Clay tile is one of the oldest known manufactured roofing materials. Today, tile roofs are often a hallmark of classical architectural styles. Mediterranean and Spanish inspired buildings are topped with terracotta tiles. Traditional Chinese architecture also makes heavy use of clay tiles. More recently, concrete tiles have come onto the market. While concrete and clay tiles are different in many ways, concrete has become a stiff competitor to the older roofing material. Concrete tiles can be made to look like all different types of clay tile, as well as many other roofing materials. So if you’ve decided to use tiles for your new roof, choosing concrete or clay is not an easy choice. To help with your decision, Eagle Watch Roofing offers this guide to clay tile vs.concrete tile.
What is Clay Tile?
Clay tile in its simplest form has been in use for over four thousand years. Initially, it was an excellent replacement for easily-combustible thatched roofs. In ancient Greece and the Middle East, it was used on temples and other expensive buildings. Clay tiles were also popular in ancient China, where they were also used first on temples and royal residences. By 2,000 years ago, clay tile had become a common roofing material even for residences. Its durability and beauty made it highly desirable. Ever since then, clay tile has remained in high demand throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Clay tile was originally made by hand. Each tile was hand-shaped and set to dry in the sun. The dried tiles were then fired in a kiln. In the mid-1800s, tile makers developed technologies to speed up tile formation with machines. Today, almost all clay tiles are machine made.
The firing of the clay tile is essential to the final product. The density, permeability, and even color of the final clay tile are affected by the temperature of the kiln and how long the tile is heated. Many tiles are used in their natural state, with an earthy hue deriving from the natural color of the clay. One of the most common earth tones for clay tiles is terracotta. However, enamels can be added to create clay tiles of almost any color.
Traditional clay tiles come in a few classic styles. However, modern clay tiles have been developed to mimic the look of some other roofing materials, such as slate and wood. Ludowici has been manufacturing high-end clay tiles since 1888 and is one of the most well-known and well-respected manufacturers in the U.S. They offer a wide variety of both classical and modern styles.
What is Concrete Tile?
While clay tile has a history thousands of years long, concrete tile did not appear until the 20th century. Concrete tile is made of sand, cement, and water. To create their shape, the tiles are molded under heat and pressure. Concrete tiles can be finished in a wide array of colors.
Concrete tiles come in a variety of shapes and colors and are usually meant to mimic the appearance of other materials. They can look like slate, clay tiles, wood shake, and even asphalt shingles.
Comparing Cost of Concrete Tiles and Clay Tiles
Neither concrete tiles or clay tiles are a cheap roofing material. If you want cheap, asphalt shingles are the way to go. But what concrete and clay tile lack in upfront savings, they make up for in long-term value. However, there is a big difference in cost between concrete and clay tile.
Clay tile is typically more expensive than concrete tile. The actual price depends on the type of tile you select, the particulars of your roof, and the region you are in. A clay tile roof can cost from $11 to $25 per square foot installed. Expect Concrete to cost about 40% less. There is a significant difference in the quality of clay tiles. Cheap and mid-range clay tiles will fall in the $11 to $25 range per square foot. However, some high-end clay tiles are custom made by artisans and can cost much more.
Another cost to consider when comparing concrete and clay tile is the cost of shipping. Both concrete and clay tile are heavy so shipping can become a significant cost. Concrete is a manufactured material and is more widely available, so it is less likely you will have to ship the tiles very far. Clay tiles are manufactured where the right kind of clay is naturally available. The Ohio River Valley, North Georgia, and Upstate New York are all homes to clay tile manufacturing. If you live outside of those areas, expect to pay extra to get the tiles to your home.
Durability of Concrete Tiles versus Clay Tiles
Durability is a major selling point of both concrete and clay tiles. The exact expected lifetime of your tiles depends on how they are made. Some low-end clay and concrete tiles may be warrantied for only 50 years. However, good-quality concrete and clay-tile can both last 75 years or longer. Eagle Roofing Products, one of the top manufacturers of concrete roofing tiles, offers a limited lifetime warranty that extends for the life of the structure.
Both concrete and tile are impervious to rot and insects and both are basically fireproof. They have excellent wind-ratings and can stand up to hurricane-force winds if installed properly. They are also highly resistant to hail damage. If hail is large enough, it can damage any roofing material. However, at any given size of hail, the damage to a tile roof will be significantly less than on roofs of another material.
Color retention depends on how your tile was colored. A clay tile roof that was colored with a ceramic finish will maintain its color with almost no fading. Colored concrete tile tends to fade somewhat over time. It is also porous, and so it can develop mildew and staining over time. Naturally-colored tile and terracotta will not fade, but can darken as it weathers.
Both concrete and clay tile provide excellent energy efficiency and sustainability benefits. When the tiles are installed, space is left between the tile and the underlayment. That space allows air to circulate, which greatly reduces heat transfer from the tile to the structure below. In cold climates, the added circulation can also help prevent ice dam formation.
Clay tiles are made of a natural earth-based material. They don’t require harvesting of lumber or other resources, and they are completely recyclable.
One of the main reasons for choosing any kind of tile is curb appeal. Traditional clay tile is a sought-after look for many types of homes. Mission-style stucco homes wouldn’t look right without a terracotta tile roof. For a classic European look, many homeowners turn to traditional Dutch tile styles. Other Mediterranean styles, such as Italian and Greek revival, also demand tile.
Concrete tile is often a more durable or cheaper alternative for another desired style. For instance, concrete can mimic terracotta at a lower price. For homeowners who want the look of slate without the premium cost, concrete tile is also a great solution. Concrete tile can also mimic the look of wood shake without the durability issues that come with a wooden roofing product.
If you are considering a tile roof for your home, contact Eagle Watch Roofing today. We’ll schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss which type of tile is best for your home. We encourage you to explore a range of styles and materials to make the very best choice. And we’ll be with you every step of the way, to ensure that you get the roof of your dreams.