Clay tile roofs aren't just a simple shelter from the sun and rain — they're a charming, durable and environmentally-friendly structure. Before buying a house with a clay roof, however, you should be prepared for the costs and labor it may require.
Here are some important questions to ask when considering a home with a clay roof:
Who Manufactured the Tiles?
Knowing where your tiles came from can give you a good idea of their quality and suitability for the climate of your region.
One important characteristic of the tiles is the grade. Clay tiles are produced in various grades, and each one provides a different level of resistance to weather-related issues like frosting. The tiles you have should be based on the most severe climatic conditions that can occur in your area rather than the typical climate.
There are three grades of tile, laid out in the ASTM C1167 Standards for Clay Tile Roofs. Each grade defines a degree of weather resistance.
The less moisture a tile contains, the greater the chance it has of withstanding freezing temperatures. The style of the tiles is also important since some are better suited for certain climates. The most common are:
Flat Tiles: Small and rectangular with a smooth surface finish
Roman Tiles: Flat in the middle with a concave curve on one end and a convex curve on the other
Interlocking Tiles: Interlocks with adjacent tiles, which improves protection against wind and rain
It's also important that your tiles come from a trusted manufacturer or are created and properly treated for years of weathering.
When Was the Roof Installed?
When buying a house with a clay tile roof, you want to know what it will cost to maintain it. Knowing the age of the roof can give you an idea of the maintenance that needs to be done — or if it needs to be replaced.
You'll also need to know if the previous owner properly maintained the roof. Clay roofs have the potential to last for 50 to 70 years with proper care and maintenance.
Who Did the Renovation? Do They Specialize in Clay Tiles?
It is important to ask about who renovated the tiles because the job is not always done correctly. Installing clay roofs requires a high degree of precision and should only be handled by professional roofing contractors who have experience in dealing with these materials.
Here are the essential steps when renovating a clay tile roof:
Choosing the right materials: Before even beginning to roof, tiles should be chosen that suit the climate.
Installing the underlayment: This feature is essential to clay tile roofing, and it must be installed correctly to ensure your roof's water-tightness.
Installing the drip-edge flashing and gutters: These items must be of exceptional quality to match the long lifespan of a clay tile roof.
Laying the Tiles: Clay roofing must be installed appropriately to ensure protection from water as well as to help with its durability. The nails used should be resistant to corrosion. If the tiles are not properly fastened — which is a common mistake made by inexperienced roofers — the tile roofing will begin to fall off.
Arranging tiles in a pleasing color scheme: As a natural material, the color of clay tiles vary slightly. The tiles should be arranged in a way that is aesthetically appealing.
Installing a clay tile roof is an involved and delicate process. It should be left in the hands of a clay tile roof specialist.
Is There a Warranty on the Roof?
Roof warranties are important, and they come in two types:
The workmanship warranty, issued by the roofer.
The limited material warranty, provided by the manufacturer of the tiles.
The workmanship warranty is the most important and typically lasts for two years. This may seem like a short time, but it is likely that, if no issues are experienced in the first two years of a roof's life, there will likely be no issues for the next 10 years.
The workmanship warranty does not cover damages caused by major storms or walking on the roof. This is why your roof should be installed by a qualified clay tile roofer using the proper techniques.
What Is the Current State of the Roof? Is There Any Damage Showing?
It is a good idea to inspect the current state of your clay tile roof and spot signs of damage. Keep an eye out for the following:
Walk around the outside of the house to find the drip line of the roof. See if you can detect any signs of water damage on the eaves or tops of the walls supporting the roof. Any signs of moisture, which could be discolored paint or mildew, are signs that the roof is leaking.
It is difficult to tell exactly where a leak is in a clay tile roof, so it is best to contact a professional. They likely have thermal-imaging equipment that can detect where the water is coming in.
2. Bird Droppings
If you see a lot of bird droppings on the roof, this may mean birds are nesting there — which can cause damage to your roof. Bird droppings are highly acidic as well, so even if the birds are just perching from time to time, this can cause the clay roofing to decompose more rapidly.
If you notice birds on your roof, it is best to have your tiles pressure washed by a professional to remove the droppings before any damage is caused.
3. Damage to the Underlayment
The underlayment is the layer of paper or plastic underneath the clay tiles. It is not supposed to last as long as the tile roof itself, and the tiles must be removed to replace it.
When inspecting the underlayment, you need to lift a tile or two. You can tell the underlayment is damaged if it has a wavy or curled pattern. Peeling and lightening of the tile color are also signs of damage.
If tiles have chips or cracks, they cannot withstand the weather effects of ice and moisture. Even minor cracks caused by hail allow water to soak into the surface of the tiles, and freezing temperatures will then cause the tiles to fracture further.
Checking for chips and cracks can be tricky, however, because you're not supposed to walk on the tiles. It is recommended that you use a ladder that doesn't lean on the edge of the roof. If you can, move the ladder to several spots around the house and get a general idea of the roof's condition.
5. Plant Growth
When leaves become trapped in between the clay tiles, they can eventually turn into soil, and plants start popping up. The plant's root system can significantly damage the clay tiles. It is a major hassle to remove these plants, so it's best that they are prevented by regularly removing the debris with a pressure washer.
The above inspections can provide a good indication of the state of the roof. If it's in a serious state of disrepair, it may need to be repaired or renovated. Although the cost of a clay tile roof repair may discourage potential buyers, the costs related to clay tile roofs, when considering their long lifespan, are actually the lowest among roofing materials.
How Long Do You Plan on Living in the House?
Even if you aren't planning on living in the house for a long time, a clay tile roof provides a variety of other benefits and savings that largely offset the costs of the renovation:
A clay roof increases the value of your home. Clay tile roofs are given more credits when appraised, and they sell better and faster than roofs with materials like asphalt shingles.
They come in a wide variety of colors and styles. If you ever want to change the color of your house, it is easy to find a clay tile color that matches your exterior. The tiles can also match a wide variety of architectural styles.
They have a long lifespan. Clay tiles are among the most durable roofing materials.
They're affordable in the long run. Because of their long lifespan, installation and maintenance costs are considerably lower than other materials in the long run.
They can withstand disasters. They're fire-resistant and can withstand high winds and earthquakes.
They're sustainable. Because of their low life-cycle costs, they fulfill LEED and ENERGY STAR® requirements.
They're environmentally friendly. The materials used in clay tile roofing are not limited natural resources. Additionally, no chemical resources are used in their production, and all waste produced during their manufacture is recyclable.
They absorb little heat. According to tests conducted by the Department of Energy, tiles can impede the transfer of heat up to 70% better than materials such as asphalt shingles.
They keep your home at a comfortable temperature. Clay tiles have a high thermal mass and are effective at regulating your home's temperature.
What Kind of Maintenance Does a Clay Roof Need?
Clay tile roofs are designed to withstand weathering and have a long lifespan, but maintenance is still recommended. To properly maintain a clay tile roof, you should:
Get your roof inspected. It is recommended to have your clay tile roof inspected twice a year by a professional roofer. The roofers are able to spot minor cracks or other weaknesses in the tiles that can worsen during stormy weather.
Clean your tiles. Clay tiles attract algae, which you can easily rinse away using a low-power washer and a bit of detergent. Make sure that the washer is not pointed directly at the tiles, as this could cause them to fracture.
Seal your tiles. After cleaning, you have the option of applying a coat of alkyd primer and a clear acrylic sealer. Not only will this protect the tiles from dirt, but it will make them easier to wash for your next cleaning.
Remove debris. Clean out your gutters regularly, as clogged gutters can cause water to overflow on to your roof, which can cause leaking. Also try to remove tree branches that may be hanging directly over your roof. Any leaves, moss or other debris should also be removed.
Don't walk on the roof yourself: Be careful not to walk on the roof as this may cause the tiles to break. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe reaching the roof with other methods, we recommend that you hire a professional.
Repair or replace tiles. A broken or missing tile could lead to water damage to your home. By repairing or replacing tiles as necessary, you will avoid costly roofing replacements in the future.
Don't wash the streaks. After you replace a broken tile, some white streaks may appear on the tile temporarily. This is just the air and the rainwater reacting with the lime in the clay. Don't try to wash them away, as this might crack the clay.
Are Clay Roofs Expected to Wear or Change Color?
Clay roof tiles wear relatively little compared to other roofing materials, but they can decompose from the acidity of bird droppings and crack from the roots of plants. Both of these damaging factors can be minimized, however, if the roof is regularly cleaned.
The tiles do not usually change colors. They're made of fired clay and are designed to withstand harsh elements, so they normally don't fade from the sun or become damaged by rain. If not routinely cleaned, however, they can turn green from algae growth.
Is a Clay Roof a Good Home Investment?
Considering their beauty, long lifespan and array of cost-saving benefits, clay tile roofs add an abundance of charm and value to your home. When it comes to renovating this important structure, though, make sure it is in the right hands.
For over 40 years, Huber & Associates has provided quality roofing solutions for a variety of structures. Contact us today to for more information about how we can help with your roofing project.