Concrete roof tiles: 10 pros and cons

Source: Pyramid Roofing

Jack Wisniewski

By Jack Wisniewski

November 16, 2020

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Are you considering concrete tiles for your next roofing project?

You’re in good company. Concrete tiles have been a popular choice of roofing material since their inception in 19th century Bavaria due to their outstanding durability. Today, concrete roof tiles are also known for their long-term value, energy efficiency, and versatile style in the United States and beyond.

However, not every home or budget is compatible with concrete tile. In turn, we recommend getting familiar with their limitations and costs before making any buying decisions.

Fortunately, we outlined the primary pros and cons to consider in this blog. But first, allow us to explain what exactly it means to have concrete roof tiles.

On this page:

What are concrete roof tiles?

Concrete roof tiles

Source: Engineering for Change

Made of sand, cement, water, and iron oxide (pigment) mixed, molded, and heated together, concrete tiles serve as a water and weather-resistant layer over your roof.

Installation typically involves removing old roofing material, replacing underlayment, and adding battens to fasten the tiles. It can be challenging to install concrete roof tiles, particularly if your roof has steep pitches, complicated shapes, or penetrations like chimneys, pipes, and skylights. Therefore, a licensed professional is recommended for proper installation.

Concrete tiles are significantly heavier than more traditional materials like asphalt and wood shakes, which means they put more structural demand on your home.

How much do concrete tiles cost?

Including installation, concrete tiles cost $6 to $12 per square foot. For an average, 1,500 square foot roof, you can expect to pay between $11,680 and $22,950.

Many factors can influence the cost of a tile roofing project, including the size, complexity, and pitch of your roof, your location, and whether your roof requires structural reinforcement to accommodate the heavier weight of concrete.

Furthermore, the brand and type of concrete tiles you choose will factor into your costs. Popular tile brands like Eagle Roofing Products, offer a long list of styles as well as lightweight variants that vary in price.

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Pros of concrete roof tiles

Style and versatility

Concrete roof tiles style and versatility

Source: Eagle Roofing

When it comes to tiles, no material is more versatile than concrete, which can simulate more expensive materials like slate and clay roofing tile. Concrete tile can even match the look of cedar shakes.

Concrete roof tiles come in three styles, called profiles:

  1. Low/flat – no curves
  2. Medium – less than or equal to 1-inch high for every 5 inches in width
  3. High – greater than 1-inch high for every 5 inches in width

Low, medium, and high profile tiles

Source: Tile Roofing Institute & Western States Roofing Contractors Association

With minimal depth, flat tile delivers a clean look that can suit just about any home. Medium profile tiles, on the other hand, evoke scenes of Mediterranean architecture. High profile tiles, also called high barrel, look true to the cherished terracotta tiles found on Spanish rooftops.

Capistrano, Malibu, and Bel Air style tiles

Source: Eagle Roofing Products

Alongside tile profile, concrete comes in virtually any color. Brown and copper shades, for instance, effortlessly mimic clay tiles. Beyond earth tones, you can opt for soft pastels like purple and blue. Not sold on any one shade? Perhaps a multi-color blend is more your style.

No matter your distinct tastes, there’s likely a concrete tile to match.

Durability

Durable concrete roof tiles

Source: Boral Roofing

Concrete tiles boast a Class A fire rating, resistance to insects and rot, and can withstand winds over 150 miles per hour – an ideal trait for hurricane season in Florida.

When treated to withstand freeze-thaw cycles, extreme temperatures also pose little threat to concrete tiles, broadening their appeal into regions that experience harsh cold.

According to the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance, concrete tiles also exceed seismic load requirements, which means they can sufficiently survive earthquakes.

Overall, if you desire exceptional protection from the elements, concrete tiles are among the most high-quality roofing materials money can buy.

Longevity and value

Roof life expectancy

Roof type Life expectancy
Asphalt shingles 20 years
Fiber cement 25 years
Wood shake 30 years
Concrete roof tiles 50+ years
Clay tiles 50+ years
Slate tiles 50+ years

 

The inherent toughness of concrete translates to a sizable lifespan, which the National Association of Home Builders found is at least 50 years – substantially greater than common alternatives.

As some tile manufacturers like Boral roofing offer lifetime warranties, your concrete-tiled roof can last as long as your house itself.

Given that you will not have to replace your concrete tile roof as often, if at all, as you would when using other materials can only save you money in the long-run. Moreover, you can factor in the value of your tiles should it come time to sell your home.

Energy-efficient roof

Source: Roofing Magazine

Concrete roof tiles also keep costs down by relieving your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.

Apart from their excellent thermal properties that slowly absorb and emit heat, the nature of their installation atop battens creates air channels underneath individual tiles. These channels act as a second layer of insulation to help you conserve energy in both warm and cold weather.

To promote cooling ventilation, installers often use vented eave risers to create an opening for cool outside air to flow into the air channel and push hot air up and out of your structure.

According to a 2007 Oak Ridge National Laboratory study, a concrete tile roof system can reduce the transfer of heat to an attic by nearly 50% versus an asphalt roof, which means you will need to rely on air conditioning and heating appreciably less after making the switch.

Many brands also offer concrete tiles in lighter, “cool” colors to reflect solar radiation and further curtail your need to crank up the AC during hot months.

 

Sustainability

Sustainable roofing

Source: Construction & Demolition Recycling

Concrete is an especially eco-friendly roofing material not only because it rarely needs replacing and reduces energy consumption, but also because they’re made of all-natural, ready-to-recycle materials.

Given how often typical asphalt-shingle roofs need to be replaced, they contribute to around 8% of total construction and demolition waste – a significant portion of landfill space.

By choosing a resilient, recyclable material like concrete, you help minimize landfill waste. For the eco-conscious homeowner, concrete roof tiles are a sound way to go.

Cons of concrete roof tiles

Weight

Roof collapsing due to weight

Source: Jade Engineering & Inspection

Weighing in at 820 to 1,200 pounds per 100 square feet, the substantial weight of concrete puts more demand on your roof structure than other materials. Although many brands offer lightweight tile options, pounds per 100 square feet still comes out to around 600 – substantially more than the likes of shingles.

If switching from non-tile materials like asphalt or shakes, you will need a structural engineer to determine whether your roof can bear the weight of concrete tiles and perhaps make reinforcements before installation, both of which will add costs to your project.

Upfront costs

Costly concrete roof tiles

Source: Parlament Roofing

If you’re cross-shopping with other roofing materials, you likely noticed the costs of concrete tiles approach the higher end of the spectrum.

The greater costs stem from the more tedious installation process, which may demand consultation from a structural engineer, roof reinforcement, and a new roof deck, among other added expenses.

In turn, homeowners looking to save as much as possible on their next roofing renovation will likely want to stay away from concrete tiles.

However, in terms of other tiling options like clay and slate, concrete is the most affordable.

Fragility

Cracked concrete roof tiles

Source: AABCO Roofing

Despite their resistance to fire, high winds, and rotting, concrete roof tiles aren’t indestructible. Falling tree branches, severe hail, and foot traffic can crack tiles, which require prompt replacement to avoid exposing your underlayment to water.

If your home sits in a heavily wooded area, you may want to consider removing trees overhanging your roof before tile installation to reduce the chance of cracked tiles after a severe storm. If you live in a region that experiences heavy hail, you may want to avoid tile altogether.

Color fade

Faded roof

Source: Vivify Roofing

Like most parts of a home exposed to UV rays and the elements, the pigment in concrete roof tiles gradually fades over time. This isn’t an issue per se as the natural look of weathered concrete roof tiles can even enhance the curb appeal of a home.

However, if you choose a brighter, high contrast color like orange or red, the weathered tone of your tiles can be difficult to match should the time come to replace damaged tiles. To combat inconsistent tile color, you could paint your roof every so often, which can run you around $2,500 per job.

Maintenance

Concrete tile roof maintenance

Source: Monier Roofing

All roofs require maintenance, with no exception to concrete tiles.

Other than identifying and replacing cracked tiles and removing debris disrupting water-flow, you will likely want to remove any mildew, dirt, or algae that tends to form to preserve the original look of your roof.

Unlike your tiles, roofing underlayment only lasts approximately 20 years – another maintenance cost and task to take into account when choosing tile.

Are concrete roof tiles right for my home?

All things considered, it makes sense why so many homeowners choose concrete roof tiles. They can lower electric bills and enhance just about any home’s curb appeal with their wide-ranging style and their 50-plus-year lifespan.

However, their relatively hefty upfront costs and cumbersome weight can just as easily turn away someone seeking a more affordable, easier-to-install roofing material.

If you’re sold on concrete roof tiles, the next step is to get in touch with local roofing companies and talk cost. With estimates and consultations from multiple vendors, you can find the best price for your budget.

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