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Residential Tile Roof in South Florida Installed by Dan Tennis Roofing

Tile Roofs

Beautiful and Durable

When you think of a tile roof, the warm colors of sunbaked terracotta come to mind, the same style as found on century-old homes in the hills of Tuscany, or on the adobe missions of the American Southwest. Terracotta clay tiles are one of the oldest and most long-lasting roofing materials; their beauty, longevity, and functionality are well known to home and business owners as well as roofing professionals.

New Tile Roof

Modern Clay Tiles

The first terracotta tiles were made with slabs of low-fire clay, and were formed when workmen put the clay over their thigh, molding it into the familiar U shape. These tiles were installed in an up and down pattern that kept water from getting through or under the tiles. Modern roofing tiles can still be made out of terracotta, but in addition, manufactured tiles can be made from concrete and fiber. The goal for any type of tile roof is the function of the roof- to keep water and wind out of the house or building- but in addition, tile roofs are known for their beauty, their color and shapes. Regardless of the type of tile, a home or business owner can be assured that a tile roof will last longer than many others, and will require a specialized prep of the roof before installation.

Benefits of Tile

Many believe that tiles make the most beautiful and most structurally sound roofs. They have proven themselves over time. Some archeologists have found evidence of tile roofs that are 10,000 years old. After the Great Fire of London, in 1666, the King decreed that thatch was too dangerous a roofing material, and tiles should be used.

Tiles are fire resistant, and can also resist insect damage, water and salt damage, and their weight helps prevent loss from high winds. They are uniquely insulative, allowing a blanket of moving, solar-heated air just under the tiles that keeps thermal transfer from occurring. This type of insulation means tile roofs can help a building stay cool in summer and warm in winter. They are reflective, so they do not contribute to the urban heat sink.

Tiles can be expensive, and they are fragile to direct pressure, such as people walking on them or falling rocks or tree limbs. In earthquake prone areas, they can be disarranged when the structure under them moves. They often last longer than the roof structure underneath.

Tiles are environmentally friendly, made of natural materials with no off-gassing. Many manufacturers hold to carbon footprint and recycling standards.

Structural Inspection Before Installation or Repair

Roofing tiles are heavy, and if improperly installed, can allow the incursion of water under the tiles. If a previous roof or missing tile allowed water to seep into the underlayment, the wooden structures can be damaged from dry rot or mold. In addition, there are both building code and tile manufacturer's requirements regarding the weight load of solid deck roofing before tiles are installed. Tile roofs require specialized flashing around skylights, vents, and chimneys, and both the materials of the flashing, and the vents and skylights, can be damaged or fail, requiring replacement before new roof tiles are installed. The tiles themselves are also inspected, and any that have been damaged or cracked from falling debris or by people walking on the roof are noted for replacement.

Edges are prone to problems, and birds love to nest along the edges, and under, clay tiles roofs. Areas where different angles or heights of the roof meet need to be assessed for structural integrity. One of the benefits of tile roofing is that air flow under the tiles keeps the roof insulated and prevents the thermal transfer of energy. But this system can also allow water to get under the tiles if the placement is improper or if a tile is lost to the weather.

Gutters are known to be a challenge for tile roofs, and specific types of gutters should be installed. An inspection of the roof at the time of a repair or replacement decision can include an assessment of the gutters.

Repair or Replace?

The results of the structural inspection will guide the decisions regarding the need to repair a tile roof or replace it. Of greatest significance is the structural integrity of the underlayment. With an estimated life of at least 50 years for a new tile roof, the wooden structures under the tiles must be able to hold those precious, expensive tiles for that time. In areas of wind, water, and salt, or frequent coastal storms, planning for a strong, weatherproof under roof structure to hold the tiles is especially critical. If flashing needs to be repaired or replaced, it should be done first, and any vents, plumber's pipes, chimneys, and skylights that are not structurally true need to be replaced.

One area of concern is if the original tiles were installed incorrectly, allowing loss or water into the roof. Areas where two slopes meet, and edges, need a special installation technique. InĀ  addition, some tiles require special fasteners, and two holes are drilled into the tile for these fasteners. Using nails or screws can lead to tile loss. Other types of installation use an adhesive and gravity; if the adhesive deteriorates in the weather before the tile, then only gravity is holding it in place. If installers note some of these installationĀ  problems, they will recommend fixing the problem or replacing those tiles, because the improper installation will lead to early roof failure.


In the roofing industry, both building codes and manufacturers' certification programs guide installation. Specialty makers of terracotta tiles have requirements for installers, as these tiles need to be laid on the roof in a pattern of overlapping edges that keeps the roof watertight. This is a job for experts who have been trained in proper installation and safety procedures. The materials used to weatherproof the underlayment, and the materials such as flashing, adhesives, and fasteners, need to be the specific grade to match the tiles. Special safety gear and procedures are followed for craftsmen who inspect and lay tile roofs.

Call Dan Tennis Roofing at (954) 485-7778 or send us an email. One of our roofing specialists will be happy to answer any questions or schedule a free estimate.

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