Concrete and Clay Tile Roof Costs and Pros and Cons: Concrete Vs. Clay Tiles

Tile roofs been going in and out of style, but they’re guaranteed to last for quite a while. Traditional tiles are made from either clay or concrete. The latter tends to be less expensive, but there is often more value in a clay tile roof.

Styles And Variety

In North America, tile roofing is often associated with the southwestern US feeling. Deep red, clay tiles on a home with stucco siding is what normally comes to mind when we picture roof tiles. Yet, that’s just one possibility.

Historically, Dutch and European immigrants have been in the business of importing clay tiles into the New World since about 1650.

All the way through the end of the 1700’s, it was a very popular roofing material which was viewed as superior to wood, because it was fireproof.

By the mid 1700’s, America had established itself as a country able to manufacture glazed and unglazed or uncoated tiles.

As the industrial age chugged along, metal roofing started to grow in popularity, which lead to the decline in the dominance of the clay tile market.

Metal is as durable and in many cases, less expensive than tiles. Yet, there have been at least two revival periods in the last 200 years, which is why tile roofing has never lost its stature in the overall roofing industry.

Cement or Concrete vs. Clay Roof Tiles: Impact on Colors

While clay is the historic and predominant material, concrete is the other primary material option. Clay tiles normally come in two types: glazed (liquid glass baked onto the tile) or unglazed.

Clay tiles tend to hold color much better than cement tiles, especially in the case of Terracotta clay.

Regardless of the material, color is mixed in with the material during the production. With cement, color will fade somewhere between 30 and 50 years. With clay, the color will hold steady for 50 to 70 years. And with Terracotta, it is indefinite, or for sure 100+ years.

Adding in tile shape and texture, provides a rather limitless variety of options. But generally, architects are going for a particular, established style.

Multi-colored tiles on a roof are an option that goes somewhat against the historic norms. Accessories are part of the installation, such that tiles shaped and formed for ridges, hips and gable ends add even more opportunity for greater variety.

Cost and Value

Cost of Materials

Nailing down the exact cost can be a bit challenging. If tiles are plentiful in your region, then expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $12 per sq. ft. for materials alone.

Note that concrete tiles can be made as either heavy or light-weight, and are available in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Though again, uncoated or unglaze cement or concrete will not hold color as well as clay.

Clay tiles will cost anywhere from $6 to $11 per sq. ft. for materials. Other research shows that clay tile will cost 30% more on average than concrete tiles.

Total Cost Installed

Clay tiles cost between $12 and $20 per sq. ft. to install on a roof. If choosing a more sophisticated design of the tile, that cost range can go up to $20 to $30 per sq. ft. installed, which would make it more expensive than natural slate or even copper roofing.

For a home that has a roof size of about 2,000 sq.ft., the overall average installation cost can range from $25,000 to $40,000 depending on the choice of materials, roof complexity, and home’s location.

Should you decide to go for a high-end tile roof, a similarly-sized, premium clay tile roof could cost as much as $40,000 to $60,000 to install.

Structural Requirements

Before you can install clay or concrete tile roof, it is best to have your home inspected by an engineer to ensure it can hold the extra weight that comes with standard concrete and clay material.

While, asphalt shingles weigh about 250 to 400 lbs per square (100 sq. ft.), concrete tips the scale at 950 to 1200 pounds per square, so up to 5 times the weight.

Therefore, unless your roof frame was specifically designed to carry the weight of heavy tiles, it will likely require structural reinforcement.

Benefits

But the benefits are enormous. At the top is longevity. Clay and concrete will last a good 50 years minimum, and exceeding 100 years is certainly possible with proper installation. To get the kind of longevity tiles are capable of providing, you will need to hire an experienced tile roofer.

Allowing a handyman to do the job will might help save some money upfront, but this might lead to problems later on. Furthermore, having anyone who is not experienced with how to properly traverse the roof can lead to broken tiles.

While clay and concrete tiles are undoubtedly durable over the long haul, the material itself is a bit fragile in terms of impact resistance from full body weight.

Clay and Concrete Tiles vs. Natural Slate

Stone is rather impervious to water. Clay has water absorption of about 6%, while Concrete can absorb as much as 13%. Slate is a material that edges out clay, while wood is known to be rather poor in this regard. There are more benefits, and even disadvantages, which we’ll cover below.

Pros

  • longevity and durability – material will last 50+ years
  • virtually water proof, insect proof, fire proof, and resists rotting
  • low to almost no maintenance, though see Disadvantage with regards to underlayment
  • wonderful variety, very unique and beautiful appearance, color that will last (if going with Clay)

Cons

  • fragile when walked on, tiles can break rather easily
  • underlayment material won’t last as long as material, and so that underlayment needs to be replaced even while the roofing tiles will be fine. A roofer would remove all tiles, replace underlayment material and then re-install old tiles on the new underlayment.
  • one of the more expensive roofing materials
  • added weight is significant enough factor that it may not work for every home

2 thoughts on “Concrete and Clay Tile Roof Costs and Pros and Cons: Concrete Vs. Clay Tiles”

  1. I’m in the process of building a Tuscan type house in Prescott, AZ. It’s about 5,000 feet of elevation. The builder doesn’t suggest clay tiles because of the weather elements. Is he correct? I really want to use clay tiles. Please help.

    1. So, using clay tiles in Arizona should be fine provided the roof frame can support the weight of the tiles and that the installer knows how to install roof tiles correctly. Clay tiles have a great track record of success in standing up to the elements.

      The builder probably doesn’t want to deal with the headache of having to worry about the roof frame reinforcement and then having to find an experienced installer to install the clay tiles the right ways. If that’s the case, then this is really a question of convenience and doing the same old thing for the builder, it’s not about the durability of tiles.

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