Clay Roof Tiles – Installation Tips

Clay roof tiles have been around for centuries. There is proof of its use even in the ancient times. It is produced by the simple process of baking tiles which have been molded from clay. Depending on the amount of time the clay is heated, the length of time and the temperature of heating you will end up with tiles of differing densities. Some tiles are glazed or other surface treatments applied to give them different textures and feel. If you have recently been to a store selling tiles you would have noticed a bewildering array of designs, styles, colors and sizes in clay tiles. Not only that you will also find a matching accessories for your roof tiles. So, special tiles for ridges, hips, valleys, eaves are sold to help your roof look professional. Installation instructions are provided with the tiles but, it is quite simple depending on whether it is one piece, interlocking, two piece or flat tiles. Professional roofers will know how to install clay roof tiles.

As far as clay roof tiles are concerned the color of tile is not slathered on top of the tiles. On the other hand the color is baked into the product and remains fast even after years of use. The red terracotta tiles of the old still retain their color after several decades of use only fading slightly.

Deck Preparation:

The application of clay roof tiles requires that the deck be prepared in certain way. The roof tiles are applied over wood decking that is continuous. If plywood sheets are placed on roof frame make sure they are at least 5/8 inches thick to take the load of the tiles. Clay roof tiles are rather heavy compared to asphalt or other commonly used roofing materials. Hence in certain conditions the roof frame need to be strengthened.

The following materials are not recommended for use as roof decking when clay roof tiles are applied. A lot of caution and precautions need to be taken. OSB has problems holding to the fastener and so dimensional stability is affected. Moisture also affects OSB adversely. Woods that are treated with preservatives are also problematic and so are fire-retardant treated woods.

Batten and counter batten systems are are used to hang the tiles which have head lugs. The battens have to be spaced to match the length of the tiles and exposure of particular tiles to provide for overlap. Battens have to be properly secured to the decking using nails at the center.


This is a crucial element in clay roof tiles. The underlayment is the felt paper that is installed over roof deck to provide both temporary protection against the elements while the roof is being laid and secondly it forms an important second line of defense against the elements. It is a weatherproof barrier that traps moisture that get through the clay roof barrier. A problem here is the clay tiles often far outlive the underlayment materials. So, it is important to get good quality under lying materials that will last as long as the life of the tiles being placed over them.

The best felt paper is the one which is impregnated with asphalt and is made of non-perforated organic felt. Called Type 15 or Type 30 felt, it indicates the pound per square feet. Another option is to use synthetic underlayment. The material is light-weight, it is water-resistant and won’t wrinkle. It is also stronger and tear-proof. These materials allow for walking over them even in wet weather. Even if you clay roof tiles is taking forever for installation with a synthetic underlayment you can be sure that the roof is much protected than organic felt. There are no industry standards when it comes to underlayment materials so, be sure you pick products that have met building code requirements.

For medium pitched roofs, two layers of 30 felt paper is recommended. For higher pitches one layer of 30 felt is enough. Clay roof tiles are not recommended for low and flat roofs. For areas that have low temperatures in the range of 30 degree Farenheit, ice dams shields are suggested for extra protection against the build-up of ice. The layer should start at the eaves and go up to minimum of 24 inches for high-pitch roofs and 36 inches for high pitch roofs.

Securing Tiles

There are many securing methods to keep the tiles in place depending on a number of factors the most commonly used method is nailing. You should follow the guidelines set down in your local building codes. Other methods include to tie them with wires where decks can’t support nailing, clip nose method in combination with other attachment is used where the area is prone to high winds or earthquakes. Lug hung method is where the tile is hung over batten using the lug at the head of the tiles and bedding it in a bed of mortar is another method of secure-ment that is usually used. Most of these have to be in combinations depending on needs.

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