Wood shingle roof, Key West Florida (C) Daniel Friedman Clay Tile, Concrete Tile, & Fiber-Cement Product Choices

InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website.

Clay tile roofing tile colors, materials, choices guide:

This article compares the features, colors, shapes, and product choices among clay roof tiles, concrete roof tiles, and composite or fiber cement roofing products.

This article series explains clay tile roofing types, clay roofing tile inspection, tile roofing diagnosis, & tile roof repair.

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Clay, Concrete, & Composite / Fiber-Cement Tile Roof Product Choices

Table 2-4: roof tile materials: clay and concrete (C) J Wiley, S BlissThis article series discusses best practices in the selection and installation of residential roofing.

This article includes excerpts or adaptations from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Our page top photograph shows some old clay tile roofs located in Patczuaro, Mexico.

[Click to enlarge any image or table]

Tile roofing accounts for about 8% of new residential roofs in the United States, primarily in the Southeast, Southwest, and on the West Coast. In addition to its durability and natural beauty, tile is impervious to fire, insects, and rot, and it can be formulated to withstand freeze-thaw cycles.

When colored white, tile roofing has been shown to reduce cooling costs by up to 22% for barrel or flat tile (compared to black asphalt shingles in tests conducted by the Florida Solar Energy Center).

Since most tile roofs carry a 50-year warranty and a Class A fire rating, they are a popular choice for high-end projects, particularly in warm climates.

[Click to enlarge any image or table]

Nearly all roofing tiles in the United States were traditional clay until the 1960s when concrete tile first gained acceptance. Concrete tile now dominates most tile roofing markets, primarily due to its lower cost (see Table 2-4 above).

Where weight is a concern, options include lightweight concrete tiles or fiber-cement shingles, which typically weigh even less. Fiber-cement roofing typically simulates slate or wood shakes and provides a Class A fire rating at a cost comparable to wood shakes.

Tile Shape Choices for Clay, Concrete, & Composite Tile Roofs

Figure 2-17: Roof tile shapes (C) J Wiley, S Bliss

All roofing tiles can be classified as high-profile, low-profile, or flat (see Figure 2-17).

Common high-profile roofing tiles include two-piece pan-and-cover Mission tile and one-piece Spanish S-tiles.

Low profile roof tile styles include a wide variety, many with a double-S shape that creates multiple water courses.

Many 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 tiles.

Clay Roofing Tile Properties & Features

To make clay roofing ttiles, moist clay is extruded through a die or cast in a mold and then fired in a kiln until the clay “vitrifies,” fusing the particles together. Complete vitrification will create a strong tile with very low water absorption, which protects tile from freeze-thaw damage in cold climates or damage from salt air in coastal areas.

Where regular freeze-thaw cycling is expected, roof tiles in the U.S. should comply with ASTM C1167 Grade 1, which allows minimal water absorption. Grade II tile provides moderate resistance to frost action, and Grade III tile is porous and should not be used in freeze-thaw areas.

When buying clay tile, look for at least a 50-year warranty on both durability and fading. Costs vary widely, depending on quality, style, and the shipping distance required. In general, patterns using smaller tiles will cost more for both materials and labor.

Color Choices for Clay Roof Tiles

Clay tiles come in a wide range of colors. Colorthrough tile takes the natural color of the clay, ranging from light tan to pink and red. Other colors can be added to the tile surface as a clay slurry before firing, but slurry coatings are only suitable for warm climates, as they cannot withstand freeze-thaw cycles. Clay tile can also be colored with ceramic glazes to create a durable, glass-like surface in just about any color. In general, clay tiles do not fade in the sun.

Blended Pattern Choices for Clay Roof Tiles

Some jobs require the installer to mix two or three different colors in a random pattern. The best way to achieve this is to premix bundles on the ground with the correct proportion of each color, then send them up to the roof for installation. Periodically inspect the roof from the ground for hot spots or streaking.

Clay Roof Tile Styles

Figure 2-18: Clay roof tile styles (C) J Wiley, S BlissClay roof tiles are available in traditional two-piece styles, one-piece profiles, and flat profiles (Figure 2-18).

Designs are either overlapping or interlocking, with protruding lips that lock the tiles together and form a weather seal. Many flat clay tiles interlock. Interlocking designs are recommended for regions with heavy rain or snow. Manufacturers provide special trim tiles to seal the voids formed at ridges, rakes, and hips.

Details about clay tile roofing installation, inspection, maintenance, and repair are at 


Concrete Roofing Tile Properties & Features

Also see our home page for concrete roofing at CONCRETE ROOFING.

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 States. 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. Although they 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.

Color Choices in Concrete Roofing Tiles

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 tile is also sealed with a clear acrylic spray to help with curing and efflorescence.

While the color-through 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 tiles to simulate wood shakes or shingles.

Concrete Roof Tile Styles: Spanish S Tiles, Low Profile Double Roman Tiles, Flat Shake Tiles

Figure 2-19, Concrete roof tile shapes (C) J Wiley, S BlissConcrete tiles are available in shapes that simulate traditional clay styles as well as flat profiles that simulate wood or slate (Figure 2-19 at left).

Most concrete roofing tiles are designed with an interlocking channel on the left edge that is lapped by the next tile.

Underneath each tile is a head lug at the top and series of ridges at the bottom. The head lug fits over the top of a horizontal 1x batten, if these are used.

Otherwise the concrete roof tile sits directly on the roof deck. The ridges at the bottom (called nose lugs or weather checks) match the profile of the tile below, creating a barrier against windblown rain and snow.

Concrete roofint tile Manufacturers provide special trim tiles to fill in the large voids that profile tiles leave at ridges, rakes, and hips.

While many sizes are available, the most common concrete tiles measure 12 to 13 inches wide by 16 1/2 or 17 inches long.

Concrete Spanish S-tile. These provide the look of traditional two-piece Mission tiles but with simpler installation. Nearly all have interlocking side channels.

Interlocking low-profile concrete roof tile. These have a less pronounced double-S shape and interlocking joints and side channels. Heads and butts may also interlock or simply overlap.

Interlocking flat concrete roof tile. These simulate clay roof tiles, wood shakes, and slate. Ridges, hips, and rakes are easier to seal than with curved tiles.

Concrete roofing alternative designs, products, details, drawings, and photographs of concrete roofing tiles and construction are at CONCRETE ROOFING

Fiber-Cement Roofing Tile Properties

Asbestos cement roofing (C) Daniel FriedmanEarly generations of fiber-cement roofing products using asbestos fibers were used successfully in the United States for over 50 years. Articles discussing these products, including cement-asbestos roofing shingles, corrugated roofing, and related products are found at:

Newer formulations introduced in the 1980s and 1990s used wood fibers instead of asbestos and were marketed widely in the western United States as a fire-resistant alternative to wood shakes. Made from a mixture of Portland cement and wood fibers, they weighed 400 to 600 pounds per square and were designed to imitate slates or wood shakes. They promised excellent resistance to insects, fungus, fire, and weathering and carried warranties ranging from 25 to 50 years.

Performance Problems of Fiber Cement Roofing Tiles: Cement + Wood

Wood fiber cement roofing (C) Daniel Friedman Masonite woodruf shingle failure (C) Daniel Friedman

Within five years of installation, however, many of the fiber-cement shakes began to deteriorate. Problems included surface crazing, cracking, delamination, and softening and resulted in a number of lawsuits against key manufacturers and several companies abandoning the product. The problems were generally linked to high water absorption, which created an alkaline solution that was corrosive to the wood fibers.

See our complete "List of Fiberboard & Fiber Cement Roof Shingle Warranty Claims Companies & Website" found at CEMWOOD ROOFING (American Cemwood fiber cement roofing shingles,shakes, and roof failures) for details about fiber cement roofing failures, product identification, warranties, and warranty claims information.

Also see and also see FIBERBOARD ROOFING & FIBER-WOOD ROOFING where we describe similar products including Masonite™ Woodruf™ fiberboard roof shingles,™and similar products shown here.

Duralita cardboard reinforced cement roofing tiles (C) D Friedman

Some products have fared better than others. In general, products that are steam-cured in an autoclave will have lower water absorption, but they tend to be more brittle.

Duralita™, an alternative to both clay roofing tiles as well as other fiber reinforced cement roofing products.

Details about Duralita are at DURALITA & METAL TILE ROOFS

Other examples of corrugated roofing products (that do not look like clay roof tiles) can be seen at Corrugated Cement-Asbestos Roofing.

Many fiber cement roofing products sold in the U.S. are represented as complying with ASTM C1225, a standard for nonasbestos fiber-cement roofing shingles; but in its current form, this standard does not guarantee long-term durability.

Watch out: Only a product with a proven long-term track record in a specific climate zone should be considered.

-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.

Clay & Concrete Roof Tile Product Manufacturers

Concrete Roof Tiles

Clay Roof Tiles

Tile Fasteners and Adhesives

-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.

Clay Roofing Tile Installation Articles


Continue reading at CLAY TILE ROOF STYLES, DESIGNS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.




Suggested citation for this web page

CLAY, CONCRETE, FIBER CEMENT ROOF TILE CHOICES at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


Or use the SEARCH BOX found below to Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Click to Show or Hide FAQs

Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia

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.

Search the InspectApedia website

Comment Box is loading comments...

Technical Reviewers & References

Click to Show or Hide Citations & References

Publisher's Google+ Page by Daniel Friedman