Before placing an order or contacting our office, please email or text pictures of your tile to our Free Tile Identification Service.

3 types of roofing tiles and their characteristics (Clay, Concrete, and Slate)

Table of Contents

As a reputable provider in the industry, All Points Tile and Slate understands the importance of selecting the right roofing material for your construction needs. When choosing roofing tiles for your home or building, it’s important to consider their characteristics and benefits. This article will explore three popular types of roofing tiles: Clay, Concrete, and Slate.

Roofing tiles provide protection from the elements and contribute to your property’s overall aesthetic appeal. By delving into the distinct features of each type of tile, we aim to equip you with valuable knowledge to make informed decisions about your roofing needs. Whether you’re looking for eco-friendly options, durability and longevity, or exquisite beauty, this comprehensive guide will help you understand the unique benefits and considerations of Clay, Concrete, and Slate roofing tiles.


Clay roof tiles are ceramic products formed from solid units of clay or shale. These tiles are typically shaped into rectangular planar forms while in a plastic state and fired in a kiln. The manufacturing process of clay roof tiles is similar to that of bricks, but the tiles are thinner and lighter.

To ensure their quality, the clay used for making roof tiles has high plasticity. The density of the tiles depends on the duration and temperature at which they are fired. They are made by molding clays and subjecting them to a temperature of 1300 degrees Celsius in kilns, adding coloring admixtures. The peak temperatures during the firing process help bond the color to the tiles, preventing peeling or fading.

Characteristics and benefits of clay tiles

Clay roof tiles offer a range of characteristics and benefits that make them a popular choice for roofing. Available in various colors, such as white, yellow, orange, and brown, the most commonly found clay tile color is terracotta.

Some advantages of clay tiles include:

  • Their low water absorption rate, typically less than 15%, helps prevent water damage.
  • They are lighter than concrete tiles, weighing 600-650 pounds, making them easier to handle and install.
  •  While clay tiles may be more susceptible to cracking or shattering in freezing or thawing temperatures, they require less maintenance than other roofing materials. 
  • They do not rot, are fire-resistant, and repel insects. 
  • The design of clay tiles allows air circulation beneath them, helping regulate rooftop temperatures and create a balanced environment inside the building. 
  • They resist extreme weather conditions, including ultraviolet radiation from the sun and frost damage, due to their unique pore structure that prevents water accumulation.
Colors of clay roofing on homes in Germany

Despite being lighter than concrete tiles, clay tiles can exert a significant load on the roof structure. As a result, they may not be suitable for unstable or weak structures. They might require roof reinforcement before installation.

Additionally, clay tiles can become fragile in cold temperatures due to the weakening caused by frequent freezing and thawing. This fragility makes them more susceptible to breakage under pressure. Clay tiles retain their inherent brittleness even in warmer climates and can easily shatter if mishandled.

Things to consider for clay tile installation

Proper underlayment and fastening methods are crucial when installing clay tiles. Some manufacturers permit installing specific tile types on roofs with shallow pitches as low as 2 1/2:12, given that a full waterproofing layer, such as a built-up roof or single-ply membrane, is applied. Special fastening techniques and reduced exposure may be necessary for low-slope roofs.

For slopes less than 3 1/2:12, clay roofing tiles are primarily considered decorative, as the underlying roof provides the required waterproofing. Generally, there is no maximum slope for tile roofs. However, on extremely steep roofs with pitches exceeding 19:12 or on vertical applications, wind currents can cause tiles to rattle. To prevent this, it is recommended to use wind clips on each tile in conjunction with a construction-grade silicone sealant or other approved sealant.


Minimum Slope Recommendations for Clay Tiles

TypeMinimum Slope
Flat Shingle Tile5:12*
Interlocking Flat Tile3:12
Interlocking Low-profile (French) Tile3:12
Pan-and-cover Tile4:12 – 5:12
*With use of full waterproofing underlayment (per manufacturer and code) may be reduced to 2:12 or 3:12

Given clay tiles’ long service life, a durable and long-lasting underlayment is essential. Underlayments play a critical role in tile roofing systems as most tiles are only partially waterproof on their own. For optimal performance, a Type II No. 30 or No. 43 felt should be used as a minimum requirement for the underlayment, with a minimum overlap of 2 inches on horizontal joints and 6 inches at end laps. The underlayment should extend over hips and ridges by at least 12 inches in each direction and have a minimum turn-up of 4 inches on vertical surfaces.

Tiny caps or round cap nails can securely fasten the underlayment in areas prone to strong winds. The specific fastening schedule for the underlayment will depend on the local wind conditions.

Alternative durable waterproofing systems such as mineral surface roll roofing or self-adhering bituminous membranes should be considered in regions with harsh conditions or on shallower slopes. It is important to note that for slopes below 3-1/2:12, the underlayment must provide complete weather protection, as the tiles are primarily considered decorative in these cases.


Maintaining clay tiles is essential to ensure their longevity and prevent leaks. Regular inspections, professional cleaning, and addressing small issues promptly can help keep clay roofing in excellent condition. Here are some key tips for maintaining clay tiles:

Schedule Annual Inspections: Arrange for a professional roofing contractor to inspect your clay roof every spring or fall. They can identify cracks, chips, and other damage caused by weather elements and recommend necessary repairs or tile replacements.

Combat Roof Algae: Clay tiles are prone to algae growth. Use a low-pressure power washer and a mild solution of dish detergent and warm water to remove algae. Avoid spraying water directly at the tiles to prevent cracking. Applying an appropriate sealant can help discourage the accumulation of algae, dirt, and mold on the roof.

Limit Debris Accumulation: Clay tiles are susceptible to debris accumulation like any other roof. Regularly clear tree branches, leaves, and grime from the roof to prevent clogged gutters and potential water leaks. Consider installing wire mesh covers over gutters and downspouts to prevent excessive debris collection.

Clay roof with mold and algae

Limit Debris Accumulation: Clay tiles are susceptible to debris accumulation like any other roof. Regularly clear tree branches, leaves, and grime from the roof to prevent clogged gutters and potential water leaks. Consider installing wire mesh covers over gutters and downspouts to prevent excessive debris collection.

Prevent Potential Issues: Address small issues promptly to prevent future repairs. Clean gutters and downspouts regularly and inspect the underside of the roof from the attic after heavy storms or rapid thaws to detect any signs of leakage. Taking these preventive measures can help avoid extensive damage and repairs.

In addition to these maintenance tips, consulting with professionals experienced in clay tile roof maintenance and cleaning is advisable. They can provide expert guidance and ensure proper care to maximize the lifespan of your clay roof. Scheduling regular professional cleanings, consulting about sealing options, and conducting annual inspections are crucial steps in maintaining a clay tile roof’s integrity and extending its lifespan.


Concrete roofing tiles are a cost-effective and durable alternative to traditional tile roofs. They are composed of sand, cement, and larger aggregates like gravel. The use of concrete in roofing tiles dates back to the mid-19th century in Bavaria, where the combination of cement, sand, and water was first utilized to create concrete roof tiles. These early concrete tiles showcased their durability, as many homes built with them still stand today.

Over time, technological advancements and manufacturing processes have made concrete tile production more efficient and economical. In the early 1900s, coloring pigments were introduced to simulate the appearance of clay tiles in Europe. This innovation, along with the automation of concrete tile production, has made concrete tiles a cost-effective option compared to other roofing materials over their lifespan.

Characteristics and benefits of concrete tiles

Concrete roof tiles offer a range of exceptional characteristics that make them a popular choice for homeowners:

Versatility in styles and designs: Concrete tiles closely resemble terracotta tiles and offer a wide range of styles and designs. They can be cast into various shapes and painted or colored to achieve the desired aesthetic. Different tile profiles allow for visually appealing patterns and effective water drainage from the roof.

Energy-efficient and thermal insulation properties: Concrete tiles have a high thermal mass, storing heat during the day and releasing it at night. This makes them suitable for warmer climates. Their insulative properties contribute to energy efficiency and help regulate temperature and reduce noise transmission.

Fire resistance and wind resistance: Concrete tiles are Class A fire rated and offer excellent resistance to hail, high winds, and severe weather conditions. They can sustain winds over 125 miles per hour and exceed current seismic load requirements. Their non-combustible nature provides effective protection against fires.

Additional benefits: Concrete roof tiles offer further advantages such as low maintenance requirements, durability that increases over time, excellent thermal performance for temperature regulation, sound resistance, versatility in design options, resistance to salt damage, and compliance with water quality standards for rainwater collection.

Characteristics and benefits of concrete tiles

Several structural support requirements must be met when installing a concrete tile roof to ensure its stability and longevity. Here are some key considerations:

Professional installation and moisture-resistant measures: Concrete tile roofs should be installed by professionals with experience in handling and installing these heavier roofing materials. Proper moisture-resistant measures, such as underlayment and flashing, are essential to prevent water intrusion and maintain the integrity of the roof system.

Adequately reinforced roof framing system: Concrete roof tiles are significantly heavier than asphalt shingles, weighing 6 to 11 lb/ft2 (600 to 1100 lbs/100 ft2 or 29.29 to 53.71 kg/m2). This heavier weight necessitates additional reinforcement of the roof framing, especially in areas prone to heavy snow accumulation. Adequate roof framing support must be provided to accommodate the increased load of the concrete tiles.

Sheathing requirements: The sheathing used in the roof construction should support the loads imposed by the concrete tiles. It is recommended to use a sheathing material of at least 1 inch thick for solid lumber or 15/32 inches thick for plywood or other decking materials that meet the requirements specified in a code evaluation report or as directed by the local building official.

Reinforced roof truss with metal plating

Strength and thickness of the tiles: Concrete tiles should meet or exceed the transverse strength requirements specified in the relevant standards (e.g., ASTM C1492 for concrete tiles or ASTM C1167 for clay tiles). The thickness of the tiles can vary, typically ranging from 3/8″ to 1 1/2″, depending on the tiles’ composition, type, and style.

Quantities and weight of the tiles: The number of tiles needed to cover a specific area of the roof, known as a square (100 sq. ft.), depends on factors such as the size of the tiles, the exposure of each course, and the manufacturer’s recommendations. The weight of the roof tiles also varies depending on their thickness, length, width, shape, and the aggregate materials used in their manufacturing process. It’s important to consult with the tile manufacturer to determine the weight of the specific tiles used, considering the underlayment, fastening system, roof accessories, and any special hip/ridge treatments.

By adhering to these structural support requirements, homeowners can ensure the proper installation and support of concrete tile roofing, promoting its durability and longevity. It’s recommended to consult with roofing professionals and follow manufacturer guidelines to ensure compliance with the necessary structural considerations.


Regular maintenance is essential to ensure the longevity and appearance of concrete roofing tiles. Here are key points to consider for maintaining concrete roofs:

Yearly visual inspection: Conduct an annual visual inspection to identify any leaf debris accumulation in valleys or moss growth that can impede rainwater drainage. While moss and algae do not harm concrete tiles, periodic cleaning by a professional using a power washer can remove them. Biocides or zinc strips can also be used to slow the growth of these organisms. Additionally, after high winds, earthquakes, or extensive hail, inspect the roof for any cracked, broken, or loose tiles that may require replacement.

Water and impact damage: Concrete tile roofs can absorb water if not adequately treated and waterproofed, leading to cracking, water intrusion, and potential mold and mildew growth. Regular inspection and maintenance are necessary to address water damage and prevent structural issues. Impact damage from external factors like fallen trees or improper installation should be promptly repaired or replaced to protect the underlayment and interior of the house.

Color fading and staining: Over time, the color of concrete tiles may fade, posing challenges when matching replacement tiles. The porous nature of the tiles also makes them susceptible to staining. Homeowners should consider repainting the concrete tile roof every few years to maintain its appearance.

Underlayment replacement: While concrete roofing tiles can last up to 50 years, the underlayment typically lasts about 20 years. Replacing the underlayment involves removing the concrete tiles, replacing the underlayment, and reinstalling the tiles. This is a labor-intensive and costly process. It is crucial to monitor the condition of the underlayment and plan for its replacement to ensure the long-term integrity of the roof.

By following these maintenance practices, homeowners can preserve their concrete tile roofs’ integrity, functionality, and aesthetic value. Regular inspections, cleaning, prompt repairs, and necessary replacements will help extend the roof’s lifespan and protect the underlying structure. Consulting with roofing professionals and adhering to manufacturer guidelines are recommended for proper maintenance and care.

unrolling waterproofing, water resistant felt, bituminous roofing underlayment on the roof sheathing, roof deck before asphalt shingles installation while roofing construction.


Slate roofing tiles are metamorphic rocks originating from sedimentary rock formations consisting of volcanic ash and clay. Slate itself is a type of metamorphic rock that transforms its original state through a combination of temperature and pressure over an extended period. The primary source of slate extraction is currently found in Europe and Brazil, with notable mines also located in New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont in the United States.

After being extracted from the earth, the slate is carefully split into layers either manually or using machinery. These layers undergo a thorough inspection and additional refinement before being utilized in various applications such as landscaping or as roofing tiles. The craftsmanship involved in splitting and processing slate ensures the final product’s quality and durability, making it a sought-after choice for roofing materials.

Slate tile roofing

Characteristics and benefits of slate tiles

Slate roof tiles possess unique characteristics and offer several benefits:

Natural beauty and aesthetic appeal: With a long history of use, slate roof tiles are renowned for their timeless beauty and aesthetic appeal. Each piece of slate is distinct, as it is a natural product, lending a unique charm to each roof. The variety of colors available, such as purple, green, black, and gray, is determined by the mineral composition of the slate. This natural variation adds to the visual allure of slate roofs.

Fire-resistant and waterproof: One of the outstanding benefits of slate roof tiles is their fire resistance. Being solid stone, slate is highly resistant to fire, making it a safe roofing choice. Additionally, slate tiles provide excellent waterproofing properties, protecting the structure from water damage. This inherent resistance to fire, ice, mold, and water damage sets slate apart from other roofing materials.

Increased resistance to wind and hail: The weight of slate roof tiles provides added resistance to strong winds and hail. Slate tiles offer enhanced protection against wind uplift and hail damage compared to lighter roofing materials like asphalt or wood shingles. Their substantial weight ensures a secure and long-lasting roof, even in challenging weather conditions.

Added value and investment: The allure and durability of a slate roof enhance the value of a property. A slate roof is often considered a prestigious feature that adds character and curb appeal. Appraisers recognize the added value of slate roofs, and homeowners can expect a higher return on investment (ROI) than other home improvements. While individual warranty coverage may vary, investing in a slate roof is an investment in the future.

These characteristics make slate roofs an enduring and worthwhile choice for homeowners seeking a long-lasting, visually appealing roofing solution.

Things to consider for slate tile installation

When considering a slate tile roof, it is important to take certain factors into account:

Weight: Natural slate roofing tiles are significantly heavier than other roofing materials. The weight of slate can range from 800 to 1,500 pounds per 100 square feet, making it four to eight times heavier than composite shingles. Before installing a slate roof, it is crucial to ensure that the existing structural supports of your home can handle the weight. Upgraded framing may be necessary to safely accommodate the slate tiles’ heavy load.

Proper Installation: The longevity and effectiveness of a slate roof depend on proper installation techniques. Unlike roofing materials that come in sheets, slate tiles are individually installed. This requires specialized knowledge and tools, such as a slater’s hammer and guillotine, to accurately cut and trim the tiles. Improper installation can lead to tile breakage, poor placement, and other issues compromising the roof’s performance. It is essential to hire a roofing team with experience in working with slate roofing materials to ensure a correctly installed roof.

Expertise and Specialized Tools: Professional roofers familiar with slate roofs have the necessary expertise and specialized tools to handle the installation. They possess the skills to cut, trim, and nail the tiles properly, minimizing the risk of tile breakage. Working with experienced professionals ensures that the slate roof is installed with precision and attention to detail, maximizing its longevity and performance.

Careful consideration of these factors will help you make an informed decision when choosing a slate tile roof you can enjoy for many decades.


Maintenance of slate roof tiles requires careful attention and expertise:

Engage Experienced Professionals: Repairs on slate roofs should only be done by experienced slate installers. Due to its brittle nature, it can be dangerous to walk on slate. Incorrect handling during maintenance can cause more harm than the initial issue. Hiring skilled professionals ensures proper repair techniques and minimizes the risk of additional damage.

Handle with Care: Natural slate tiles are highly durable but prone to cracking or crushing when subjected to heavy objects or pressure. Even walking on a slate roof can lead to cracked or crushed tiles since slate does not flex or bend. To prevent damage, it is crucial to have maintenance tasks performed by roofing professionals who have the knowledge to navigate the roof without compromising its integrity.

Consider Cost and Availability: Slate tiles are sourced from natural quarries and typically do not come with manufacturer warranties. Replacing damaged tiles can be costly, and finding an exact color match for existing tiles can be challenging due to natural variations in slate colors. Before opting for a slate roof, carefully consider the maintenance requirements, including the potential expenses and the ease of obtaining replacement tiles.

Regular inspections and proper maintenance by knowledgeable professionals will ensure the longevity and performance of your tiles. They can effectively preserve the beauty and durability of your slate roof.

Comparison and Contrast

When comparing and contrasting clay, concrete, and slate roof tiles, several key factors come into play – Aesthetics and architectural styles, Durability and lifespan, and Cost. Weighing these factors can help homeowners make informed decisions when selecting the most suitable roofing material for their needs, desires, and budgets.


Each roofing material offers its own distinctive architectural styles and aesthetics, allowing homeowners to choose the option that best suits their preferences and complements their overall building design. Whether it’s the classic charm of clay, the versatility of concrete, or the timeless elegance of slate, these roofing materials enhance the architectural beauty of any structure.

Clay tile roofs are commonly associated with Spanish and Mediterranean architectural designs. They beautifully complement brick or stone sidings, enhancing the overall appearance of buildings. With a wide range of sizes, colors, and installation techniques, clay tiles can be used to restore sloped or curved roofs, adapting to modern design styles and aesthetics.

City landscape in Spain

Concrete roof tiles offer versatility in terms of style and appearance. They come in various styles that can mimic traditional clay tiles, wood shake, slate, and stone. Among the options available are mission style with pans and covers, French stool with locking tabs, interlocking shingle style, and Spanish style profiles. These styles provide a range of design possibilities, allowing homeowners to achieve their desired look while benefiting from the durability of concrete.

Slate roof tiles evoke a sense of timeless elegance, often associated with fine European cottages and New England mansions. They are available in different sizes, ranging from larger dimensions like 24″ length x 12″ wide to smaller sizes like 12″ length x 6″ wide. The thickness of slate tiles can vary, with the standard range being 1/4″ to 3/8″. Thicker slates can be ordered for a truly unique roof design. Slate roofs are admired for their clean lines and durability, making them a preferred choice by architects for centuries. Using slate from various quarries allows for the creation of blended roof colors and textures, adding to the visual appeal.

Slate roof on a red brick house

Durability and lifespan

Clay, concrete, and slate tile roofs all demonstrate excellent durability and extended lifespans. Each material has its unique characteristics, making them reliable choices for homeowners seeking long-lasting roofing solutions.

Clay tiles have an impressive lifespan ranging from 100 to 150 years. They are known for retaining their original color and exhibiting exceptional durability over time. With proper maintenance, clay roofs can last well over a century. While they offer good wind resistance, shifting or displacement is still possible during heavy gusts.

Concrete roof tiles are renowned for their long lifespan, often lasting 50 years or more, which can match the lifetime of a house. They come with limited lifetime warranties and require minimal maintenance. Concrete tiles are highly durable and resistant to various weather conditions. Although they are heavier and require consideration of load-bearing capacity, lightweight options are available to mitigate this concern.

Slate tile roofs are recognized for their exceptional durability and remarkable lifespan. Depending on the type of slate, these roofs can last well beyond a century, with some examples exceeding 400 years. Hard slate provides the longest lifespan, while soft slate offers a more cost-effective alternative with a slightly shorter life expectancy. Many slate roofs have surpassed the century mark, serving as a testament to their enduring nature. Some slate manufacturers even offer 100-year warranties on their products.

Cost considerations

It’s important to consider installation complexities and potential additional costs, such as roof support when evaluating the overall cost of each roofing material. When comparing the cost of clay, concrete, and slate roofing tiles, we generally observe the following:

Clay tiles (excluding installation) cost about $50 – $100 per square (1 square = 100 square ft.). The installation of clay tiles requires technical expertise and labor. The total cost of a clay tile roof can vary based on factors such as tile weight, roof pitch, and chosen style. The national average cost range for installing a clay tile roof is $20,000 to $40,000, with the project’s low end being around $16,000 for thin clay tiles in a Mission-style pattern and the high end reaching $60,000 for handmade Spanish-style tiles on a complex roof.

Concrete tiles are considered affordable and cost-effective alternatives to other roofing materials. They can mimic the appearance of various materials, including wooden shingles, slate, and stone. Concrete tiles have become more competitive in price due to the increasing costs of petroleum-based products like asphalt shingles. A concrete tile roof typically costs about $18 per square foot, amounting to approximately $27,000 for a 1,500-square-foot home with decorative flat tiles. The installation costs for concrete roof tiles range from $3 to $5 per square foot, resulting in total installation expenses ranging from $3,500 to $7,500 for a 1,500-square-foot home.

Slate roofs are generally more expensive compared to standard shingle roofs. The cost of slate tiles can be 3-4 times higher than that of standard shingles. Additionally, the weight of slate may require additional roof support, incurring extra costs. Finding a roofer experienced in installing slate can also be challenging. The price of slate tiles varies based on the type, with soft slate costing between $10 and $20 per square foot and hard slate typically ranging from $20 to $30 per square foot.

Transform your roof with an expert touch

The characteristics of clay, concrete, and slate roofing tiles offer a wide range of options for homeowners seeking durability, aesthetic appeal, and cost-effectiveness. All Points Tile and Slate understands the unique qualities of each material and proudly offers an extensive inventory to cater to diverse preferences and architectural styles.

Whether you are captivated by the timeless elegance of slate, the versatility of concrete, or the rustic charm of clay, All Points Tile and Slate is your trusted partner in finding the perfect roofing solution. Our knowledgeable team is ready to assist you in navigating the choices and provide expert advice. Browse our inventory or contact All Points Tile and Slate today to embark on a journey of transforming your home’s roof into a stunning and enduring masterpiece.

The information on our blog is for educational purposes only and should not replace the advice of a professional roofer. For all roofing questions and needs, please contact our experts at 407-366-2521.