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Compare Concrete vs Clay Roof Tile Costs

An Expert Comparison of Concrete and Clay Roof Tile

Concrete Roof Tile Overview

Concrete tile roofs are not all that common, but they have a lot of advantages over conventional roofing materials like asphalt shingles. Concrete tile is extremely durable, resisting damage from fire, heat, hail and extremely high wind. The material is very low maintenance and energy efficient, too.

Concrete roofing tiles are made by mixing portland cement, sand and water. The mixture is placed in molds to be cured until it reaches the necessary strength. This process allows for a wide variety of color and design options - color can be added to the surface of the tile or throughout, texture can be added to the surface, and different molds can be used to create different shapes.

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Often, concrete tile has a traditional, Spanish-style barrel design, but that is just one of many options. It can also be designed to mimic the look of roofing materials such as slate or wood shake, or it can be custom designed.

Concrete Roof Tile Cost

Concrete tiles are expensive. They generally cost $400 to $900 per square (one square equals 100 square feet). High-end concrete costs as much as $1,000 per square. A typical two-story home has about 1,500 square feet of roof, bringing the total cost for materials and installation to $6,000 to $15,000.

Concrete Tile Roof Installation

Because concrete tile is heavy, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) recommends it is installed over continuous wood decking. If plywood is used, it should be at least 5/8-inch thick. NRCA expresses concern about the stability and/or lifespan of decking materials such as oriented strand board (OSB), preservative-treated wood and fire-retardant-treated wood.

As is the case with most roofing materials, concrete tile requires an underlayment between the wood decking and the tile. The underlayment, typically made of felt paper, protects your home while the new roof is being installed and provides and extra moisture barrier in case the tiles ever leak. Be sure to request a high-quality underlayment; otherwise, it will fail long before the concrete tile.

Clay Roof

Concrete Roof Tile Pros

  • Price - When it comes to price, concrete tiles have the advantage over clay tiles. Often, the total cost is 30 to 50 percent less.
  • Design options - Concrete tiles are sold in a wider variety of color and design options.

Concrete Roof Tile Cons

  • Durability - Concrete tiles have a long lifespan, surpassing more common roofing materials, but they won’t last as long as clay tiles. The average lifespan of concrete tiles is 30-50 years, compared to 100 years or more with clay tiles.
  • Prone to fading - The color will fade over time. Concrete tiles simply don’t retain color as well as clay tiles.
  • Not ideal for cold climates - Concrete tiles are prone to moisture absorption. In extremely cold climates, they can freeze and break. If you live in a cold climate, be sure to request a special cold-weather installation process to prolong the life of the tiles.

Clay Roof Tile Overview

Clay roof tile is also extremely durable - perhaps the most durable roofing material on the market. Like concrete, it is extremely resistant to heat, fire, wind and hail. But it lasts longer: A clay tile roof can easily hold up for generations.

Clay tile, made by baking molded clay, is highly regarded for its aesthetic appeal. It is the ideal material if you’re going for a southwestern or Spanish-style look. However, like concrete tile, it can also be designed to mimic traditional slate or wood shake. Tiles can be glazed to add color and texturized to add design interest.

Clay Roof Tile Cost

Clay roof tiles are even more expensive than concrete, running $700 to $1,000 per square (100 square feet). High-end clay tiles cost up to $3,000 per square. For a typical 1,500-square-foot roof, this brings the total cost to $10,500 to $45,000.

If you need to have additional roofing supports installed to handle the weight of clay tile, plan on spending an extra $1,000 to $10,000.

Clay Roof Tile Installation

Installation standards for clay roofing tile are very similar to those of concrete tiles. Continuous wood decking is recommended, and plywood should be at least 5/8-inch thick. Oriented strand board, preservative-treated wood and fire-retardant-treated wood are discouraged. A high-quality underlayment is a must.

Clay Roof Tile Pros

  • Durability - Clay roof tiles have a longer lifespan than concrete tiles. It is not uncommon to find a clay roof that has remained intact for centuries.
  • Color - Clay roof tiles hold their color longer than concrete tiles. Generally, clay tile won’t fade due to exposure to the elements. However, make sure you’re purchasing tile that has been kiln-fired to seal in permanent color.
  • Resale value - Installing a clay roof will increase the resale value of your home, due to the the product’s durability and long lifespan.

Clay Roof Tile Cons

  • Cost - Clay roof tiles cost significantly more than concrete tiles. In fact, clay tile is one of the most expensive roofing materials on the market.
  • Weight - Clay tiles are very heavy. The weight can cause structural problems if the supporting structure is not sturdy enough to handle it. In some cases, extra roof support might be required prior to the installation of clay tiles.
  • Not ideal for cold climates - Clay tiles can also break and shatter in cold weather. They are usually found in warm climates, although a special cold-weather installation process can be used to better prepare the tiles for cold weather.
  • Difficult to repair - Walking on clay tiles can damage them, so it is difficult to tackle routine maintenance without the help of a professional. Clay tiles are also more difficult to install than many roofing materials.

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