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Clay Tile vs. Concrete Tile

Pondering the pros and cons of clay versus concrete roof tiles? These roofing materials hold merit in their aesthetic allure and robust nature. Clay tiles are celebrated for superior attic temperature control, while concrete tiles are lauded for their robustness. Perplexed about which one to choose? Hang tight. We’re here to assist you!

This roof tile comparison guide will scrutinize these two tile types based on several critical variables like cost, strength, etc. 

Quick look:

clay&concrete comparison

Table of Contents

Principal Insights

  • Clay and concrete tiles vary significantly in shape, cost, and lifespan. While clay tiles have a longevity of approximately 150 years, concrete tiles begin to deteriorate after 40 – 50 years.

  • Clay tiles are the go-to choice for areas that experience heavy rainfall. Unlike concrete tiles, which falter under constant water exposure, clay tiles expertly channel water away without warping.

  • Though concrete tiles deliver a balanced indoor temperature during summer and winter, clay tiles lack this property. Hence, they might necessitate supplemental cooling or ventilation.

  • While clay roof tiles are more susceptible to breaking under heavy loads, concrete tiles boast sturdiness. But that’s only part of the full story – please keep reading for a more nuanced understanding.

Clay Tiles Outline

Samples of clay tiles in different colors

Clay roof tiles are essentially fired mud tiles, shaped into compact rectangles. Their strength remains undiminished, owing to their compressed nature. Piling and crushing clay before molding ensures a smooth, stain-resistant surface on these tiles.

These tiles come in various colors, including red, black, grey, brown, and green, albeit limited. Furthermore, roof tile painting can be employed for more personalized hues.

Concrete Tiles Outline

concrete tiles in various customization options

Born from the robust blend of cement, sand, water, and iron oxide, concrete roof tiles present a potent testament to strength and durability. Their dense and robust nature allows for versatile customization, shaping them into flat or curved configurations without concern over chipping or cracking.

But the allure of concrete tiles extends beyond their strength. They indeed are the chameleons of the roofing world, offering various colors ranging from reds and blues to grays, purples, and the bold contrast of black or white. If you seek an extra touch of distinction, they can be stained or adorned with a veneer to impersonate faux wood or stone.

This versatility and inherent sophistication make concrete roof tiles an excellent choice for adding an edge of elegance to your stately villas and rustic farmhouses.

Aesthetics & Shape

Clay-roof-tiles-properties-and-advantages

The first point of comparison is the visual appeal and shape of these tiles. Clay tiles may lack a bit of pizazz and appear flat and rectangular, but they exhibit a unique curved profile that imparts an old-world charm to roofs.

On the contrary, concrete tiles steal the show if you’re eyeing a more premium roof. These tiles bear a curved and hollow form, akin to halved pipes, allowing them to adapt seamlessly to any flat or pitched roofline.

To summarize, clay tiles exude a plain, vintage, cottage-like vibe. In contrast, concrete ones offer a modern appeal, perfect for plush villas. Choose the one that caters to your roofing needs the best.

Pro tip:

Opt for brushed concrete tiles for a vintage appeal or textured ones for a contemporary aesthetic.

Accessibility

clay tile in rain

Clay tiles may only sometimes be readily available, particularly during the rainy season. This limitation is because clay is a naturally sourced material that requires sunlight to dry.

On the other hand, concrete tiles are manufactured on a large scale and aren’t dependent on climatic conditions. Hence, they are ubiquitously available.

Clay tiles are ideally suited for sunnier locales like Hawaii and Florida. Using them elsewhere might delay roofing projects and rack up transport costs.

Pro tip:

If clay roof tiles are unavailable, consider faux wood tiles with a terracotta finish as an alternative.

Cost

Clay tiles usually cost between $7.8 – 15 per square foot, plus an additional $3 per square foot for labor. Therefore, the total roofing expense for a mid-sized roof could range from $35,000 – 42,000.

In contrast, concrete tiles are more pocket-friendly, costing between $4 – 7 per square foot. The overall roofing cost, including sealing, is approximately $12,000 – 15,000. Regular repairs are also less pricey, roughly half the cost of maintaining a clay roof.

Pro tip:

Opt for flat or low-profile clay tiles to expedite installation and lower labor charges to $1 – 2.

Durability

clay tile durability

Both clay and concrete tiles are robust and thick. Still, clay tiles offer superior durability, maintaining their color and finish for 100 – 150 years. These tiles resist dust, UV rays, and surface stains, mirroring the enduring nature of plastic.

Clay tiles can also resist heavy rainfall, saving your roof from unwelcome leakages, fungal growth, and pest invasions. 

Concrete roof tiles, on the other hand, have a lifespan of about 30 – 50 years. They might absorb moisture, become uneven, and cause roofline disruptions. However, applying roof flashing and cement can bolster their defense against moderate rainfalls, mitigating this issue.

Their primary downsides are their brittle nature and porosity. Concrete tiles are prone to dust and salt absorption, leading to eventual fading. Moreover, they may fracture under heavy loads, necessitating frequent replacements. Hence, they are best avoided in coastal and rural regions.

Pro tip:

To reduce dust accumulation and simplify cleaning, apply 2-3 coats of enamel over your concrete tiles.

Climate & Temperature Suitability

Ever wondered why clay roofs are scarce in snow-prone areas? They tend to fracture in cold conditions, but an asphalt coating can help them withstand light snowfall.

Concrete tiles are more adaptable to varying temperatures. This is because concrete neither expands nor contracts like clay and is less prone to breakage. However, it’s best to refrain from using them in humid areas due to potential warping and deformation.

Pro tip:

To decrease water absorption in tropical regions, spray neem oil over the concrete tiles.

Weight

Both clay and concrete tiles are heavy and require robust rafters for support. However, being twice as heavy as clay tiles, concrete tiles pose a more significant challenge.

Clay roof tiles weigh approximately 6  6.5 lbs per square foot, while concrete tiles range from 8.5  11 lbs per square foot. It’s advisable to avoid using concrete tiles on older roofs or garages.

Pro tip:

Utilize flat or attic roof trusses to support the weight of heavy concrete roof tiles.

Installation Ease

Installing_Cement_Tile_Floors

Clay tiles are notoriously challenging to install, and their fragility prevents one from walking on them during placement, as they could break.

Conversely, concrete tiles are much simpler to place and fit. One can easily walk on these tiles, and they can be secured with screws or adhesive as per convenience.

Pro tip:

Opt for lightweight Cedar or Spanish concrete roof tiles to simplify installation.

Insulation

Roof tile insulation is another critical consideration. Thanks to their super-tight surfaces, clay tiles provide better insulation than concrete tiles, with more significant gaps that increase airflow and potentially affect the attic temperature.

Clay tiles are your best bet for effective noise and UV absorption, as well as superior humidity and wind control in forested or coastal areas. Just ensure you opt for Class-A-rated clay tiles for optimal results.

Pro tip:

To enhance heat retention, add fillers, rubber strips, or sealants between the concrete tiles.

Water Absorption & Porosity

Tile porosity is directly proportional to the roughness of its finish. Hence, the rougher concrete tiles tend to be more porous, absorbing water up to 12-13% of their volume. This increased water absorption makes them more susceptible to dampness, fungal growth, and pest infestation.

In contrast, clay tiles absorb water up to 6% of their volume due to their baked nature. Consequently, they provide superior protection against dampness and pests.

Maintenance & Repair

Maintenance & Repair

When it comes to maintenance and repairs, clay tiles demand less attention. They do not necessitate regular cleaning and rarely suffer from color fading. However, when a clay tile gets damaged, the entire tile must be replaced, leading to higher repair costs.

Conversely, concrete tiles require routine checks and cleaning to prevent dirt, moss, and algae accumulation. As these tiles absorb more water, they may warp over time, affecting the roof’s structure. However, the repair costs for concrete tiles are typically lower as you only need to replace the damaged part, not the whole tile.

Pro tip:

For the longevity of your concrete roof, ensure routine checks and timely repairs. Apply sealants annually to avoid water absorption.

Conclusion

In conclusion, both clay and concrete roof tiles have their unique advantages. Clay tiles, with their long lifespan, good insulation, and less porous nature, are ideal for homes in warmer, drier climates. On the other hand, concrete tiles, with their cost-effectiveness, easier installation, and ability to withstand varied temperature ranges, are suitable for houses in colder climates with controlled humidity.

It ultimately depends on your personal preference, location, and budget. Whichever roofing material you choose, ensure you hire a skilled professional for installation and conduct regular maintenance checks to prolong your roof’s lifespan.

This extensive guide has offered you some valuable insights. Feel free to ask if you have further questions or need more information.

clay tile and sky
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