Tile roofing is highly durable and can last up to 100 years
Clay, concrete, and slate tile offer a lot of visual versatility
A tile roof insulates your home for lower energy costs
Compared to other materials, tile may be more expensive to install
Asphalt, wood, and metal are other roofing options
Homeowners seeking an alternative to traditional asphalt shingles may turn to clay, concrete, or slate roof tiles. These versatile roofing materials come in unique shapes and a variety of natural earth tones for a more traditional aesthetic. While the higher upfront cost of a tile roof installation may hold some homeowners back, roof tiles also offer a range of benefits that may make that cost worthwhile. We’ll break down the pros and cons to help you decide if a tile roof is right for you.
The Pros of a Tile Roof
Tile roofing offers many benefits to homeowners, including durability, versatility, energy efficiency, and curb appeal.
Lifespan and Durability
The most common roofing material is the traditional asphalt shingle, which tends to be inexpensive to install relative to other materials. Tile is generally more expensive depending on the material; however, it’s much more durable than asphalt and won’t need to be replaced as often.
In fact, tile is one of the most durable roofing options. Concrete, slate, and clay roof tiles can last anywhere from 50 to 100 years if maintained properly.
Tile roofing is a popular choice for many homeowners because of the many design options it provides. You’ll find roofing tiles in a variety of colors and styles, from the reddish-orange of a terra cotta clay tile roof to the Gothic look of dark slate tile. Some tile products mimic wood shake, giving you a textured wood-look roof that’s also fireproof.
Tile gives you the freedom to choose a roofing style that complements your home. However, keep in mind that different materials have different structural requirements that may impact the cost of installation. For example, a heavy slate tile may require framing reinforcements.
“Generally, if a house wasn't built to handle the load of a tile roof, it is not going to be able to bear the load,” says Ami Feller, Expert Review Board member and owner of Roofer Chicks in New Braunfels, TX. “They make a lot of synthetic products that look like tile but are either plastic, rubber, or metal; these options are expensive, but provide the same look and feel as a tile roof.”
One of your roof’s primary functions is to insulate your home, and tile is a superior insulator. Tile roofs transfer less heat, helping to keep warm air trapped during colder months.
Tile also helps keep homes cool in hot, sunny climates. One of the reasons you’ll often see tile roofs in southern or coastal architecture is because tile reflects solar energy rather than absorbing it. Tile can provide better long-term value than asphalt shingles if you want a roof that will help reduce heating and cooling costs.
Whether it’s because they value the stronger materials, lifetime durability, unique aesthetics, or some combination of the three, potential homebuyers are willing to pay more for a home with a tile roof. Installing roof tile, especially slate, will increase the resale value of your home if you ever decide to sell.
The Cons of a Tile Roof
For all its benefits, tile roofing has very few disadvantages. For most homeowners, the primary drawback is the sheer cost of a tile roof.
A standard asphalt shingle roof costs $8,700 to $22,000 on average. A high-end asphalt shingle installation is less expensive than a tile roofing installation, which runs $24,400 to $35,000 for clay or concrete and $32,000 to $50,000 for stone or slate. This price is about comparable to a metal roof.
There are several reasons for higher tile roof costs. Like most roofing projects, a tile roof requires professional installation. Not all roofers have tile experience, and those who do may charge more for their expertise. If you choose slate or stone, the heavier load may also require reinforcement to your roof’s underlying structure, adding to your home’s framing costs.
Thanks to its durability, tile is a very low-maintenance roof material. However, it is likely that other components of your roof will still need maintenance. For example, your underlayment material will require replacement several times throughout your tile’s lifespan.
“The underlayment is the main reason new tile roofs fail,” says Feller. “If you are installing a new tile roof, I highly recommend you pay to upgrade to a good underlayment—my favorite is a peel and stick modified bitumen. This actually gives you a second layer of protection to keep water out if it intrudes past the tile itself. Many new construction homes with tile use a papery underlayment that tears easily.”
It’s also worth noting that while tile is strong in the face of wind, rain, snow, and fire, it is not designed to be walked upon. If you need to winterize your roof or climb up on it for any other maintenance reasons, take care that you don’t break any tiles while walking on them.
Pro tip: if you walk in the valleys of the tiles and not on the top, the tiles are less prone to break. Another method is to always make sure that your toe and heel are on two separate tiles as you walk to help distribute your weight. Also, keep in mind that clay tiles break more easily than concrete tiles.
If in doubt, you can hire a tile roofing specialist to do this work and avoid damage.
Comparing Tile Roofing to Other Roofing Materials
There are many different types of roofing used in home design today, each with its own advantages and drawbacks. To help you decide if tile roofing is right for you, compare these other popular roofing materials.
The most commonly used shingles in home design use asphalt and mineral granules on fiberglass or cellulose mats. They are relatively light, inexpensive, and easy to install compared to tile, wood, or metal roofing.
Like tile, asphalt shingles offer excellent fire resistance and plenty of variety in color and style. However, they tend to degrade more quickly, typically after 10 to 20 years. This means you’ll need to consider shingle roof replacement sooner than you would a tile roof replacement.
Shakes are wooden shingles created by splitting large pieces of thin wood. They only last for a few decades and offer relatively little style and color versatility compared to tile. This type of roofing is often seen in west coast home design and some parts of the midwest.
Shakes tend to be more expensive to install than a concrete tile roof and require greater maintenance due to their tendency to mold, rot, and split over time. They can be treated, but still offer only light fire protection due to their wood composition.
Like tile roofing, metal roofing is durable and long-lasting but is difficult and costly to install. Metal also reflects solar heat for cooler summers, requiring little maintenance. You’ll find metal in just about any color or architectural style to complement your home’s design.
However, metal roofing typically doesn’t require any structural reinforcements to install. Steel, copper, zinc, and aluminum, all common metal roofing materials, are much more lightweight than clay, slate, or concrete roof tile. Also, while metal roofing won’t crack, it can corrode over time due to rain.