How to buy concrete and masonry roofing materials, with construction diagram and information on imitation tile and slate, advantages and drawbacks.

Masonry roofing materials—including slate, tile, concrete, and fibrous cement—won’t rot, blow off, catch fire, or become termite fodder.

Concrete tile can imitate either wood shakes, like this roof, or Spanish tile

Ceramic tile and slate, revered for centuries because of their elegance and durability, have inspired an assortment of newer masonry materials that are neither as heavy nor as expensive as the originals ($300 to $700 per square as opposed to $1000 or more). Although conventional concrete tile weighs about 1000 pounds per square, lightweight varieties are available at about half that weight.

Concrete, in both flat and Spanish-style tile units, is formed under high pressure to make a rugged, dense, durable tile. It presents a thick profile and is very durable, though it will crack if walked on carelessly. It is highly resistant to fire, and can’t be damaged by termites or moisture.

Beneath tile roofing, 30-pound roofing felt on a plywood deck sheds the water.
Beneath tile roofing, 30-pound roofing felt on a plywood deck sheds the water.

Concrete tile is sold in a few earthy tones, from terracotta reds to woody browns. With this type of roof, the base underneath it actually does nearly all of the work of shedding water. Because of this, concrete tile is usually installed over plywood sheathing that is covered by a layer of 30-pound roofing felt. The shingles or tiles are often secured on 1-by-2 battens.

Conveyor belt delivers concrete tile roofing from truck bed to rooftop.
Conveyor belt delivers concrete tile roofing from truck bed to rooftop.

Because the material is concrete, installation is heavy work. Cutting is done with a masonry blade on a power circular saw. Because of this, the more complex the roof (meaning it requires cutting for many valleys, dormers, angles, and such), the higher the cost of installation.

Spanish Tile Roofing Diagram ©HomeTips

Because all masonry roofing—concrete, tile, slate—is heavy, it’s weight must be taken into consideration when the roof structure is built; reinforcement is often necessary. Getting the material up onto the roof can be a big job too—the right kind of equipment is necessary. This, combined with shipping, increases the cost of delivery and installation.

Although concrete roofing is one of the more expensive types, most homeowners agree that the costs are outweighed by the benefits of a solid, durable, trouble-free roof that will last as long as the house.

Featured Resource: Find a Pre-Screened Local Tile Roofing Contractor

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About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort