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This article describes concrete roofing materials: concrete roof tiles & poured concrete roofs, choices, installations, inspection, defects, roofing repairs, and concrete roof tile product sources. Our photo (above) shows a flat concrete roof under construction in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This article describes several approaches to constructing concrete roofs, including flat concrete roofs, low-slope concrete roofs, and a steep pitch concrete roof.
Concrete tiles were introduced to the United States in the
early 1900s, but they did not catch on until the 1960s. They
now account for more than half the tiles sold in the United
In Europe, over 90% of new houses have concrete
tile roofs. Concrete tiles cost as little as half as much as
clay and offer both traditional and flat styles that simulate
slate roofing and wood shakes.
High-quality concrete tiles should last up to 50 years in
arid climates and up to 30 years in hot, humid climates.
While some early products faced problems with freeze-thaw
cycling, most newer formulations are made to withstand
winter weather. In cold climates, make sure the product is
warranted for freeze-thaw durability.
Special lightweight concrete tiles weighing under
600 lb per square are gaining in popularity.
cost more than standard concrete tiles and are more prone
to breakage, they are easier to handle and suitable for
applications where the roof structure cannot support
the weight of standard tiles.
Lightweight tiles cannot
support foot traffic without adding walking pads to distribute
weight or filling the space under the tiles with
polyurethane foam. They are also not recommended
for high-snow regions.
The concrete roof approach shown at above left is the structure supporting the flat concrete roof being poured and finished at the top of this page.
The El Charco concrete roof approach shown above was stained brown to resemble an antique thatch roof used on other slopes of the same building. This roof, located in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, incorporates a large concrete gutter that collects rainwater for local use.
The concrete Taboada Hot Springs (Guanajuato, Mexico) roof approach shown below has been in use in central Mexico since at least 1740 and combines fired clay tiles (below right), concrete or wood rafters, and a top pour of concrete (below left).
Guide to Concrete, Clay, or Metal Roof Tile Shapes, Colors & Types
Concrete tiles can be surface colored with a slurry
of iron-oxide pigments applied to the surface or have the
color added to the concrete mix for a more durable, and
expensive, through-color. Through-color choices are more
limited, and the colors are more subdued. Either type of
concrete tile is also sealed with a clear acrylic spray to help with
curing and efflorescence.
While the color-through concrete roof tile will
hold its color better than the slurry type, particularly under
freeze-thaw cycling, all concrete tile coloring can be expected
to fade and soften over time. Surface textures can
also be added to flat concrete roofing tiles to simulate wood shakes
The illustration of of types or styles of concrete roof tiles (left) was provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates and illustrates
Flat profile concrete roof tiles (the roof tile surface rises by up to 1/2 inch) - these roof tiles often resemble slate or even wood shakes.
Low profile concrete roof tiles: the height of the tile is 1/5 the tile width or less
High profile concrete roof tiles: the height of the roof tile is more than1/5 its width
Common high-profile roofing tiles include
two-piece pan-and-cover Mission tile and one-piece Spanish
Low profile roof tile styles include a wide variety, many with
a double-S shape that creates multiple water courses.
flat roof tiles are shaped and colored to simulate slate or wood
shakes. In general, patterns using smaller tiles cost more per
square for both materials and labor than patterns using larger
How Concrete Roof Tiles are Secured to the Roof Deck
As Carson Dunlop's drawing shows, concrete roof tiles are secured to the roof deck using one of three methods:
The concrete roof tiles are nailed to roof battens running parallel to the roof eaves. Gaps are left in the battens so that water passing through the tiles drains down tothe eaves, and a waterproof membrane is below the battens.
Concrete roof tiles may be secured by a combination of nailing to the roof deck and concrete. This is the method used also to secure clay roof tiles on some Florida homes such as the Boca Raton Roof shown here.
Hurricane clips are recommended or often required by local building codes in hurricane prone areas. The clips are fastened to the roof deck, usually with multiple fasteners, and clip to edges of the roof tiles. In high wind and hurricane areas the number of fasteners is also increased.
On older clay and concrete tile roofs it was common practice to nail only every fourth tile, and in areas where high winds are not common, such as on these homes in Patzcuarso Mexico, only the tiles at the roof perimeter are secured at all.
Details about installation of concrete roofing tiles in high wind areas, areas of hurricanes or seismic areas, see the roofing tile connecction methods discussed at CLAY TILE WIND & SEISMIC CONNECTORS
Questions & answers or comments about concrete roofing products, design, installation, inspection, troubleshooting & repair procedures..
Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
"Choosing Roofing," Jefferson Kolle, January 1995, No. 92, Fine Homebuilding, Taunton Press, 63 S. Main St., PO Box 5506, Newton CT 06470 - 800-888-8286 - see http://www.taunton.com/FineHomebuilding/ for the magazine's website and for subscription information.
Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
John Cranor is an ASHI member and a home inspector (The House Whisperer) is located in Glen Allen, VA 23060. He is also a contributor to InspectApedia.com in several technical areas such as plumbing and appliances (dryer vents). Contact Mr. Cranor at 804-747-7747 or by Email: email@example.com
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The Home Reference Book, a reference & inspection report product for building owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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Problems in Roofing Design, B. Harrison McCampbell, Butterworth Heineman, 1991 ISBN 0-7506-9162-X (available used)
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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Roofing The Right Way, Steven Bolt, McGraw-Hill Professional; 3rd Ed (1996), ISBN-10: 0070066507, ISBN-13: 978-0070066502
Slate Roofs, National Slate Association, 1926, reprinted 1977
by Vermont Structural Slate Co., Inc., Fair Haven, VT 05743, 802-265-4933/34. (We recommend this book if you can find it. It
has gone in and out of print on occasion.)
The Slate Roof Bible, Joseph Jenkins, www.jenkinsslate.com,
143 Forest Lane, PO Box 607, Grove City, PA 16127 - 866-641-7141 (We recommend this book).