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Clay vs. Concrete Roof Tiles: Which Is Better for My Home?

Clay vs Concrete Roof Tile

We all want high-quality roof tiles to enhance curb appeal and solve some of our home ownership issues. And since you are shopping for them, you must wonder which roof tiles suit your home: clay or concrete?

First, to understand which roof tiles are best for your home, many factors must come into play. For instance, what are your specific needs and budget? Are the materials durable enough, and will they keep your roof protected from harsh elements?

Luckily, this article will cover what you need to know about clay and roof tiles. You will learn what they are made of and their pros and cons so you can decide which will suit you best. Let’s get started.

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Overview of Clay Roof Tiles

Clay roof tiles are made from uniquely red terracotta clay. They are often coated in chemical compounds such as fluxes, manganese, silica, and aluminum oxide, which change their color while boosting their lifespan.

The density of clay tiles is determined by the time it takes to heat them and the temperature used.

Most homeowners love clay roof tiles because of their design, durability, and unique color. If you want clay roof tiles to be your next roof purchase, here are their pros and cons to help you make an informed decision:

Clay roof tiles
Image Credit: mufidpwt, Pixabay

Advantages of Clay Roof Tiles

1. Fire Resistant

The stone nature of clay tiles makes them fire-resistant. They are under Class A, which is the highest fire rating level. These tiles are handy, especially if your home is near a fire-risk area. The clay tiles will protect your home from getting burnt, particularly from the occasional flying embers and ash from forest fires.

2. High Impact Resistance

Despite clay tiles being somewhat delicate, they also have high impact resistance. They boast a class 4 rating, the highest impact rating.

3. Durability

Since clay tiles don’t erode as fast as other roof materials, they are exceptionally durable. No wonder there are classic clay tile roofs that date back centuries ago, meaning they can stand the test of time.

4. Long Lifespan

If clay roof tiles are installed correctly and caution is taken not to harm them, they can last for 50 to 100 years.

5. Wind Resistant

When clay tiles are laid appropriately, they will provide high wind resistance. Thanks to their substantial weight and layered construction, they can survive wind speeds of 200 mph.

6. Different Designs

Clay tiles come with many designs to choose from.

Among the various styles are:
  • Barrel
  • Mission style
  • Mediterranean
  • French style
  • Asian
  • Interlocking shingle style
  • Flat tiles

With all these styles, you will be spoilt for choice and find one that will suit your taste.

7. Eco-friendly

Since clay roof tiles are made from natural earth components, they are environmentally friendly and can be recycled.

old clay roof tiles
Image Credit: Angeleses, Pixabay

Disadvantages of Clay Roof Tiles

1. Costly

Clay roof tiles are much more expensive than other roofing materials like concrete. Their prices are costly without even including installation or labor charges.

2. Delicate

Clay roof tiles are pretty fragile. Therefore, you will have to exercise caution when installing. When necessary, you must be extremely careful when walking on a clay roof tile lest you damage it.

3. Weighty

Clay tiles are one of the heaviest roofing systems available. They are between 788 and 1,780 lbs per square foot. So if your roof is 40 square feet, you will have 71,200 lbs sitting above your head! Therefore, you should ensure your roof’s framework and structure are sturdy enough to endure that weight before installing them.

4. Challenging to Mount

It takes a lot of skill to install a clay roof. To mount them properly, you must have the appropriate design. Additionally, you should ensure that water cannot get in. To meet specific patterns and angles, you will have to cut the tiles so they fit squarely.

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Overview of Concrete Roof Tiles

Concrete roof tiles are made from heated cement that has been compressed under extreme temperatures. Apart from cement, its contents include sand, water, and sometimes dye. For color, it is added to the cement slurry before molding, or the tiles can be painted with a cement-based pigment.

Concrete tiles are available in these styles:
  • Low profile: low-curved
  • High profile: large-curved
  • Flat profile: zero curves

Concrete tiles can mimic the appearance of several roofing materials, such as stone tiles, clay, slate, or wood shake.

These roof tiles are increasingly popular primarily because of their strength, beauty, and affordability. Before choosing them for your roofing structure, you should first consider their pros and cons, which are as follows:

concrete roof tiles
Image Credit: David Darkin, Shutterstock

Advantages of Concrete Roof Tiles

1. Wind-Resistant

Concrete tiles can tolerate strong winds and heavy snow. They can endure wind speeds of up to 180 mph and therefore are great for regions with strong winds.

2. Conserve Energy

Concrete has a poor heat transfer rate hence keeping your roof warm in the winter and cool during summer. Being energy efficient, they will protect you from harmful UV rays and even help you save money.

3. Impact Resistance

Concrete tiles enjoy an impact resistance rating of class 4. This indicates that it has undergone testing to handle 2-inch hail storms.

4. Fire-resistant

Concrete tiles are generally fire-resistant, which makes them have a class A fire rating (the maximum attainable fire rating). Therefore if your house is near an inferno, the roofing system will help prevent it from catching fire.

5. Life expectancy

Concrete roof tiles can last for 30 to 50 years, making them stronger than most roofing systems. However, they are not as long-lasting as clay roof tiles which can last for up to a century.

6. Price

When it comes to pricing, concrete tiles are far less costly compared to clay tiles. They are typically more affordable than most tile options.

old concrete roof tiles
Image Credit By: laurenta_photography, Pixabay

Disadvantages of Concrete Roof Tiles

1. Porous

Clay tiles absorb water at a rate of around 6%, while concrete tiles absorb water at a rate of about 13%. Thus, concrete tiles are more water-permeable than clay tiles. Therefore, when rainwater combines with concrete (plus its lime and carbon dioxide), a chalky element appears on the roof’s surface.

Through this, the roof usually appears stained and causes more weight on the roof’s structure. Furthermore, the roof is more likely to contract mildew and mold. But, you can prevent this from occurring and your tiles from absorbing water by sealing them.

2. Heavy

Like most other roof tiles, concrete tiles are also heavy. They usually weigh from 500 to 720 lbs per square foot. So if you decide to have them on your roof, first ensure that the framing roof structure can withstand their weight.

3. Brittle

As much as concrete tiles are durable and strong, they are also brittle. So if you need to walk on them, you should exercise caution.

4. Challenging to Install

Concrete tiles are technical to install. You will need to cut the tiles into specific shapes to fit precisely into the roof surface. You should also ensure that the tiles are layered within a particular pattern so that they are correctly installed and look good.

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What are The Differences Between Clay and Concrete Roof Tiles?

Some significant differences between clay and concrete roof tiles are as follows:

1. Versatility

Clay tiles are not as versatile as concrete roof tiles when it comes to withstanding extreme temperatures. Clay tiles do better in warm climates, while concrete tiles can survive any weather, including harsh cold temperatures. Clay tiles cannot endure the cold, which shatters and damages them. That is why they are used mainly in hot regions like Latin America and Spain.

2. Color Durability

Clay tiles retain their original color for a long time because they are made from naturally occurring substances. Clay with ceramic finishes is created with a non-porous polish to last a lifetime without losing color.

Concrete tiles, on the other hand, are made from a less-effective technology, making them fade over time. The older the concrete tiles get, the more faded their colors are. However, this primarily occurs if the tiles get their colors through the concrete-based pigment technique.

Therefore, repairing the tiles after a while may pose a problem because they will not easily blend with the new tiles. Remember that concrete is also porous, which makes it susceptible to stains, thus damaging its appearance.

3. Maintenance

Since concrete tiles absorb water, adding to their already heavy weight, they are harder to maintain. On the other hand, clay tiles do not quickly absorb water; thus, maintaining them is a breeze.

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Finally, it would be best to work with a reputable constructor to ensure the roof is installed correctly. It should be free from leaks, compliment your house design, act as a heat insulator, and be of high quality.

Then, you should check your budget, roofing needs, durability, and lifespan before settling on one. Balance the benefits of each roofing system against their setbacks to decide on the one that is ideal for you.

Featured Image Credit: (Left) contact357, Pixabay (Right) manfredrichter, Pixabay


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