What is the average lifespan of a concrete tile roof?
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
The life expectancy of a concrete tile roof is 35 to 50 years. Although the tile is rated by manufacturers as a having a 50-year life or more, it is primarily a protective covering for the asphalt-based roofing layer below it—typically 30-pound felt or mineral surface roll roofing, secured to the roof sheathing and down-lapped. Sometimes a heavier felt is used. The underlayment roof material, battens used to secure the tile in place, and the fasteners that connect the tiles to the battens usually have a life of closer to 40 years. The tile roof surface is water-resistant, but not water-tight, and prone to penetration by minor wind-driven rain; but leakage is protected by the roof layer below the tile.
The average lifespan estimate is based on “average” conditions, and many factors contribute to a longer or shorter life of the roof. So a particular tile roof’s life can vary—sometimes significantly—from the average. Here’s a list of conditions that affect roof longevity:
- Angle of roof slope - Higher pitch roofs tend to last longer.
- Color of roof - A dark roof absorbs more heat, which shortens the lifespan.
- Orientation of roof surface - A roof slope facing south will get more sunlight, and have a shorter life.
- Walking on the roof - Concrete roof tile is easily cracked if not walked on carefully by a professional familiar with this type of roof. But tile is more resistant to hail damage than other types of roof coverings and, because of its weight, less likely to be blown off in a storm.
- Lightweight tile - They are more fragile than standard concrete roof tile.
- Installation - Sloppy or improper installation shortens roof life. Manufacturers typically blame the roofing contractor for a roof that requires early replacement, and they are sometimes correct. Installing of a tile roof requires more training, experience, craftsmanship and patience than asphalt shingle roofing.
- Attic ventilation - An unventilated or poorly ventilated attic reduces roof lifespan.
- Radiant Barrier - The foil sheet glued to the underside of roof sheathing to reflect the heat of the sun back out into the atmosphere—reducing the attic temperature in the summer—tends to also reduce roof life because it makes the underlayment hotter.
- Harsh climate - Severe weather, both harsh winters and hot summers, along with big temperature swings within a 24-hour period, also shorten lifespan because of the expansion and contraction of the concrete tiles. Also, if installed too tightly, the tiles will crack prematurely from the temperature changes.
If you are considering switching to concrete tile from a shingle roof, be aware that the additional weight of the tile (averaging 10 pounds per square foot, which translates to a 1/2 ton for a 10-foot by 10-foot area of roof surface) means the roof structure must be sturdy enough to support the weight. Your local building department may require that the roof trusses/rafters be certified as adequate by a licensed structural engineer or the roof be reinforced to carry the additional load—unless you can prove that the home formerly had a tile roof years ago.
Here’s a bar graph that compares concrete/clay tile roof life expectancy to other types of roof coverings.
Go to our blog post What is the average lifespan of the parts of a house? for rating of other house components. To understand the basis, potential use, and limitations of lifespan ratings, see our blog post ”How accurate are the average life expectancy ratings of home components? Are they actually useful?”
Also, see our blog posts My circuit breaker won't reset. What's wrong?
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To learn more about roofs and attics, see these other blog posts:
NOTE: These life expectancies are based on data provided by InterNACHI, NAHB, FannieMae, and our own professional experience. Because of the numerous variables that can affect a lifespan, they should be used as rough guidelines only, and not relied upon as a warranty or guarantee of future performance.
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