when compared to a baseline asphalt shingle. This can assist in the movement of the peak load demands by several hours, which directly benefits those living in warm climates as well as those in cold conditions.
Maintenance of Clay Tile Roofs
Though clay tiles are very durable, be sure to inspect your roof regularly and replace any cracked or chipped tiles immediately. Never pressure wash your tile roof. Instead, it should be washed and buffed by hand. Consider hiring a professional who is well-versed in how to move around on a clay tile roof and will be able to quickly and easily apply primers and paints to keep your roof cool and looking great.
Common Concerns with Clay Tile Roofs
Clay tiles are very heavy. Before investing in clay tiles, make sure that you reinforce your roof so that it can support the weight. It is also important to note that clay roofing is not suitable for a DIY project. Despite its durability, clay tile roofing is very delicate and can easily break if walked upon. If properly installed, clay roofing can last decades.
The main problem with clay tile roofing is usually improper fastening. There are two types of fastening systems for clay tile roofing – interlocking and overlapping. Interlocking clay tiles essentially hook onto each other, while overlapping must be nailed into place as they do not have a “lip” for attachment. Make sure that you collaborate closely with your contractor to ensure your fastening system is problem-free.