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Clay Roof Tiles Buyer's Guide

A clay roof tile is a roofing material made from fired clay. It is a traditional roofing material used for centuries in many parts of the world. Clay roof tiles are known for their durability, fire resistance, and aesthetic appeal.

Clay roof tiles are made by mixing clay with water and then shaping the mixture into tiles. The tiles are then fired in a kiln at high temperatures. This process causes the clay to harden and become waterproof.

Clay tiles are popular among homeowners and DIYers who want a durable, attractive, low-maintenance roofing material.

In this helpful clay roof tiles buyer's guide, we are here to educate you with everything you need to know about clay roof tiles and help you decide whether it is a good choice for your property. 

What are clay roof tiles used for?

In the UK, clay tiles are commonly used for roofing applications, particularly in traditional and historic architecture. The country's architectural heritage is rich, with buildings adorned with clay tile roofs, adding charm and character to villages, towns, and cities nationwide.

The use of clay tiles in the UK can be traced back centuries, with many historic buildings still maintaining their original clay tile roofs. This enduring popularity is due to the tiles' ability to withstand the country's often damp and variable weather conditions. 

Many homeowners and builders continue to choose clay tiles for their new constructions and restoration projects, keeping the tradition alive.

Besides roofing, clay tiles may also be used for decorative purposes, such as enhancing the facades of buildings or creating ornate designs in gardens and public spaces. 

Types of clay roof tiles

Clay tiles come in various types, each with unique characteristics and applications. Some common types of clay tiles include:

Pan Tiles

Pan clay tiles are simple and wavy-shaped tiles used for roofing. They are laid in overlapping rows to create a waterproof and weather-resistant roof. 

Roman Tiles

Roman roof tiles used roofing materials to cover their buildings, particularly in the period of the Roman Empire.

The Double Roman represents a timeless roof tile design featuring a sleek profile and a subtle rounded roll. Its versatility makes it ideal for many roof styles, seamlessly blending traditional and contemporary aesthetics.

Mission Tiles

Mission tiles, referred to as barrel-style tiles, are installed in pairs, with the top tile overlapping the lower one in neat rows or with mortar for a more rustic appearance. These tiles typically measure 8″-12″ in width and 16″-19″ in length.

From Classical Antiquity, mission tiles have gained immense popularity in the Northern Mediterranean region. The picturesque Roman and Greek profile barrel-style tiles are prevalent in many areas of the United Kingdom.

Plain Tiles

Spanish tiles are single-piece, high-profile tiles that look similar to Mission tiles but with more straightforward installation. Their design eliminates the need for fitting pairs, making them cost-effective, particularly if you plan on handling the installation yourself.

The most prevalent size for Spanish tiles is 13″ wide and 16 1/2″ long, though you can readily find other sizes like 9″ by 14″ as well.

French Tiles

French tiles are known for their interlocking, low-profile design, distinguished by two groove-shaped ribs that enhance drainage. It also creates a unique visual appeal and makes French tiles one of the most distinctive roof tile styles.

These tiles are typically installed in a single layer, with a 3″ roof tile overlap, answering the question of how much the tiles should overlap for this particular type.

Regarding dimensions, most French tiles come in sizes ranging from 9″ to 13″ in width and 11″ to 16″ in length.

Flat Interlocking Tiles

Interlocking clay roof tiles feature a design that allows them to fit together securely. The interlocking mechanism helps create a solid and weather-resistant roof as the tiles lock into place, reducing the risk of water leakage and providing enhanced stability.

These tiles are commonly used in various architectural styles and are known for their durability, longevity, and aesthetic appeal. They are popular in many regions due to their ability to withstand harsh weather conditions and classic and timeless appearance.

What are the pros and cons of clay tiles?

Clay tiles are quite popular in the UK due to their varied features. As mentioned above, different clay roof tiles are available for your roof.

First, clay roof tiles are long-lasting, which many homeowners look for. They have been known to last up to 50 years. Clay tiles hardly get mildew or moss and require minimal maintenance.

The only disadvantage of clay tiles I can draw upon is the cost. Clay roof tiles are generally more expensive than concrete roof tiles and dramatically increase the cost of roof build. 

What is the minimum roof pitch for clay tiles?

Minimum pitch for roof tiles refers to the lowest angle at which the tiles can be installed while ensuring adequate water drainage and preventing leaks.

The minimum roof pitch for traditional clay tiles is typically around 20 to 35 degrees. Some modern clay tiles may allow for lower angles, around 15 degrees, but checking the manufacturer's specifications for the specific product you are considering is essential. Below is the list of standard clay tiles and their potential minimum roof pitches:

Cost of clay roof tiles

The price of clay roof tiles can vary depending on the type of tile, the size, and the region where the tile is purchased. Traditionally, clay roof tiles were more expensive than other types of roof tiles, such as concrete roof tiles.

Below, the table shows the price range of Spicer, Marley, Sandtoft, BMI Redland, Dreadnought, Russell and Heritage clay tiles

Brand Price per tile (£) Price per square metre (£)
Spicer Roof Tiles £0.60-£1.00 £10.20-£14.60
Marley Roof Tiles £0.90-£1.30 £13.20-£18.90
Sandtoft Roof Tiles £0.70-£1.20 £11.20-£16.80
BMI Redland Roof Tiles £0.80-£1.10 £12.40-£15.70
Heritage Roof Tiles £1.00-£1.50 £14.60-£21.50
Dreadnought Roof Tiles £0.65 - £1.00 £40 - £60
Russell Roof Tiles £0.50 - £0.85 £30 - £51

How do you fasten clay roof tiles?

Clay roof tiles are typically fastened to the roof structure using one of the following standard methods:

Nails: Roofing nails are commonly used to secure clay roof tiles. The pins are typically galvanised steel or copper to resist rust and corrosion. Nails are driven through the top of the tile and into the roof deck or battens.

Hooks: Some clay roof tiles have built-in clips or lugs that allow them to interlock with each other. These hooks help to hold the tiles in place and prevent them from slipping or lifting in strong winds.

Wire or Wire Twists: In some cases, wire or wire twists may be used to secure the tiles to the roof. This method is more common in regions with specific traditional roofing practices.

Regardless of the fastening method, it's essential to ensure the tiles are correctly secured to the roof structure to prevent water leakage and withstand the elements, especially in areas prone to high winds or storms. Proper installation and professional guidance ensure a durable and long-lasting clay tile roof.

How do you maintain clay roof tiles?
To maintain clay roof tiles, follow these steps:

  • Regularly inspect for cracks, chips, or loose tiles, replacing damaged ones promptly.
  • Clear debris like leaves and branches to prevent water pooling and potential leaks.
  • Clean moss or algae growth using a mild solution and a soft brush.
  • Check for clogged gutters and ensure proper drainage to avoid water damage.
  • Trim nearby overhanging branches to prevent scratches and promote airflow.

How long do clay roofs last?

Clay tiles can last for a very long time, with some lasting over 100 years. The lifespan of a clay roof will depend on several factors, including the quality of the tiles, the climate, and the level of maintenance.

Clay roofs are generally more durable than roofing materials, such as asphalt shingles. They are also fire-resistant and can withstand heavy rains and snow. However, clay roofs can be more expensive than other roofing materials.