Tile roofing is very common throughout the US, especially in the southwest. The term tile can actually mean anything from cement and concrete to terracotta tiles, or slate stones to fiber-reinforced synthetic tiles. While tile roofing installations are one of the most expensive options, the advantages often make the extra cost worthwhile.
Perhaps the most important advantage of tile roofing is its lifespan. In general, a cared for and well maintained tile roof can last 50 years, although there are buildings in Europe whose tile roofs have lasted for centuries. Tile roofs exceed all other types of roofing materials for longevity. It doesn’t seem to matter if the material is cement, concrete, terracotta, slate or fiber-reinforced synthetic tiles, as long as regular maintenance takes place, these roofs have extremely long lifespans.
Aside from its aesthetic appeals, tile roofing is completely fire resistant — stone doesn’t burn. It is also highly damage resistant, which means lower maintenance costs.
While tile roofing holds up well to many of the extreme weather conditions the southwest has to offer, it can still take damage. Extreme weather, wind, hail, and cold can cause tiles to crack or be blown off. The elements, time, building movement and incorrect installation can cause mortar to become loose.
In shaded areas, mold and lichen can grow on the tiles, and the tile can degrade if the mold and lichen is removed. Moreover, the metal valleys that secure the tiles to your roof can become corroded due to the presence of leaves or debris, or the use of cement-based mortar. Most of these events are uncommon and infrequent, but they do happen.
While the tile can last for decades, the felt underlayment often wears out sooner (20 – 40 years), and must be replaced to maintain your roof system. Last but not least, foot traffic can easily break tiles, and a professional roofer is recommended should you need any type of assistance that involves direct contact with the roof tiles. Regular, visual inspections from the ground are encouraged, however, in order to detect and repair small problems before they grow to larger complications.