06 Apr 2018

How to ensure your handmade tiles are the real deal


There are many considerations to address when sourcing materials for re-roofing a listed property or other historically significant buildings. It is usual to be specified to use a handmade clay tile. Here Tony Kindell, Managing Director at Aldershaw Handmade Tiles, discusses how to ensure the handmade tiles you buy aren’t, in fact, factory-made.

There are many tiles that state ‘handmade’, but many imported tiles are clearly machine-made – despite their description. A truly handmade tile is not extruded – manufacturers of handmade tiles employ traditional handmaking methods using wooden moulds to recreate copies from original samples or drawings. Where the original no longer exists, the manufacturer has the expertise to create it and, where the original cannot be improved upon, copies can be reproduced in a varied range of tiles and fittings for the construction of new buildings.

Ventilation tiles may be needed where the roof is mainly unlined (unfelted) and may require a three-piece ventilation set. Secondly, a slotted ridge ventilator and, lastly, a ventilation unit and adapter which can be clad in a clay tile of the same colour as your roof, this tile unit can be connected to a soil pipe or extractor fan outlet for almost invisible ventilation.

A specified handmade tiled roof is usually required to meet planning and conservation standards and the pitch of the roof is important. A roof on a low pitch allows the weather to abuse the handmade tile in a potentially damaging way, unlike the steep pitches of yesteryear.


The majority of handmade manufacturers will agree for technical reasons a minimum pitch of 40° is fine; but for the realistic enjoyment of a beautiful roof, a steeper pitch affords such an experience. It is possible to have a single colour tiled roof, but this may give a rather stark appearance, notwithstanding a natural variation in colour, it may lack the subtlety of a blend of tiles, which the use of two or three colours of tiles might give; but ensure that the roofer applies them randomly.

Over a century ago most tiles were made as ‘peg’ tiles i.e. they had no nibs from which a modern tile is hung, just two holes usually square through each of which a wooden peg is pressed and the tile was hung from these pegs. During 1477, a royal statute was issued to attempt to standardise tile sizes in England to 10 ½ x 6 ¼" which is very close to the current standard today of 10 ½ x 6 ½".

However, some areas of the country steadfastly stuck to their regional sizes in defiance. Leicester maintained the sizes of 11 x 7", Kent 10 x 6" and some areas of East Sussex seem to be 9 ½ X 6 ¼".

Although these differences may seem small they are in fact recognisable and when repair or extension work is being carried out it is desirable to use the correct size. Your handmade manufacturer will be sensitive to these issues and be able to help you through your project.


A peg roof may be specified if the underside of the roof is unclad – the pegs being visible to the onlooker. Where a standard peg is specified but the roof is clad, then using a nib tile will produce the same external effect and be less expensive.

In general, a nib tiled roof is the most usual. Nibs and standard pegs are set on a gauge of 4"; 60 to the square metre. Handmade tiles and fittings combine the best of all possible worlds – the beauty of the past with the durability of the new.

Second-hand tiles may be similarly priced to new, and may be at the end of a useful life weathered from the roof where they have rested for decades.

Conversely, a new handmade tile is just at the beginning of a beautiful asset. In keeping with a time-honoured and traditional approach to business, staff at a handmade manufacturer are skilled at providing an informed and personal service to customers.

In addition to their product range, a competent handmade manufacturer can be relied upon to produce that special shape, colour or size for your project – no matter how few are required.

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