Interlocking clay roof tile (C) Daniel Friedman Clay Roofing Tile Fastening Specifications
     

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Clay roofing tile fastening methods: this article explains how clay tiles are secured to the roof deck.

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How clay roofing tiles are secured to the roof

Clay roofing tile installation detail (C) Carson Dunlop Associates

Our page top photo shows clay roofing tiles installed in the Northeastern United States, on a combination steep and low slope roof. The metal tabs exposed at the lower edge of many of these tiles indicates that the roof has had extensive repair work.

Carson Dunlop's sketch (left) illustrates typical methods of securing clay tiles to the roof deck.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Also see CLAY TILE WIND & SEISMIC CONNECTORS where we describe special connections used for clay tiles on roofs in high wind, hurricane, or seismic areas.

Fasteners for clay tile roofs: clay tiles are secured to the roof deck using wire, special clips, concrete, ballast stones, or metal clips. Tiles are secured loosely - overly-tight wires or nails are likely to break the tile.

Also used to secure clay tiles on some roofs are aluminum nails, hot dipped galvanized steel nails, or stainless steel nails.

Clay tiles at roof gable edges are often nailed through multiple pre-cast holes in special roof edge tiles in areas where wind blow-off is a common risk.

The fastener schedule for clay roofing tiles varies by geographic area, as we discuss below.

Where nails are used, one or two nails per clay tile is usual. In some jurisdictions (areas of low storm and wind damage risk) only every third or fourth course of tiles is nailed, and in the roof shown in our photo (below right) none of the tiles was secured except those at the roof edges where mortar was applied.

Clay tile roof installation San Miguel de Allende Mexico (C) Daniel Friedman Eaves closure for clay tiles (C) Carson Dunlop Associates

The clay tile roof battens shown in the sketch ( left) are discussed at CLAY TILE ROOF BATTENS & STACKING. Our photo (above right) illustrates a clay tile roof undergoing repair in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

This tile roof is in a sheltered location and as is local custom, the clay roofing tiles are barely secured, perhaps only at the roof edges where tiles are set in cement.

At above right Carson Dunlop's sketch illustrates how the eaves are closed at the lower roof edges where a clay tile roof is installed.

Roof Tile Fastening Alternatives & Methods

Adapted/paraphrased with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, chapter on BEST ROOFING PRACTICES:

The preferred method of attachment depends on the type of tile, climate conditions, and slope of the roof.

Table 2-9: Clay roof tile fastening  methods (C) J Wiley S BLiss

 

Loose Laid Clay Tile Roofs

For standard concrete tiles with lugs set on battens, building codes still allow tiles to be laid loose at slopes less than 5:12 (except for one nail per tile within 36 inches of hips, ridges, eaves, or rakes). Loose-laid tiles are not allowed, however, in snow regions, areas subject to high winds, or with tiles weighing less than 9 pounds per square foot installed.

Selection of Nails Used on Clay Tile Roofs

Clay tile roof secured by nothing but gravity (C) Daniel FriedmanNails are the least expensive and most common method for attaching concrete and clay tiles. Tiles can be nailed either directly into the roof sheathing or tiles with lugs can be nailed to battens. Corrosion-resistant nails must be minimum 11 gauge, with 5/16 -inch heads, and long enough to penetrate the sheathing by 3/4 inch—typically 8d nails.

Photo at left: a clay tile "gravity" roof sheltering a grave marker in Rodriguez, Guanajuato, Mexico. Gravity-alone clay tile roof installations are common and are somewhat successful only in inland areas not subject to high winds or other severe weather conditions.

Ring-shank nails or hot-dipped galvanized nails hold better than smooth-shank nails in areas subject to heavy winds. Whether driven by hand or pneumatic nailers, nails should be driven so heads lightly touch the tile but not so tight as to risk cracking tiles.

Because of the longevity of a tile roof, some contractors use copper or stainless-steel roofing nails. No. 8 or 9 stainless-steel or brass screws also work well and are sometimes used in high-wind regions.

Most tiles have two prepunched nail holes. On curved tiles, use the hole closest to the deck surface unless a nail there would penetrate a critical flashing.

The other hole is also used for cut tiles or applications requiring two nails. For example, all flat, non interlocking tiles require two nails. And in snow regions, codes require two nails per tile for all types and slopes.

Otherwise follow the guidelines in Table 2-9 above or the manufacturer’s guidelines if they are more stringent.

Also see CLAY TILE WIND & SEISMIC CONNECTORS where we describe special connections used for clay tiles on roofs in high wind, hurricane, or seismic areas.

Tile Roof Fastener Options from NRCA

Steep clay tile cathedral roof, Boston MA (C) Daniel FriedmanIn the 1990's NRCA's Thomas Smith noted that a paper published in the Proceedings of the 10th Conference on Roofing Technology expressed concern for the lack of conservative roofing industry guidelines for the components of tile roofing systems in the U.S.

Photo at left: steep clay tile roof on a Boston MA cathedral.

The recommendations in the then-current NRCA Steep Roofing and Waterproofing Manual indeed included recommendations for tile roof underlayment, fasteners, and metal flashings, but Smith noted that these were "non-conservative" for many areas in the United States (and other locations of challenging weather).

Smith posed some interim fastener options to improve the life of tile roof systems, including

  • Copper, grass, or stainless-steel nails, clips, or tie-wire fasteners are recommended
  • In areas that are typically hot and dry, corrosion protection need not be as conservative, and galvanized steel (less costly) was found acceptable
  • When using galvanized materials, the thickness of the zinc coating was deemed important
  • When using galvanized nails they should meet ASTM A 6641
  • When fastening tiles directly to plywood or to OSB roof sheathing use ring or screw shank nails

Note: Bliss's fastener suggestions above incorporate and update this historical data. - Ed.

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