Concrete vs. Clay Roof Tile Cost: Pros & Cons of Tile Roofs 2018

Do you love the distinctive and attractive look of roof tiles? If the answer is yes, then you are among a growing number of homeowners who pick tiles as the roofing material of choice for their homes.

clay roof tiles

A tile roof is a costly upfront investment, especially if you opt for clay tiles rather than concrete ones. However, tiles offer many great benefits including durability, longevity, energy-efficiency, great curb appeal, low maintenance, hurricane-grade wind mitigation (with proper installation and maintenance), fire safety, and more.

Traditional (non-metal made) tiles are most commonly available in either concrete or clay, and come in a multitude of shapes, profiles and colors.

The Difference in Cost Between Concrete vs. Clay Tiles

For all the reasons mentioned above it should come as no surprise that clay tiles cost about 30% more than concrete tiles, with an average cost of clay tiles hoovering around $11 to $18 per square foot installed.

Ludowici tile roof – Flat slab Georgian. Source: Ludowici.com

More exotic tiles can easily cost as much as $20 to $30 per square foot installed, though. Thus, there is a lot of variation in price to be expected, depending on how fancy a tile you want to pick.

In terms of total costs installed, a basic tile roof could cost anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000, depending on the size of your house, tile choice, and location of your property.

Install Roof Shingles

$7,500
Average price
Install Metal Roof

$15,000
Average price
Install Flat Roof

$9,000
Average price

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Since both, clay and concrete tiles are expensive in comparison to most other roofing choices, you’ll need to consider whether all the added benefits that real tiles have to offer are worth the extra expense.

Keep in mind that the total life-cycle cost of tiles is actually quite low compared to composition shingles, since clay tiles can last for as long as 100 years, while concrete tiles should protect your roof for 50 years plus.

Verdict: if unique style and authenticity is what you are looking for, then tiles can be a sound choice for your home, provided that you are also willing to invest in the structural reinforcement of your roof truss structure.

When choosing between concrete or clay tiles, it is important to understand the properties of each material, and the major differences between the two including important cost considerations.

What is a Clay Tile?

clay-tile-roof

Clay tiles are produced by baking molded clay. The density of the clay is determined by the length of time and temperature at which it is heated. Colors of clay tiles range from shades of white, yellow, orange and brown.

The most commonly used clay color is the Terra-Cotta. Another alternative to these natural earth tones is to add enamels to the tile and make any color of roof tiles. This process is called “ceramic” and consists of spraying enamel over the tile before baking it.

High temperatures of the kiln permanently bond this color to the clay tile so it will not peel or fade. As a result there are a wide variety of tile profiles, styles, finishes and colors available. Because clay tiles are made from a natural earth derived material, they are environmentally friendly and easily recycled.

Clay tiles are resistant to strong winds and cannot be destroyed in a fire. Because of the way they are shaped, clay tiles protect the underlayment of your roof, while also creating an air pocket thereby helping to insulate and isolate any unwanted heat or cold from being transferred to your home’s attic space.

Top Clay Tile Roof Manufacturers and Suppliers:

Traditional Clay Tile Roof. Source: Ludowici.com

Ludowici is one of the oldest and most renowned clay tile manufactures based in New Lexington, Ohio. The company offers a wide range of tile profiles for residential, historic, commercial, and institutional projects.

MCA Tile Roof in California. Source: MCA-Tile.com

MCA Tile is another prominent manufacturer of clay tile roofs based in California. MCA tiles are designed for residential, commercial, and institutional applications.

If you prefer to source and buy your tiles through a supplier, ABC supply carries a large selection of concrete and clay tiles.

What is a Concrete Tile?

Concrete tiles are made of mixture of sand, cement and water, which are molded under heat and high pressure. The exposed surface of a tile may be finished with a paint like material.

Concrete tiles have additional water locks, or interlocking ribs on the edges that prevent water infiltration. Concrete tiles come in three main appearances: 1. Flat profile – no curves. 2. Low Profile – small curves and has a rise to width ratio equal to 1:5 or less. 3. High Profile: large curves and has a rise to width ratio greater than 1:5.

Concrete tiles can simulate the appearance of traditional clay tiles, wood shake, slate and stone. Like clay, concrete tile surfaces can be textured or smooth, and tile edges can be ragged or uniform. They are resistant to hail, wind, and fire, making them a very safe roofing material when properly installed.

Top Concrete Tile Roof Manufacturers and Suppliers:

Eagle Roofing concrete tiles. Source: EagleRoofing.com

Eagle Roofing is a prominent US manufacturer of concrete tiles. Their products can, once again be ordered by a professional contractor through ABC supply.

Boral Tile Roof on Home in Nevada. Source: Boral America

Boral manufactures both concrete and clay tiles available in a large variety of profiles.

What are the primary differences between Concrete and Clay tiles?

1. Water Absorption

Concrete roofing tiles have a water absorption of about 13%, while clay roofing tiles have a water absorption of about 6 %. Consequently, this higher rate of water absorption leads to the development of mildew and stains on concrete tiles.

Absorbed water also increases the already heavy weight of a concrete tile, and puts increases pressure on the roof structure. These issues are very minimal in clay tiles due to their low water absorption rate.

2. Weight

Concrete tiles weigh almost 40% more than clay tiles. Concrete tiles can weigh anywhere from 820 to 1.100 pounds per square (100 sq. ft.), depending on the style, while most clay roofing tiles weigh only 600 – 650 pounds per square. As a result, it is more difficult for the roof structure to adequately support the heavier weight of concrete tiles vs. clay tiles.

In some cases, concrete tiles are not recommended for use on buildings, unless the roof framing is reinforced to support the added weight.

Propensity to crack and shatter

In colder climates, clay tiles have a tendency to crack or shatter due to freezing and thawing cycles. As a result, clay tiles are mostly found in warmer climates.

Conversely, concrete tiles are not as susceptible to damage due to freezing temperatures, and therefore can be used in almost any climate.

3. Maintenance

Heavier weight, higher rate of water absorption and formation of mildew makes concrete tiles a lot more challenging to maintain than clay tiles, which are almost free of these issues.

For example, on ceramic finishes in Matte and Glazed clay tiles, absorption and mildew rates are almost non existent. This means that a clay roof would be practically maintenance free.

4. Color Longevity and Appearance

Since clay is a naturally occurring material, clay tiles maintain their original color for years despite being subjected to weather conditions.

Ceramic finishes offered by many clay roof tile manufacturers, are baked in high temperatures of around 2000 degrees, creating a non-porous finish that will virtually last forever.

On the other hand, the color-thru technology used in concrete tiles is not as effective in maintaining the original bright tile color, and concrete tiles are known to fade over time.

Due to its porous nature, concrete tiles are also more prone to stains than clay tiles.

5. Durability

While both concrete and clay tiles outperform most other roofing materials in durability, at the end of the day clay is a more durable material than concrete. Concrete tiles may last between 30 to 50 years, while clay tiles may well last over 100 years.

You can still see beautiful clay roofs on many buildings in Europe, which have been there for centuries.

Stone-Coated Steel — A Viable Alternatives to Tiles:

One major disadvantage of concrete, clay, and Terra Cotta tiles is that they are very heavy, and may often require reinforcement to the roof structure in order to support all the weight of tiles.

Gerard stone coated steel tile roof – Barrel Vault Profile. Source: gerardusa.com

Fortunately, there is an attractive, light-weight, and less-costly alternative to traditional tiles; stone-coated steel tiles.

Did you know? Stone-coated steel tiles offer comparable performance, but without the added weight of clay or concrete, meaning that you will not have to reinforce the structure of the existing roof: www.roofingcalc.com/stone-coated-steel-roofs-whats-all-the-fuss/

Before and after Gerard classic tile installation. Source: Gerard

For instance, Barrel Vault tiles from Gerard do a fantastic job imitating the look of traditional clay tiles, but at a fraction of the material cost (averaging $3.00 to $4.00 per square foot of material, depending on the size of your order and your location), and with no added weight to worry about.

Top manufacturers of stone-coated steel roofs:

Decra, Gerard, and Metro are some of the prominent manufacturers offering stone-coated steel tiles in the US.

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6 comments

  1. Soild post about the differences between clay and concrete roof tiles. Was investigating for an Arizona real estate client. Thank you.

  2. You make a great point about how you need to consider the weight of your roofing materials before you start a project. It can be important to have some structural analysis done of your roof trusses to make sure that they can support the weight of clay or concrete roof tiles.

    As you mentioned, you might need to reinforce the roof framing before you can even start your project. Thanks.

  3. But which one is better — flat tile or barrel/S-shape tile? My HOA wants me to use s-tiles, but I’ve heard flat tiles are better in hurricanes.

    1. Hi Renaud,

      A flat tile has a lower profile and hence less of a chance of being lifted and torn-off by the wind.

      That being said, it ultimately comes down to the quality of installation, roof-frame bracing in Florida, etc.

  4. I agree, a good explanation of the differences.

    That said, it would be fair to mention maintenance and repairability. Clay is very brittle and very difficult to walk on unless you know just where to place your foot (where the overlap of the two tiles is the strongest). While concrete tile can be that way also, it has a better resistance to weight, especially the flat concrete tile. Still, you need to know where to step!

    And concrete tile is much more readily repairable, though color match may come into play. Clay, if installed without the concrete cement in between, can also be repaired fairly easily if you can gain access to the point of the needed repair. Sometimes using plywood as a bridge walking surface can help avoid additional breakage when doing repairs. However, you need to secure the plywood, particularly on pitched roof slopes.

    Anyway, just my two cents worth!

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