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Everybody Needs a Roof: Clay and Concrete Tiles

Author unknown. article by everybodyneedsaroof.com

Material description

Clay tile is produced by baking molded clay into tile. The density of the clay is determined by the length of time and temperature at which it is heated. Tiles may be glazed and also may have surface texture treatments applied. As a result, there are a wide variety of tile profiles, styles, finishes and colors available. In addition, there may be separate accessory tiles—matched to each field tile design—of various shapes designed for use on ridges, hips, hip intersections and gable ends. Installation methods depend on the nature of the tile being installed; that is, whether it is two piece, one piece, interlocking or flat.

Concrete tiles are made of portland cement, sand and water in varying proportions. The material is mixed and extruded on molds under high pressure. The exposed surface of a tile may be finished with cementitious material colored with synthetic oxide additives. The tiles are cured to reach the required strength. They generally have lugs on their undersides for anchoring to batten strips. There are additional waterlocks or interlocking ribs on the longitudinal edges that impede movement and prevent water infiltration.

As with clay tile, there are a wide variety of profiles, styles, finishes and colors available. Color may be added to the surface of a tile or dispersed throughout (color through). Special texture may be added in surface treatment. Each type of tile roof system may make use of separate ridge, hip, hip intersection, gable end and finial accessory tiles of various shapes in addition to field tiles.

Roof deck

NRCA recommends tile roof systems be applied over continuous wood decking. When plywood is used, NRCA recommends the use of a minimum 5/8 thick nominal exterior-grade plywood.

Caution should be exercised when roof decks are constructed out of the following materials:

  • Oriented strand board (OSB): NRCA is concerned with potential fastener-holding problems and dimensional stability because of the effects of moisture where OSB and other nonveneer products are used as roof decking.
  • Preservative-treated wood: Many roofing material manufacturers recommend wood roof decks be constructed with wood that has been treated with a nonoil preservative pressure treatment or with nontreated air- or kiln-dried lumber.
  • Fire-retardant-treated wood: Because of the deterioration of some fire-retardant-treated wood panels caused by premature fire retardant activation caused by heat history in service, the use of fire-retardant-treated wood panel decks should be carefully considered.For some types of tile roofs, batten and counter-batten systems are used to hang tile that has head lugs. Battens are spaced according to the length and exposure of the specified tile. Battens should be fastened to the deck with 8d common, galvanized, corrosion-resistant nails at approximately 12 inches on center.


Underlayment (or "felt paper" as it is frequently called) is installed over the roof deck before the application of tile. An underlayment performs two primary functions: it provides temporary weather protection until the tile is installed, and it provides a secondary weatherproofing barrier if moisture infiltrates the tile roof covering. Many tile roofs have outlived the underlayment felts over which they were installed. Therefore, an underlayment's service life should be comparable to the design service life of the tile roof covering.

Asphalt saturated, nonperforated organic felts are among the most common underlayments; they commonly are designated as Type 15 and Type 30 or referred to as No. 15 and No. 30, which are reflective of a once used pound per square weight designation. The terms Type I and Type II now are used within the industry in lieu of No. 15 or No. 30, respectively.

Another type of underlayment is a synthetic underlayment. It is characterized as being lightweight, water-resistant and less likely to wrinkle; having high tear strength; and being easy to walk on—even when wet. Theoretically, the product may be left exposed to the elements for extended periods of time. Although synthetic underlayments and their purported attributes seem appealing, there are significant issues to consider before using them. To date, there are no applicable ASTM standards for these products. Many synthetic underlayments do not meet current building code requirements, so manufacturers need to obtain a code evaluation report for code compliance.

NRCA recommends a minimum of one layer of No. 30 asphalt-saturated felt applied horizontally in shingle fashion on roof decks having a slope of 10:12 (40 degrees) or more. For roof decks having slopes of 4:12 (18 degrees) up to 10:12 (40 degrees), a minimum of two layers of No. 30 asphalt-saturated underlayment should be applied horizontally in shingle fashion. NRCA does not recommend installing tile roof systems on roof slopes less than 4:12 (18 degrees).

In locations where the average temperature for January is 30º F or less, NRCA suggests installation of an ice-dam protection membrane. An ice-dam protection membrane generally is a self-adhering polymer-modified bitumen membrane.

An ice dam protection membrane should be applied starting at a roof's eaves and extending upslope a minimum of 24 inches from the exterior wall line of a building. For slopes less than 4:12 (18 degrees), NRCA recommends a minimum of 36 inches.

Securement methods

Many different types and combinations of securement methods are used for the various types of roof tile. To select a method of securement, many conditions need to be considered: wind, deck type, seismic considerations, slope, building codes, local practices and manufacturer recommendations. Fasteners should be made of noncorrosive materials that will remain serviceable in the intended environment for the roof's design life.

  • Nails—Nailing is the most common method. NRCA recommends that roofing nails be 11- gauge or 12-gauge galvanized steel or the equivalent corrosion-resistant roofing nails. Nail heads should be low-profile, smooth and flat. Shanks should be barbed or otherwise deformed for added pull-out strength. Nails should be long enough to penetrate through all layers of roofing materials and extend through the underside of the roof deck or penetrate at least 3/4 inch into wood plank or board decks.
  • Wire tie and strapping systems—Hanging tile with wire is used on non-nailable decks, insulated decks or where fastening through metal flashings needs to be avoided.
  • Clips—Nose or butt clips sometimes are used in conjunction with other attachment methods in high-wind or seismic areas.
  • Lug-hung-tile—Many types of tile have formed undersides near their heads that may be hung over a batten. Lug hanging tile usually is used in combination with other securement methods.
  • Bedding Tile—Laying tile in a bed of mortar of foam adhesive is common in some areas of North America where freeze/thaw conditions are not encountered. Bedding often is used in combination with other securement methods.Flashings


Flashings for tile roofs fall into four categories: perimeter edge metal, penetrations, valleys and vertical surfaces. See Figure 2.

  • Perimeter edge metal-depending on the severity of climate, anticipated rainfall and freeze-thaw cycling, the use of perimeter edge metal should be considered.
  • Penetrations-plumbing soil stacks, exhaust vents and pipes are flashed into tile roof systems with some type of flat flange that extends around a penetration and is installed under shingles on the upslope of a flange.
  • Valleys-valleys that are called "open valleys" are typically lined with sheet metal.
  • Vertical surfaces-when a roof system abuts a vertical surface, there are four types of flashing commonly used: apron, step, cricket (or backer) and counterflashing.

​Material standards

Material standards NRCA does not make any recommendations about which tile or manufacturer to use; however, NRCA does recommend clay tile roof coverings meet standards established by ASTM International.

  • ASTM C1167, "Standard Specification for Clay Roof Tiles"
  • ASTM C1492, "Standard Specification for Concrete Roof Tile"Warranties


When purchasing a new roof system, there will be two warranties to consider. First, there will be the manufacturer's warranty. In general, these warranties cover defects in the manufacture of the roof covering. Please read NRCA's consumer advisory bulletin addressing roofing warranties for more information. Once the project is complete, be sure the contractor provides you with a certificate for your records.

Second, the roofing contractor will provide you with a warranty covering his workmanship. Typically, this will cover installation and related issues. The warranty should contain what items are covered and what will void them. Many companies offer one year or two years of coverage; however, there is no industry standard

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