Clay tile roofing: pros, cons, and cost

Image source: Miller’s Home Improvement

Chris Gennone

By Chris Gennone

December 1, 2020

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If you’ve ever been to Florida or California, I’m sure you’ve probably seen an abundance of clay terracotta tile roofs. Clay tile roofing is one of the oldest architectural styles, having been used for thousands of years, dating back to the days of ancient Greece and Rome. Today, clay tile roofs remain popular among homeowners due to their durability, longevity, and low maintenance. Though they can be expensive, a clay tiled roof can also last a lifetime. Let’s discuss how much you can expect to pay for a clay tile roof and see if it’s the right option for you.

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Clay tile roofing cost

Clay tile roofing cost

Image source: Oregon Roof Guys

With materials alone, clay roofing tiles cost nearly $1,000 a square, or $17,000 for a typical-sized roof. When you add in the cost of labor, you can expect to pay $43,000 or more for the roof installation.

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Concrete vs. clay

Concrete vs. clay tiles

Image source: Engineering for Change

Concrete tiles

If you’re thinking of installing a clay tile roof, it’s also important to consider concrete roofing tiles as an alternative. Concrete tiles are a reasonable substitute as they have a lower price point than clay and can withstand colder temperatures. These tiles are made from water, sand, and cement, and molded with heat and pressure.

  • Concrete roof tiles are much heavier than clay tiles and absorb more moisture, so we recommend that you check with a structural engineer whether or not your roof can withstand the weight.
  • Like clay tiles, concrete is also fire and wind-resistant.
  • While clay tiles cost about $1000 a square, concrete can cost up to $850 a square.
  • Concrete tiles can absorb more water and moisture than clay, requiring more maintenance.
  • Typically lasts 30-50 years.

Clay tiles

  • Clay costs more but requires less maintenance than concrete tiles.
  • Clay tiles last significantly longer than concrete ones, possibly lasting hundreds of years.
  • Like concrete tiles, clay is also wind and fire-resistant.

Though both concrete and clay tiles are durable, we recommend installing a felt underlayment first. This will only help prevent any kind of leakage from damaging your home.

Types of clay tile

Before settling on a clay tile roof, let’s discuss the types of clay tiles you can buy. While each of these types is made up of the same materials, they do differentiate in fittings and the way that they’re assembled.

Mission style

Mission style clay tiles

Image source: MCA Tile

Known for: Fire resistance, easy installation, round shape

Cons: Fragile, expensive

Best for: Buildings that can withstand heavy weight, warmer climates

Lifespan: 50-100 years

Cost: $$$$

These clay roof tiles are inspired by the Spanish missions, which were Catholic missions established during the Spanish colonization in the United States’ Southwest in the late 1700s. Mission style tiles are similar to Spanish style tiles, but instead of the Spanish style’s “S” appearance, mission barrel tiles are rounded with a cover and pan overlapping each other. Both tiles require eave closures to avoid moisture.

Spanish style

Spanish style clay tiles

Image source: Archi Expo

Known for: Its “S” shape with drainage pan, interlocking tiles

Cons: Lack of color options, complex installation

Best for: Wet climates

Lifespan: 100 years+

Cost: $$$$

Mediterranean Spanish tiles are manufactured into an “S” shape, featuring their own cover and pan to the left side, interlocking with each other. Both of these styles will need eave closures and venting so the roof will protect moisture from leaking through.

French style

French style clay tiles

Image source: Ludowici

Known for: Interlocking tiles, long chutes for water drainage

Cons: Fragile, heavy

Best for: Sturdier buildings, European-style aesthetic

Lifespan: 50-100 years

Cost: $$$$

French tiles interlock on all sides and have deep grooves that allow for water to drain easily. Because the tiles interlock and have natural closures, eave closures are unnecessary. French-style tiles are best for homeowners in wet, rainy climates.

Interlocking shingle

Interlocking shingle clay tiles

Image source: Northern Roof Tiles

Known for: Flat, interlocking shingles, color options

Cons: Heavy, fragile, expensive

Best for: Warmer and drier climates

Lifespan: 50-100 years

Cost: $$$$

Clay interlocking tiles represent a more minimalist aesthetic of traditional shingles with the same sophistication as clay tile. These clay flat tiles are lightweight and interlock with each other on all sides, but do require eave closures.

Pros and cons of clay tile roofing

Pros and cons of clay tile roofing

Image source: Vertex

Pros

Low maintenance - While a clay roof may cost a small fortune to install, you’ll rarely have to worry about replacing it. And if it needs any repairs, they should be easy to fix.

Durable - Clay tiles are resistant to fire and can withstand high winds, which can even increase your home’s resale value.

Long-lasting - Due to its ability to withstand extreme weather conditions, a clay tile roof’s lifespan can last 100 years or more. You can also expect a 50-year or lifetime warranty.

Environmentally friendly - Clay is made up entirely of Earth minerals and is completely recyclable. A clay tile roof also reflects solar radiant heat, keeping your home cool, and saving energy costs.

Cons

Expensive - Clay tiles can cost at least twice as much as an asphalt shingle roof.

Cracks - While clay tiles are a durable roofing material, they are still prone to crack in freezing temperatures. This is why you’ll tend to see clay roof tiles as a popular option for homeowners in warmer climates, like California.

Is a clay tile roof right for you?

Clay tile roofing

Image source: LOA Construction

Clay tile roofing is not going to be cheap. It could cost you $40,000 or more for materials and installation from a professional roofer. But when you calculate how much money you’re saving in utility bills, low maintenance, and clay tile roofing’s ability to withstand damage from hurricanes or other extreme weather conditions, it will likely even out.

For example, if a traditional wood shake or asphalt roof costs around $20,000 to install, but it has to be replaced or fixed every 15-20 years, you’ll be paying the same amount as a clay tile roof. We recommend installing a clay tile roof because it essentially takes care of itself. Its rounded interlocking design and durable material allow for water to drain easily, preventing any kind of leakage. Clay tiles are one of the most durable roofing systems available, requiring very little maintenance. Clay tiles can increase your home’s resale value and should last you a lifetime.

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