On average, tile roofs cost $700 to $800 per square to install, though they can cost anywhere between $400 and $1,000 per square. Tiles come in clay or concrete but can be shaped in many different ways even to the point of looking like wood shake. Terracotta clay is a popular choice for clay roofs because, unlike regular clay or concrete, it won’t change color with age. Concrete will fade while clay will actually get darker, but terracotta can maintain its color because it gets baked into the clay. Many ancient terracotta artifacts still retain the color they had when they were first made.
When pricing roofing projects, it is important to remember that roofs are measured professionally not in square feet but in “squares”. The average roof in the United States has 22 to 26 squares. One square equals 100 square feet. While this was done originally as a sales trick to make a house sound larger, it has evolved into a more convenient way to communicate the area of a roof. Some builders will use squares to describe floor plans, but remember that roof will almost always be larger than the structure it covers.
The tiles themselves come in different styles including Spanish, Double Roman, and Flat Shake. Almost any others will be a variation on these styles.
Spanish – The Spanish tiles look like rows on undulating waves with wide water courses between the tiles. They are most often found in places where, while rain may be infrequent, it’s often heavy. These “gully-washers” can make quick work of lesser materials as they saturate dried and porous materials. Clay, terracotta, and concrete, however, can weather these infrequent but intense assaults quite handily. Average cost: $2.00 to $4.00 per square foot.
Scandia – Scandia is essentially a Spanish tile turned upside down. The visual effect is that of sharp ridges with wide, smooth water courses. The cost is about the same as Spanish tile at $2.00 to $4.00 per square foot.
Double Roman – While a Double Roman may look like Spanish tile at first glance, a further look will reveal that while Spanish tile looks like waves, Roman tile has distinct ribs that are very pronounced. Popular for a Mediterranean look, Roman tile has smaller water courses, but there are more of them. Roman tiles are often made of concrete, but can be found in clay and terracotta. Average cost: $2.25 to $4.80 per square foot.
Flat Shake – These are most often found in concrete. They are made to resemble any number of shingle styles including granulated asphalt and wood shake. They have no water courses, but their flat surfaces more than suffice to avoid trapping rain water. The adaptability of the finished look makes these roofs very popular for pretty much any taste. Average cost: $2.29 to $2.49 per square foot.
Pantile – Pantile roofs are made of clay tiles that resemble a flattened S. The visual effect is that of ripples. It provides a classic “Old World” look with ample run-off for water. Pantiles are significantly lighter than most other tiles. Average cost: $2.50 per square foot.
Barrel Tile – While “barrel” is a term used to describe any semi-cylindrical tile such as Spanish and Roman, the true barrel tile is actually tapered, being wider at one end than the other. This is because barrel tiles were traditionally shaped over the clay worker’s leg. Today they are mass produced. Barrel tiles are often used on curved roofs because of their tapering shape. Average cost: $3.00 to $6.50 per square foot.
French Tile – The French tile, also called “Profile” by some, looks like a reversed version of the Roman Double with generous indents where the humps would be. This greatly increases the amount of water that can be shed during any given time period. Average cost: $3.20 to $3.90 per square foot.
Riviera – Again copying the popular Double Roman style, the Riviera is a flattened version. The water courses are the same, but where the Double Roman has rounded bumps, the Rivieras are flattened. This is popular where dramatic shading patterns are desired. Average cost: $3.00 to $5.00 per square foot.
The styles available can generally be made from any of the common tile materials. All tile materials have the benefits of being resistant to fire, insects, and rot, but as they are made of rigid materials also have the issue of breakage. They are also heavy and may require extra supports to be added to your roof. Also consider these other pros and cons of tile roofs:
Concrete: $4.00 to $9.00 per square foot
Pros – Lower cost both per tile and in maintenance, can be made to any shape or color, can be made very light-weight, very long lasting.
Cons – Will fade with time, can be difficult to install, takes longer to install than asphalt shingles.
Clay: $5.00 to $10.00 per square foot
Pros – Very attractive especially with Spanish or Italian style architecture, extremely long-lasting, easy maintenance.
Cons – Heavy (about 8 to 10 pounds per tile), difficult to install correctly, will darken with time which can affect your interior temperatures.
Terracotta: $6.00 to $15.00 per square foot
Pros –Extremely long-lasting, heat-reflective, won’t change color with time.
Cons – More expensive than most other tiles, very heavy, difficult to install correctly without proper tools
Also remember that a roof will need certain tiles for the point where the sides meet -- called “ridge” tiles. Where three or more roof sides meet, such as on a hipped roof, you will need tiles called “apexes”. Ridges will need “end caps” if they aren’t hipped, and the end of a hipped ridge will need a “hip end”. A non-hipped roof will need verge tiles to protect the roof beams underneath (similar to fascia), and any vents will need pipe coverings and cowls to ensure proper protection.
Finally, roof tiles can be glazed, colored, or shaped to your desires, but you can expect to pay an extra $10 to $30 per square foot for the customization.
While it’s possible to install your own roof, it’s very labor-intensive and requires a lot of specialty tools and equipment and quite a lot of time. As such, unless you are a roofer with a professional team, it’s best to hire a contractor. The size of the typical American roof is 22 to 26 squares, or 2,200 to 2,600 square feet.
Removing old roof – Removing your old roof usually costs around $100 to $150 per square. (Remember that a square = 100 square feet.) However, some roofs have been simply installed over older roofs, making your roof two to three layers thick. For two layers you can expect to pay $115 to $165 and for three layers you can expect $125 to $175.
Underlayment – Installing or replacing underlayment is necessary to protect the boards that support your tiles and to provide some sound-proofing. They are often made of a rubberized felt. It usually costs around $2.15 to $2.86 per square foot depending on what is needed and averages around $6,000 for the typical 2,400 square foot roof.
Roof supports – If you are replacing asphalt shingles with tile, you are about to triple or quadruple the amount of weight that your trusses and beams must carry. A square of asphalt shingles weighs around 225 pounds. For tiles, 600 pounds is considered “lightweight”, and 960 pounds is not unheard of. If you need added support, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000, depending on how much extra support is needed.
Delivery – While many tile suppliers offer free delivery, if you live far from the point of origin you might have to pay for the added distance. This can run from $600 to $1,000.
Tiles – As you have seen above, tiles cost quite a bit more than asphalt. Here are some sample prices you can expect for a 22 square roof:
Spanish terracotta - $13,200.00
Double Roman clay - $11,000.00
Flat Shake concrete - $10,000.00
Tile sealer – Tile sealer covers about 1,000 square feet per gallon at 1 mil thickness and costs from $20-$40 per gallon. Be aware, however, that sealing roof tiles is entirely optional. It can help prolong the life of a cracked tile for about a year, but that should be plenty of time for you to replace it. If used, you will have to reseal your roof once a year.
The estimate should include:
Setup and labor
Acquiring and transporting any needed equipment
Removal of old roof, if necessary
Installation of new roof
Disposal of old roofing material
Be sure to talk with your contractor to make sure what is and isn’t included in the quote. Also be aware that while a roofer may give you a quote based on both an inside and outside inspection of your roof, some complications may come to light only when the old material is removed. Molds and insect damage may not be visible until the wood is exposed to direct daylight. Most experts recommend budgeting another 25% of your estimated cost to cover such unforeseen problems.
There are some things to think about before replacing your roof. As well as the amount of weight your current roof can support, you should consider the design of your roof, how far your contractor will have to travel, how the contractor charges, and whether or not you’re going to install new tiles over old material.
Tile roofs are not advised if there is a less than 18 degree slope. This is for purposes of distributing weight and accommodating water run-off. Skylights and solar panels often have to be removed before a tile roof can be installed. Since many solar panels have an antifreeze chemical in them, they should only be removed by a professional. Gables, multiple roof levels, and steep slope roofs can also add varying amounts to the estimate.
Living way out in the country has its charms, but it also has its drawbacks. While many places will deliver tile for free within a certain area, longer-distance delivery can add $600 to $1,000 to your bill. A contractor may also charge extra travel time for the crew. Be sure to let the contractor know if you live out in a remote area. This travel time can vary, but if mileage is charged, the 2015 IRS allowance is about $0.55 per mile.
How the Contractor Charges
When discussing the cost with a contractor, remember that most roofers charge by the square, not by the square foot. A square equals 100 square feet, so be sure not to get these confused. Contractors tend to use “square” both to expedite communication and to keep numbers manageable for calculations.
Tiling Over an Old Roof
You might be tempted to save a little money by leaving your old asphalt shingles in place. While it’s true that this can save you a couple thousand dollars in removal and disposal, it has been shown to dramatically reduce the expected life of your roof. Tiling over an old roof can reduce the life of your roof by as much as 25%, reducing the life of your tile roof to about that of the much cheaper asphalt shingle roof.
Tile roofs are not maintenance-free. To get the maximum life out of them, there are certain things that must be done:
Periodic Inspection – Once or twice a year, or right after heavy winds, inspect your roof for damaged tiles. Any chipped, cracked, or broken tiles should be replaced immediately.
Washing – A good cleaning once a year will ensure that your roof doesn’t build up dirt and debris that can trap water. However, never pressure-wash your roof. Pressure washing can strip away the material and reduce the life of your roof. It can also force water between the tiles and onto your underlayment, then through into your attic space. The recommended way to wash your tile roof is to use a long handled scrub-brush and cleaner.
Moss Removal – Moss build-up can’t damage tiles the way it can wood shake and asphalt. In fact, it’s generally only a problem if it’s interfering with water drainage. A simple trowel (you can use plastic if you’re worried about scrape and scuff marks) used when the moss is dry makes for an easy job. Dry moss will usually just flake off with little pressure. If moss is a recurring problem, consider using one of many moss-killing products on the market. Some can prevent moss from coming back for up to three years.
Walking On the Roof – Tiles can break underfoot, but you have to walk on your roof to perform some maintenance. The best way to do this is to have a board with a foam rubber backing. The foam rubber will help keep the board from slipping and the board itself will distribute your weight across the tiles. If you don’t have a board to walk on, try to maintain a wide but comfortable stance.
Tile roofs are roof covers with shingles made from clay, concrete, and other hard-wearing materials. They differ from the typical asphalt shingle roof in that they are rigid and heavy. While a strong wind may blow asphalt shingles off, properly attached tile roofs require winds in excess of 125 mph before damage begins.
Usefulness and Benefits of Tile
The big advantage of a tile roof is its fire resistance. However, don’t get a tile roof expecting a break on your home insurance. While tiles are very fire resistant and therefore preferred in regions prone to fires, they are also very rigid and can become damaged if someone has to go up on the roof for any reason.
Tiles are very long-lived. Concrete tiles are often expected to last 50 years or more while clay tiles are often expected to last the life of the building. Of course, this discounts damage caused by extremely high winds and other such factors.
Though tiles are heavy, they are easy to replace if needed. It’s as simple as raising the covering tile, removing the old tile and nails, and tapping a new one into place.
People have many questions about tile roofs. Since a new roof is a hefty investment, it’s understandable that a homeowner wants to understand what he or she is getting into. Here are some of the more common questions that people ask:
How does the cost compare with other roof types?
A tile roof is a mid-level expense. While more expensive than a standard asphalt shingle roof, they are less than slate, wood, or metal. Clay and concrete are in plentiful supply while wood has to come from maintained forests. Slate is expensive due to the mining process, and metal is expensive to begin with.
How long do they last?
Tile roofs have been in use since Neolithic times, about 4,000 to 12,000 years ago. Some buildings from ancient Greece and Rome still have their original tile roofs and they still function quite well. While there is no guarantee your tile roof will last for millennia, a reasonably maintained roof can be expected to last for the life of your home and then some.
Do they have to be red?
No. Though it may cost a little more for a custom color, tiles can be done in reds, blues, greens, whites, and even purples! Coloring a roof tile can be done for any reason from simple aesthetics to replacing a tile on a very old roof to match the others. While terracotta doesn’t fade, concrete does and clay will darken. A new tile might stand out a bit much!
Can this be a DIY Project?
Technically, yes. But unless you are a roofer who is putting his or her own roof on a house, leave it to the professionals if you want it done right the first time. While replacing a tile here and there is certainly something a homeowner can do, adding proper supports, underlayment, and keeping the tiles straight and properly secured requires craftsmanship and special tools. Yes, a roofing contractor may charge more than your doctor, dentist, or mechanic, but this is a large, labor intensive project that doesn’t leave a lot of room for error. Do it yourself, make a mistake, and you could wind up paying twice as much.
What about insulation values?
Tile roofs provide excellent insulation. The air spaces between the tiles and the roof allow for great airflow, and clay and concrete reflect heat wonderfully. This can also reduce ice dams if you live in colder climes.
Will a tile roof make my house fireproof?
Your house will never be “fire-proof”, but a tile roof can make it “fire resistant”. Clay and concrete have Class A fire ratings. What this means is that your roof won’t catch fire. During the Oakland Hills fire in California, embers falling on roofs were the biggest reason many homes caught fire. Fly-overs of the area afterwards showed that houses with tile roofs were still standing even though temperatures reached around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The biggest fire threat a tile roof faces is if the fire starts inside the home and burns the supports.
What about hail?
A strong storm of any sort will destroy all kinds of materials. But a typical hail storm with 2 inch hailstones or smaller can destroy 10% of a tile roof. Roofs of other building materials tend to suffer significantly more damage, sometimes so bad that the entire roof has to be replaced.
Why shouldn’t I just buy asphalt shingles? They’re cheaper, after all.
Looks - Asphalt shingles come in many different colors, but that’s about it. They still look like asphalt shingles. Tiles come in many colors and styles, providing just the right touch to give your house a distinctive but warm and comfortable feel.
Longevity - Asphalt shingles need to be pre-placed every 20 or 30 years, and that’s under the best of conditions. Compare that to 50 to 5,000 years of tile under a multitude of conditions! Tiles are cheaper in the long run.
Environmentally-friendly – Tiles are environmentally friendly. Made from all natural materials, clay has been a construction material that has outlasted entire civilizations! Concrete was developed in ancient Rome and many buildings made with that first batch of concrete are still standing today. Broken pieces of each are 100% recyclable, and the insulating factors reduce the amount of energy you need to cool and heat your home.
Also, a properly installed tile roof reflects heat. This can lower your energy bills for heating and cooling (which constitutes about half of your utility costs) by as much as 30%. With a tile roof you’ll go green for the environment and save green in you bank account!
Curb appeal – While the consensus is that there’s not much of return on your investment for putting on a new roof, the consensus also says that a new roof will help your house sell faster. Not only does it represent an expense that the buyer won’t have to put out, but it adds to the curb appeal dramatically. Basically, they probably won’t notice if you didn’t put on a new roof, but they will notice if you do!
As in all cases, get multiple quotes before hiring a contractor. Be sure you know what’s included in the quote and what costs extra. Check references and ask to see examples of prior work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
A tile roof represents a sizable initial investment on your part. But if you want your roof to last a long time (literally for ages in many cases) while lowering your heating and cooling bills, and if you want to give your home an elegant but comfortable look that can be customized the way you want, then there’s no better roof than tile!