12 May 2019

A guide to clay roofing tiles

Clay roof tiles remain as popular as ever, adding a beautiful finishing touch to the roof of any home. Roof Stores’ clay roof tile guide will tell you everything you need to know about clay tiles. From durability and weight, through to cost, read on for a comprehensive insight into clay tiles.


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Clay tiles have been in use for thousands of years, with early remnants of their use found as far back as 3000 BC. That they are continued to be used today is quite remarkable and aside from the strong protection they provide, one of the primary reasons they remain so popular is because of their aesthetic appeal.

Right across the Mediterranean, clay tiles are the preferred choice. They also add a naturalistic appeal to historic and more traditional properties in the UK. The terracotta colour is most commonly associated with clay tiles, although they also come in other shades including white, brown and orange.

The iconic colour of the tiles can be maintained for decades, and any additional colour bonded to the clay will not fade or peel over time due to the high temperatures used in the kiln. Manufacturers are confident enough about this to offer a 50-year warranty on the durability of the colour.

In terms of shape and design, clay offers great flexibility and manufacturers are able to supply clay tiles to meet almost any requirement. From low to high pitch roofs they can incorporate a range of different styles to emulate other variants of tile to match existing designs and materials.

How much do clay roof tiles weigh?

Clay tiles can weigh between 30 - 65kg per m² depending on the brand you choose, making them lighter than their concrete counterparts. This is also an important point to remember when taking into account rainwater retention over sustained periods. An absorption rate of 6% means they take in less water than concrete tiles and the extra weight will have no impact on the support structure underneath.

How long do clay roof tiles last?

There are three stages to the lifespan of clay tiles. Firstly there is the manufacturer’s warranty which will typically last for 30 years. Of course, they are being cautious with this estimate as it is well known in the industry that clay tiles will usually last for at least twice as long as this. In many cases, clay tiles will remain intact beyond 60 years and have been known to remain on some historic buildings for centuries.

These estimates are based on average weather conditions that will expose clay tiles to normal levels of rain, sun, sleet and wind. It should be noted that in more hostile environments their durability may be shorter. Their lifespan also depends on how well the tiles are maintained are over time, along with the replacement of damaged tiles and an annual roof clean to remove mould and algae.

What is the minimum roof pitch for clay tiles?

First of all, let’s explain what a roof pitch means in regards to the roof structure of your home. This element of the design is to ensure the roof covering remains watertight by determining the lowest possible angle at which it can be laid. For many years 20° was recommended as the minimum pitch for clay tiles but this has decreased in the modern era down to 15°. Anything lower than this angle is rare and although there are specific products that can go lower, 15° is the most common minimum angle for clay tiles.

As an example of this, Sandtoft’s 20/20 tile can be laid on pitches as low as 15°. It also uses an interlocking mechanism that makes it easier to install and is half the weight of concrete tiles and 40% lighter than traditional clay tiles. This has a knock-on effect on the underlay structure which will also require fewer battens, cutting costs and completion times further.

How much do clay roof tiles cost?

This section is intended to provide you with an idea of the level of pricing for clay roof tiles which can range from: £0.42 per tile to upwards of £20 for more specialised products.

As with any renovation or building project, a balance between aesthetic appeal and cost-effectiveness has to found. It is extremely rare to find a project with no limit to its budget, so spending wisely and purchasing clay tiles that add value to the building design is always important. Aside from their protective attributes, clay tiles may be used for specific builds by homeowners or developers, but while clay tiles are always more expensive than concrete, there are options available to minimise the cost difference.

Clay tile cost options

Machine made clay tiles will on average cost only 10% more than concrete tiles and this difference is likely to reduce further as the manufacturing process continues to become leaner.

Handcrafted tiles are not quite as man-made as the title suggests. While more expensive than machine-made clay tiles, technology is still involved in manufacturing until they are fired in the kiln before a hand-finish is applied to produce an authentic look.

The third option – and the most expensive – are handmade tiles. While the cost is higher, the natural rustic appearance these tiles offer is simply unbeatable. If your budget can extend to using these, or the aesthetic appeal of the property is of more importance, then handmade clay tiles are a must.

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