These days, roof tiles are not only made by local manufacturers using clay taken from the immediate vicinity and so there is a far wider range of styles on the market. For instance, in the East of England ‘S-shaped’ overlapping pantiles, believed to have originated from the Netherlands, remain popular, where they provide a soft and flowing roofscape.
Roman interlocking clay tiles are also a popular option for customers wanting an undulating roof tile. One advantage of the larger size and interlocking nature of these tiles is that they can be used on roofs with a much lower pitch.
Intrinsically English traditional plain tiles are probably still the most versatile form of clay tiles. Available in smoothfaced or sandfaced (more rustic) formats, they are suitable for most types of ‘normal pitched’ roofs and can also be hung vertically for decorative effect. Their pre-formed nibs not only make them easier to fix, but they can easily accommodate curved roofs and special features with intricate details, including turrets and dormers. They can also be combined with ornamental tiles such as fishtail, bullnose or club tiles to create striking decorative patterns.
Making the choice
One of the most important considerations for any self-builder or home improver is whether to choose handmade or machine made tiles. Being individually made, handmade roof tiles have a unique character with a subtle variation in colour, texture and particularly camber (curve) so that no two tiles are exactly the same. Machine made options, however, are much more uniform and regular in appearance, but being mass-produced can offer economic advantages if you are working to a tight budget.
Before deciding on a specific type or style of roof tile, it is always important to be guided by the local architecture of the area. For instance, when building in a conservation area, planners will often insist on handmade tiles. Second hand reclaimed handmade tiles have traditionally been favoured in restoration projects, but sourcing suitable reclaims can be expensive and their quality cannot necessarily be guaranteed. In many respects, new handmade plain tiles can be more practical and cost-effective, particularly when restoring large areas of roof, provided that they are like-for-like.
As the British winter can take a heavy toll on clay tiles, it is important that your new tiles conform to BS EN Standards for strength and frost resistance and come with a manufacturer’s guarantee of at least 25 years. Customers should also consider the environmental credentials of the materials and manufacturing processes involved, including the energy required for their transportation, particularly if they are imported.
Whether building a new home or restoring an existing property, choosing roof tiles represents a unique opportunity to create a truly lasting impression. As the actual tiles represent a relatively small proportion of the overall build cost of a roof (which is largely labour costs, scaffolding, roof timbers, battens, breathable membranes etc.), it’s worth getting the best quality roof tiles you can afford!