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Clay Tile Roofing Price Guide

Clay tile is one of the oldest forms of roofing. Once only found on southwest homes, it's now on homes across the country. The natural quality of clay tile requires expertise to create that beautiful look. The process in developing a clay tile roof uses a combination of proprietary materials and a tile that matches the style of the home. Continue reading to see all the costs that go into a clay tile roof.

The Costs

  • Minimum Cost: $20 per square foot
  • Maximum Cost: $50 per square foot


Waterproofing Membranes

Clay tile has a quality that may allow some water to find its way underneath the tile and into the substrate or roof deck. This requires a membrane to be placed underneath the tile to prevent any damage by water shedding. The most common type of membrane is a self-adhering bitumen membrane. These sheets are waterproof and consist of a plasticized polymer. The felt-like material is installed using heat and pressed into the roof decking substrate. The need for a bonded or plasticized material is important for clay tile due to the unique nature of clay to wick up some form of moisture.

Waterproofing membranes will also need to take into account the lifespan of the tile itself. Common asphalt roofing will normally wear over the same time as the waterproofing membrane underneath. As a result, the wear and tear of the roof is usually replaced in conjunction with the membrane. Clay tile is a very long-lasting component. Many waterproofing membranes may not last as long as the roof tile. As a result, more heavy-duty material is usually placed on the roof decking. It's also important to allow for inspection every 10 to 15 years after installation for damage.

Perimeter Flashing

Clay tile requires the use of perimeter flashing due to the water permeability of the tile. Colder climates experience a freeze-thaw cycle that is an especially important factor for installing perimeter flashing. The metal edging is usually made up of heavy-gauge copper or stainless steel for a longer life expectancy of the tile and roof system. Heavy-duty perimeter flashing is especially important in areas prone to ice damming on the roof deck. Ice dams occur when water finds a way to build up in a spot where warm air and cold air create a block of ice on the roof decking. An ice dam can cause heaving and cracking of clay tile that is grade 2 or lower.

Vitrified Clay Glazed Tile

Most clay tiles are classified as a vitrified glazed material. The material is placed through a mold or die and then fused together for added strength. Vitrification also reduces the heaving caused by a freeze-thaw cycle in much colder climates. Clay tile is a traditional tile system common in the southwest. Vitrified tile composition allows for more temperate and colder climates to have clay tile on the roof. There are several specific types of tile grades on the market. Each tile falls within grades 1 to 3 in terms of water absorption and temperature cycle. Grade 1 is resistant to water absorption. Grade 2 is protected from moderate levels of frost and grade 3 is quite porous and used extensively in warmer climates where frost is minimal.

Natural Clay Tile

Completely natural clay tile is usually limited to roofing in warm climates without a freeze-thaw cycle. Although vitrified glazed tile is a natural product, totally natural clay tile is 100% clay and lacks the addition of a silica material. Natural clay is very common on mission or adobe style homes. The natural variations are often coordinated with the stucco or adobe-like material on the siding of the house. 

When looking for natural clay tile, it's important to find sources that have a long-lasting reputation of residential home implementation. Historic preservation teams as well as contracting companies in the southern climates often have additional resources for customers wishing to use completely natural clay tile in its raw form. Extra care will need to be taken to seal and preserve the tile since it doesn't have the added silica binder to prevent breakage.

Advantages of Clay Tile

Clay tile is often considered both a historically-accurate component of many homes as well as a natural feature that adds greater value. One of the major advantages to this type of roofing is its lifespan. In fact, clay tile is one of the longest-lasting roofing materials on the market. It is not uncommon for clay tile to last longer than 50 years when installed correctly.

Clay tile is well known throughout the world as a superior product. As a result, there are constant changes and updates being made on different products for different climates. There are also several variations in patterns and styles. Features for natural clay are also constantly being improved. Newer tile components use an interlocking "S" style method for uniform appearance and prevention of water damming.

The specialized flashing material used for different roofs are what make clay tile so popular. These custom components ensure a more watertight fit than some of the more traditional, asphalt materials available. They are also customized for each roof plan.

Disadvantages of Clay Tile

While clay tile is superior in many ways, there are a few disadvantages. Clay tile can be quite fragile by itself. The fragile nature of clay requires expert, professional installation. The added weight to the roof will also require some evaluation to see if it can support it. Structural engineers and contractors often add additional cost and recommendations for extra support joists and beams to handle the load. Clay tile is also more expensive and requires an extensive evaluation of the roof plan. Each component of a tile roof is part of a customized roof. This may also mean it could be difficult to find replacement parts immediately for flashing or to get the exact glaze color for the clay tile. Homeowners should purchase more than the required amount for repairs. The tiles can be stored for replacement pieces.

Last updated on May 19, 2016

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