Roof Tile … what comes to mind when you hear that? Picturesque vistas of the Greek coastline, quiet Tuscan villas overlooking gentle hills, French chateaus at the foothills of the Pyrenees, Spanish haciendas on the Iberian peninsula, Mexican sun-baked resorts, Scottish villages shrouded in mist or maybe Chinese cities so ancient that time sees to have stopped? The common thread of all these gorgeous areas, from China and Europe to Central and South America is that they know the qualities of roof tile.
Why then do you see so little tile in the US? I believe it is fear. Architects and designers fear the extra design and structural support roof tile demands. Roof contractors fear the possibility of overestimating or underestimating their roof tile needs and not being technically adept to install it correctly. All of these fears can cause architects, designers and contractors to charge quite a bit more for working with roof tile. This leads us to the builder's fear; tile's expense.
Is roof tile more expensive to use than the most common roofing product used in the US, asphalt shingle? Yes, the initial cost is more expensive, however take heart because tile's most redeeming qualities wipe out that extra expense rather quickly.
The first quality of roof tile that begins to offset its expense is its energy efficiency. Tile is commonly installed on what is called a "floating system". Each tile is fastened to a batten strip of wood or other material that rises the roof tile off the roof deck. This means the tiles are not contacting the roof deck at all and this has created additional airspace between the tiles and the deck. The airspace insulates the roof deck and thus the interior of the structure from 55% to 75% of the radiant heat from the sun. This same effect is what makes double pane windows so effective and it also keeps our coffees nice and hot in our thermos mugs. An interesting experiment to see this first hand is to put your next cup of coffee in a regular glass. The coffee simulates the sun's radiant heat and the glass is simulating direct to the deck applied asphalt shingle. Because the glass is in direct contact with the radiant heat of the coffee the heat comes right through the glass, ouch! Now pour the coffee into a fancy thermos mug, pick it up and viola, no burned hand. Just like the airspace in the thermos mug keeps the coffee's radiant heat from burning your hand the airspace under the tiles keeps the sun's radiant heat from heating your interior. A cooler interior means less work for the HVAC and that means saving money on energy consumption.
The next quality of roof tile that offsets its expense is its toughness. Tile is very hardy. Water does not penetrate it. Wind has a hard time damaging it as some roof tiles are wind rated at 150 mph or greater. Freezing temperatures do not affect it. Tile does not burn. Most hail stones shatter against roof tile's surface. All this together can mean significant saving on insurance premiums. Take a look at online photos of wildfire areas that have devastated homes in Texas, California, and other western states. You can often find a house or two right in the middle of a fire disaster area still standing. Usually it will have tile on it. Areas hit by large hail that are primarily asphalt shingle roofed structures will all have to be replaced, at the home owner's and insurance companies' expense, except for those few homes with roof tile. Usually they will only have superior damage. There are tiles made today that are Class 3 and Class 4 hail resistant. Insurance companies will discount premiums for the use of these hail resistant and fire resistant roof tiles. More money saved each month on insurance means more you have for better things.
The last quality of roof tile that offsets its expense is its longevity. Tile lasts, plain and simple. There is a house / pub in England that was built in the year 1260 that still has its original tile roof on it. The Sistine Chapel has had the same tile roof on it for 300 years. Tile will outline the very structure it is on. Both of the structures mentioned above have been rebuilt to one degree or another in that span of time but in each case the tile roof was reused. Tile has the lowest life cycle cost of any roofing material made today. The common asphalt shingle, any roofing contractor will tell you, will have to be replaced about every 10 years. That means it is a temporary roof cover, not a roof. It also means that the initial savings of using asphalt shingles instead of tile is also temporary. What you save today you will pay in 10 years and then again 10 years after that. It makes more since to buy one true roof one time does it not?
There are of course other qualities of roof tile that should be mentioned. Range of colors to select from, different profiles to choose from and a multitude of design options are all great qualities for tile to have. Today's roof tile manufacturers offer all of these things and more but the one true quality that people notice first is the beauty of the roof. Curb appealing with roof tile is automatic. How many of us have used a roof tiled home or business as a navigation point? "You just go __ blocks past the pretty red tile roof house." And while this aesthetics quality does not put money into your pockets right away, you can see a return on your investment if you ever have to move or sell your property. Any real estate broker will tell you that tile roofed properties retain their value better than any other type roofed property. This means that you will get more of your money back by using roof tile than by using any other type of roofing material … if you sell.