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Inspecting Tile Roofs

by Steve O’Donnell

The first thing you have to do is identify the type of tile roof you have.  There are basically three (3) types; concrete tile, clay or terracotta tile, and composite or lightweight tile.  Each one has different properties and issues associated with inspecting them.

Let’s start with the least common, composite tile.  These are essentially “fake” tile designed to look like clay tile.  They are primarily used on homes that do not have the structural ability to carry the weight of concrete tile or want to deal with the expense of clay tile installation.  They typically weigh in at about 1/3 the weight of concrete tile, which typically come in at about 1,000 lbs./sq.  This allows them to be installed on virtually any roof structure that would normally have accommodated asphalt shingles.

The next most common type, depending on where you live, would be clay tile.  There are two (2) types of clay tile you will run across; terracotta and sandcast.  Terracotta tile look just like flower pots, since they are made from the same material and process.  Sandcast tiles are typically multicolored with oranges, tans, grays, etc.  They may also have chinking or a mortar/mud set installation.

The most common tile on a national basis is by far the concrete tile.  They are easily distinguished from clay tile due to their thickness, weight, and the lack of color on the underside.  They are the most durable tile I have seen.  According to the manufacturers, they have warranties from about 75 years to lifetime.  In real life, the roof will start to leak at about 35 years due to poor workmanship at penetrations/flashing.

So, how do you inspect them?  The first thing to do is make sure all of the tiles are present.  If they aren’t properly fastened, they can and will blow off.  The trim and cut tiles are the most problematic since they require the most attention upon installation.  All tiles must be fastened to the roof with; nails, screws, battens, gravity, foam, and/or adhesive.  I know that sounds like a lot of options, but it really depends on where you live.  Florida has hurricanes, Montana has snow, and the Southwest is just hot so we have minimal requirements.  Be sure to be aware of local requirements.

A great resource is;


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