All About Roof Tile Replacement

All About Roof Tile Replacement

By Mateos Glen Hayes February 16, 2022

It’s nice to have a Spanish-style tile roof. When they’re in good condition, tile roofs look great and last a long time. They can add style and class to any house and it is no surprise that they are the roofing material of choice for many households along with solar panels.

However, tile roofs are not immune to degradation, damage, and other problems. They have a limited lifespan and will eventually require maintenance or even replacement. If you have been noticing some problems, such as poor air circulation, cracked or missing terracotta roof tiles, and moss growth, it might be time to look into replacing your roof.

It can be tough to figure out when a complete roof tile replacement is truly necessary. After all, you ideally want to make as much use out of your roof as you can before having to completely replace it. To know when to replace your tile roof and how to go about it, there are a few details you’ll need to consider.

What Makes and Breaks a Tile Roof 

Tiles Are Made of Terracotta or Concrete

Tiles Are Made of Terracotta or Concrete

Ultimately, there are four different parts to most tile roofs. To understand what goes into maintaining tile roofing we need to examine these four parts as this will show us both the strengths and weaknesses of the design. 


This is of course the most visible part of the assembly. The beautiful Mediterranean clay roof tiles in their neat rows are installed over battening and have overlapping edges of flashing that keep out water and help improve airflow.

Traditionally, these tiles were made of terracotta clay, giving them their distinctive red clay roof look. However, concrete roof tiles are by far the most popular material for tile roofing today. Concrete is more affordable than terracotta and can also be easily made into any shape and in different colors.

Tile roofing tends to be the heaviest of the roofing types, so it needs a sturdy roof frame to keep the weight from causing damage. In general, clay roof tiles can last up to 50 years provided they receive regular maintenance.

Tiles are prone to damage in extreme weather and can be cracked or broken by hail or debris. Poorly secured clay roof tiles can fly off a clay roof in high-speed winds, so it is crucial to properly maintain tile roofs to minimize the risk.


Battening Keeps Water Out and Adds Insulation

Battening Keeps Water Out and Adds Insulation

This is the layer that acts as the main water barrier for your tile roof. Underlayment goes under the tiles and can be made of either felt or synthetic materials. As such, it is one of the most important parts of a tile roof since it keeps out moisture and thereby prevents rot.

As such, the underlayment is perhaps the weakest link of tile roofing because it does not last as long as the tile, and it will cause a number of unpleasant issues if it is not taken care of. Once the underlayment reaches the end of its life, it becomes brittle and starts to shrink and curl up.

This will eventually lead to water damage and rot, so you can see why it is important to keep an eye on the condition of your underlayment. One way to maximize the lifespan of your underlayment is to replace it with a thicker water barrier. Most underlayments are one thirty-pound layer, but a forty-pound layer will have a longer lifespan for not much extra cost.


This refers to the stuff that fills the gaps between the holes in the clay roof and fixtures such as your chimney, ventilation, and anything else that protrudes from the roof. Modern flashing is most commonly made of metal and is easy to spot because it looks like shiny metal strips outlining holes in your roof.

Older roofs may use concrete or plaster for flashing, as do older tile roofs. These two materials are far less durable than metal flashing and will break down faster. If you have this older style of flashing, consider switching to metal flashing since it will be a worthwhile investment in your roof’s lifespan.

As with the underlayment, flashing is meant to keep water from seeping through your roof’s valleys and openings and into your home. Once metal flashing is installed, it needs basically no maintenance.


This refers to horizontal strips of wood that sit under the tiles and create an air pocket for better insulation. Battening is designed to lift the tiles up and help the water to drain away properly instead of accumulating on your roof — an especially useful feature for avoiding ice dams.

Battening is installed at the same time as the flashing and before the tiles. Only once the underlayment, battens, and flashing are in place can the clay roof tiles be installed over the battens. As long as the battening was installed correctly, it should not present any problems, although a failure in waterproofing could lead to the battens rotting.  

Warning Signs 

Lots of Damaged or Missing Tiles Are a Sign of Problems

Lots of Damaged or Missing Tiles Are a Sign of Problems

The quickest way to figure out the state of your terracotta roof is with a quick visual inspection. 

Broken Tiles

First, check the tiles and look for any that are damaged, cracked, or missing. Look for lichen and mold growth as well, since these growths can displace clay roof tiles as well. If you see this kind of damage in multiple places, this is the clearest sign that your clay roof is aching for a replacement.

Lots of tile damage means lots of ways for moisture to make it to your underlayment, roof frame, and battening, leading to lots of unpleasant moisture rot and growths. This is only more true if you live in a place with lots of rainfall.

Attic Check 

If you don’t see any major damage, the next place to go and look is in the attic. The things to look for are wet spots and mold. One leak doesn’t necessarily spell trouble, but if you find any leaks showing up repeatedly in key areas, this could be a sign of a larger problem.

Lots of molds and persistent wetness is a dead giveaway of a major leak and will require a lot of work to repair. Sunlight coming through holes in the attic is also a sign that your roof has significant damage and needs replacement.  


One of the most important factors to know about your terracotta roof is its age since this will let you know if your tile roofing is nearing the end of its service life. Both clay roofs and concrete ones can last anywhere from twenty to thirty years. Proper maintenance can make them last even longer. Be sure to keep good maintenance records so that you can calculate the roof’s age. 

Tile Roof Replacement Costs 

Tile Roofing Can Be Pricey Especially for Larger Roofs

Tile Roofing Can Be Pricey Especially for Larger Roofs

Replacing your tile roof can cost as little as an average of $7,800 but can also be as expensive as $15,118. In other words, you’re looking at paying anywhere between $8 to $25 per square foot on average, with $5 to $18 going to the materials themselves.

The rest goes to the labor fees of your tile roofing contractor. A lot of different variables will affect your budget including tile roofing contractors and material costs, the design of your roof, and its size. 

Replacing the Underlayment 

Underlayment Replacement Adds to the Cost

Underlayment Replacement Adds to the Cost

The cost of replacing your tile roof will be higher if you have to replace the underlayment. Underlayments usually last a decade less than the tiles and can cost anywhere from $65 to $80 per square foot to replace. Tile roofing contractor costs are not included in this cost and can add $300 to $500 to the total. This is due to the installation process being labor-intensive, and the cost is of course higher for heavier underlayments.

Monthly Maintenance vs. Replacement 

Diligent Maintenance Maximizes Your Tile Roof’s Lifespan

Diligent Maintenance Maximizes Your Tile Roof’s Lifespan

If you’re daunted by the prospect of paying for a full tile roof replacement, the most important thing to keep in mind is that roof tile replacement is not the end all be all of keeping your roof spick and span. 

In many cases, regular maintenance is enough to head off major roof problems and spot little ones before they have a chance to grow. Put another way, long-term investment in diligent maintenance can save you money in the long run.


Written by
Mateos Glen Hayes

Written by Mateos Glen Hayes