How Do Concrete Tile Roofs Work?

how do concrete tile roofs work

While some roofing systems are simpler to understand than others, concrete tile roofs are more complex to understand and install. So how do concrete tile roofs work? As experienced tile roofing professionals in Colorado, we created this guide to help others understand this fantastic roofing system.

Types of Tile Roofs

There are several types of tile roofs found in Colorado. The most common tile roof type is concrete tile, which is the focus of this guide. Alternatives to concrete include clay tile, slate tile, and synthetic tile (such as DaVinci roofing). Each of these tile options are great long-term roof materials. Concrete tile in particular can last 40 years or longer, and is more budget-friendly than other types of tile. It is more frequently thought of as a residential roof type, but is also a great choice for many commercial and multi-family roofs as well.

How Do Concrete Tile Roofs Work?

Concrete tile roofs are different than other types of roof systems in a few ways. The most common type of roof installed in Colorado is asphalt shingles. Concrete tiles are installed with a much different technique than asphalt shingles.

Tile Roof Underlayment

Choosing the right underlayment for your concrete tile roof is perhaps the most important choice of the entire project. Underlayment has the most important job on tile roofs. Traditionally, 30 pound felt underlayment was the most common underlayment installed in Colorado as part of tile roofing projects. 30 pound felt has strong waterproofing capabilities, but in recent years it has been found to become brittle and prone to tearing, which can allow water to seep under the roof.

The best underlayment to use under a concrete tile roof is high temperature ice and water shield. Ice and water shield is a rubber-modified asphalt underlayment. It is self-adhering to the roof deck, and self-curing to seal itself around roofing nails. It is also not prone to tearing like 30 pound felt is, which is the main reason we recommend high temperature ice and water shield on all tile roofs in Colorado.

Roof Battens

After the underlayment is installed, a system of wood battens are installed on the roof. One option is the traditional batten method of installing vertical battens, and close-spaced horizontal battens over the top. Modern battens include elevated pucks to keep the horizontal battens lifted off the sheathing without needing a vertical batten at all. These are more common at present.

The batten system allows a dedicated wood surface to nail the concrete tiles into. It also elevates the tile off the roof deck, creating a ventilation channel in the roof system. The benefit of this extra roof ventilation is one of the main reasons tile roofs are so popular in Colorado where we receive 300 days of direct sunlight each year.

Tile Roof Flashings

Flashing is also installed after the underlayment. It includes drip edge, sidewall (step) flashing, headwall flashing, and valley flashing. A special piece of flashing used on concrete tile roofs is called an eave riser. It is installed over the drip edge at the eaves to provide closure and support to the bottom row of tiles.

Tile Loading and Installation

With underlayment, battens, and flashings installed, the next step in the concrete tile roof installation is loading the tiles onto the roofs for final installation. Tile loading itself is typically a day-long project and handled by a specialized crew of roof loaders.

Tiles are installed in a manner such that the top of the tile is nailed into the horizontal battens, and the bottom rests on the eave riser or the tile row beneath it. This technique ensures water runoff does not get beneath the tiles. The tiles have channels on the sides that allow them to clip together for a more securely in-place roof system. They are fastened with two nails at the top, which must be 2-inch nails and more often 3-inch nails are used.

Hip, Ridge, and Rake tile installation

After the field tiles are installed, the perimeters of each slope must be sealed with specialized tiles. A ridge-cap tile is installed at all ridge and hip locations to seal the top edge where two slopes intersect. And rake tiles cover the sloped roof edge terminations, removing the need for drip edge to be installed on those sections (drip edge is installed at rake edges on many other types of roof systems).

It is also common at hips and ridges to install a strip of asphaltic underlayment under the ridge cap tiles. This acts as extra waterproofing projection. Many tile roof projects also include mortar to be installed at especially wide joints between tiles for additional security.

Benefits of Concrete Tile Roofs

Some of the benefits of installing a concrete tile roof system are:

  • Design aesthetics. Tile roofs bring a lot of flexibility as to what style a homeowner may want to display. Tile roofs are considered some of the best-looking roofs around.
  • Durability. Concrete tiles are thick, heavy, and tough. They can withstand much of the hail and storm activity we receive in Colorado.
  • Ventilation. As mentioned above, tile roofs have built-in ventilation that may help keep your attic cooler than other roof types. With 300 days of sunshine per year in Colorado, that’s a great benefit.
  • Long lifespan. Concrete tile roofs can last 40+ years. With a great professional installation, like what can be expected from the Sol Vista Roofing team, your tile roof may last 60+ years.
  • High ROI. Because of how long concrete tile roofs last, the total expense will result in an overall savings as compared to other roof systems. Concrete tiles require low maintenance meaning fewer headaches as well.

Are you in need of tile roof repair or replacement at your property? Contact Sol Vista Roofing today to get your project started.