Tile roofs offer an elegant style lasting 50 years or more without the plain look of asphalt shingles. They come in various styles, materials, colors, and price points for every home and every budget. This guide offers all there is to know about roof tiles so you can choose the best type for your home.
What is a roof tile?
Roof tiles attach, overlapping, to a sloping roof deck to protect a house from the elements. Traditionally, roof tiles were made from local materials like clay or slate. Today, when most people hear the term roof tile, they think of the orange clay of the southwest, but modern roof tiles are so much more than that.
Roof tiles are available in concrete, metal, and composite materials in various colors and designs. So, your home doesn't have to be adobe style to look good under a tile roof. From slate on a Victorian farmhouse to metal shingles on a suburban ranch, roof tiles exist to complement any home.
Except for composite tiles, roofing tile materials decompose when discarded. Composite tiles are made of recycled plastic that would otherwise fill landfills. Asphalt shingles are made from petroleum by-products and only last for 15 to 20 years. So, if you want to move away from the ubiquitous asphalt shingle, roof tiles last decades longer than shingles and are more eco-friendly.
Also, tile roofs are more energy-efficient than asphalt shingles in three ways. They are highly reflective, absorbing less heat from the sun. They have a greater thermal mass, so the heat they absorb stays in the tile rather than transferred into the attic. Their design creates more airflow, which enhances ventilation.
Besides their high cost, the only downside to roofing tiles is weight. Except for aluminum tiles, most roof tiles are extremely heavy and require a reinforced roof structure to hold their weight.
Average cost of roof tiles
The average cost of roof tiles is 150% more than that of asphalt shingles, depending on the materials.
Average cost to replace 1,700 sq. ft roof
$9,484 to $16,351
$13,684 to $25,467
$19,341 to $35,996
$28,369 to $52,797
Asphalt shingles are more economical than tile, costing about $150 to $400 per square. But clay tiles can cost from $400 to $1,600 per square, depending on the manufacturer and type of tile.
Most popular roof tile materials: concrete, clay, and slate
The most popular roof tile material is concrete, according to Mike Halliday, owner of Halliday Brothers Contracting in Arizona. "Eighty percent of our jobs are concrete," he says. He attributes that mainly to cost.
But, despite their high price tag, clay is the second most popular choice for roofing tiles, followed by slate. Here is a list of the most common roof tile materials with the pros and cons of each.
Concrete roof tiles
Concrete roof tiles pros and cons
|75 years when properly maintained||Eco-friendly||More expensive than asphalt shingles|
|Long-lasting||Heavy, requires a reinforced roof|
|Many colors and designs|
|Less expensive than clay|
You can purchase concrete roof tiles that resemble clay tiles, wood shakes, or slate in many textures and colors. Concrete tiles can withstand winds up to 180 mph, have a Class 3 or 4 hail rating, and must pass freeze-thaw requirements. Because concrete is heavy, your roof structure must be able to withstand the weight of the tiles. A roofing company with plenty of experience installing concrete roof tiles is essential for this project.
Clay roof tiles
Clay roof tiles pros and cons
|75 years when properly maintained||Long lifespan||Fragile, can't walk on|
|Versatile colors and styles||Very expensive|
Clay roof tiles are popular in Florida, Arizona, and California. When clay tiles have the traditional barrel shape and terra cotta color, they give a home a natural, adobe, or Mediterranean vibe, especially when paired with stucco siding. Clay tile profiles include those for a barrel roof, shingle, shake, or flat tiles, interlocking tiles, and graduated tiles to fit domes and curves.
However, clay tiles are fragile. "They're like potato chips," says Halliday. He adds that they're harder to install than alternatives and are expensive. He shared one customer's story. The material cost to cover their roof in concrete tiles was $8,000. "Traditional clay tiles to cover the same roof cost $28,000," he says.
Slate roof tiles
Image source: American Slate
Slate roof tiles pros and cons
|Over 100 years when properly maintained||Lifespan||Heavy, requires a reinforced roof|
|Weather resistant||Extremely expensive|
A slate roof adds a distinguishing feature to any home, but it's more than gorgeous. Slate is durable, withstanding the ravages of wind and moisture. Because it is non-absorbent, it resists the growth of moss and algae. It's low-maintenance and resists staining, and it's eco-friendly.
However, slate is heavy. So, if your home has an asphalt shingle roof currently, it will need reinforcing to be able to hold the weight of slate. It’s also expensive. Compared to asphalt shingles, which cost hundreds of dollars per square to replace, slate costs as much as $3,000 per square.
Metal roof tiles
Image source: Classic Metal Roofing
Metal roof tiles pros and cons
|40 years||Wind and impact-resistant||Costs more than shingles|
|Lightweight||Takes longer to install|
|Comes in many styles|
Metal roofing tiles are made of recycled aluminum or steel and mimic the look of clay barrel tiles, slate, and shingles. Metal is a low-weight alternative to other natural materials. For example, aluminum tiles weigh as little as 40 pounds per square, whereas clay tiles weigh as much as 2,000 pounds per square. Furthermore, metal is fire resistant, making it a suitable roofing material for areas prone to wildfires.
A variety of coatings provide various colors and textures to metal. From high-performance, resin-based finishes to a waterproof stone coating, metal tiles offer a cornucopia of visual options.
Composite roof tiles
Image source: Brava Roof Tile
Composite roof tiles pros and cons
|50 years||Uses recycled materials||More expensive than asphalt shingles|
|Is recyclable||Relatively new technology hasn't stood the test of time|
|Weather and rot-resistant|
|Comes in many styles and colors|
Composite roof tile manufacturers creatively turn plastic heading to landfills into roofing products that rival all-natural materials. Composite roofing is durable and lightweight, and you can install it on any roof without any modifications.
You can find composite roofing that resembles cedar shakes, slate, or Spanish barrel tiles. Top products carry a Class A fire rating and a Class 4 hail and storm damage rating and require no maintenance. While top manufacturers make quality tiles, beware of flimsy products prone to cracking.
Solar roof tiles
Image source: Tesla
Solar roof tiles pros and cons
|25 years||Reduce carbon footprint||Expensive|
|Save on electric bills||Efficiency dependent on roof orientation|
|Improved curb appeal over panels||Not suitable for all roof coverings|
If you want solar power but hate the look of panels on top of a house, solar roof tiles could be the answer. Unlike panels, solar roof tiles integrate flush with the roof covering to create a smoother appearance. You can install them with new or existing asphalt shingle or concrete tile roofing, depending on the brands. Solar roof tile brands include GAF Timberline, Certainteed, Tesla, SunTegra, and Luma.
Solar roof tiles will reduce your carbon footprint, save money on energy bills, and improve your home's curb appeal. However, their efficiency depends on the roof's orientation, and they're expensive.
Most popular roof tile styles and shapes
Roof tiles come curved or flat. Flat tiles resemble shingles or shakes. Terms you'll hear include flat shingle tiles or shake tiles. Slate tiles are flat. Scalloped tiles are flat with a rounded edge, like a scallop sea shell.
Curved tiles have varying degrees of an S shape and are called barrel tiles. Some types are deeper than others. On others, flat spaces divide the curves. Terms you'll hear include Spanish, Mediterranean, French, or Mission tiles.
Interlocking tiles aren't a particular shape or profile. Interlocking refers to their installation. Graduated or tapered tiles are specially cut to fit around curves in roofs or over domed structures.
Matching tiles on historic homes
Homeowners who purchase old, historic homes with clay or slate tiles may need help matching the tile. According to Halliday, many U.S. tile manufacturers went out of business after the 2008 recession. So, if you have cracked tiles or want to add to the home, you'll need to work with the contractor to find roof materials that match or complement the existing tiles.
Halliday describes "tile graveyards," a salvage yard dedicated to tile. He explains that when a homeowner replaces an entire roof, they sell the old tiles, still in good condition, to the tile graveyards to recoup some of the expense of buying new tiles. Often, homeowners who need to match a historic tile search through these yards. "We'll match it with the closest possible," he says. "It's more important to match the thickness and fit than the color. If it fits, we can stain it to match the color."
Popular brands of roof tiles
If you need help choosing a brand of roof tiles for your home, here are some top U.S. manufacturers to choose from.
Brava composite tiles come in three styles: cedar shake, slate, or Spanish barrel tile. The shakes have the authentic rustic look of split wood and come in 11 color variations. Brava's synthetic slate tiles are more affordable than natural slate, and they weigh much less, making them suitable for most homes. Available in 11 color variations, they have the elegance of natural slate for a lower cost. Finally, just as beautiful as traditional clay barrel tile, Brava's Spanish barrel tile roofing is a lightweight alternative available in 13 colors.
Classic Metal Roofing
Classic Metal Roofing makes shakes, shingles, barrel tiles, and interlocking tiles of up to 99 percent recycled aluminum in the USA. Its products are coated with a specialized finish to withstand UV exposure in various colors and textures.
Eagle Roofing Products
Eagle Roofing manufactures concrete roof tile in at least five different profiles in rich colors and textures to complement any home style. Founded in 1989, Eagle is the largest concrete roof tile manufacturer in the U.S.
Ludowici has made high-quality clay tiles in Ohio for over 130 years. Styles include barrel, flat shingle or shake, interlocking, slate, and graduated for a tapered roof. They also create custom tiles for historical applications and import their Old World Collection from France.
American Slate Company
American Slate produces slate tiles from natural stone harvested from fair-labor quarries worldwide but manufactured in multiple locations in the U.S. Its handcrafted, one-of-a-kind tile includes over 60 natural colors and textures.
Can I DIY a tile roof?
When it comes to roofing, installing a tile roof is a specialized niche that requires knowledge, expertise, and particular tools. The weight of some tiles can compromise the integrity of the home's structure if the roof framing isn't adequate. Some materials are suitable for certain roof styles and slopes, while others are not.
You may have replaced your own asphalt shingle roof, but tile is different. "You need a decent amount of training," says Halliday. "It's not like shingles." If you need a tile roof replacement, it's better to find a roofing professional you can trust to do this home improvement project for you.
Where to find a tile roofing contractor
The best way to find any home improvement contractor is by word of mouth. If someone in your neighborhood recently had a tile roof replacement, ask who they used. If your friends and family come up short, let us connect you with a tile roofing contractor in your area.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
How long do roof tiles last?
That depends on the material. Coating warranties for metal tiles are typically 40 years. But slate roofs can last 100 years or more.
Can you walk on a tile roof?
Again, that depends on the material. Clay tile roofs are not conducive to foot traffic. The clay is very brittle and will crack. However, you can walk on roofs with more durable materials like concrete or composite tiles.
Can you paint roof tiles?
Yes. Except Halliday warns, you won't have the color striations found in the original tiles.