Clay Tile vs. Metal Roofing: Which to Choose?

Clay Tile vs. Metal Roofing: Which to Choose?

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In some areas local building codes may stipulate what types of roofing materials can be used, but where you have a choice, which comes off better, clay tiles or a metal roof? Practically speaking it can happen that a project’s budget will determine the final aesthetic, so where would a roof win or lose with either roofing type?

Here’s our guide to each roofing product and how they measure up.

What Are Clay Tiles?

Clay tiles have been a standard roofing material for millennia and have hardly altered in their design until recent years with the development of modern manufacturing methods. Clay is a natural material and the tiles made in this way can be found right across the US from coast to coast.

They are popular inherently because they have stood the test of time and have many benefits as well as being a handsome addition to any building.

What Is Metal Roofing?

Metal roofing can come in many guises. The first thing you might think of is a shed, barn, or commercial roof, but metal profile roofs are popular in many areas for residential developments too.

In Australia, metal roofing is standard in places that have to withstand extreme heat in the summer months.

Some metal profiles are made to resemble clay tile or even shingled roofs, its versatility only bounded by the manufacturing capability of the metalwork producer.

Clay Tile vs. Metal Roofing: What Are the Differences?

Now that we made it clear what we are talking about, let’s take a look at the key differences between the two.


From a distance it would be difficult to tell the difference between a metal profile roof that imitated clay tiles and the real thing

The metal panel roof is often a similar color and randomly patterned such that the distribution of tiles looks very similar to the naturally occurring differences in a clay tile roof. Curbside it would be almost impossible to tell one from the other.

It’s only when you get up a little closer that the details will become apparent, where the ends of the metal panels fold into the guttering, the edge panels at the gable ends, and perhaps the joins and fixings of the metal sheets themselves.

If aesthetics, and natural finishes are important then clay tiles will win hands down for you, but there are other things that need to be considered in any renovation or new build project.

Suitable Pitch

A metal roof is particularly recommended for lower pitched roofs, as an affordable alternative to a flat roof.

The interlocking sheet material that metal roofs are supplied as, cope well with rain at a pitch as low as 3:12, which means the roof slopes down three inches in every foot. Then again, they could also be considered for use in steeper pitches to stop accumulations of snow.

A clay tile can be laid as low as a 4:12 pitch and can be considered for pitches up to 35:12, but will require additional fittings such as tile clips to stop them from rattling in high winds. They are best used on standard pitches up to around 9:12 where they will sit happily for decades, keeping the house dry.


No one doubts the ability of clay tiles to go the distance. There are examples of Roman tiles from the 1st century that still look as good as clay tiles on a house built last year. In the real world, today’s clay tile manufacturers fully expect their products to protect a house for at least 100 years before needing to be replaced.

Metal profile roofing also performs well and if looked after can last between 50 and 75 years without needing to be replaced. Warranties are conditional and subject to the product being properly installed using the manufacturer’s recommended fasteners and accessories.

Weather Resistance

The weather, wind being the number one foe of all roofing materials, closely followed by rain, hail, ice and snow, can wreak havoc on any roof. So, which one fares best against all-comers?

Sheet metal roofing is often warrantied against wind speeds of up to 150 mph and are laboratory tested up to 300 mph in order to give a 100% comfort margin, which is pretty impressive.

Clay tiles could not compete with ultra-high wind speeds, however they can and do stand up to high winds and while they will lose individual tiles, if the wind should pick up the corner of a metal sheet roof, it may peel off the entire thing as if it were the lid of a sardine can.

However, both metal and clay repel rain, ice, and snow with ease. Most metal roofing systems are treated against and are warrantied for rust, and while clay will eventually crumble after a sustained series of assaults, it will take many decades.

Rot and Mold Resistance

Clay tiles, while preventing water from entering the roof space are also very resilient to temperature change and do not expand and contract at the rates that metal or other alternative roofing materials tend to do. Clay is also slightly porous, which means that tiles dry out rapidly, making it less likely that mold will take hold.

If you are concerned about whether metal roofing causes mold there are a couple of things you need to be aware of. The real culprits are condensation and the build up of water vapor. Beat those and you will have nothing to worry about.

A properly insulated roof will ensure that the metal panels never reach the dew point, therefore reducing the likelihood of condensation. Using the correct neoprene fixings should prevent leaks, stopping water collecting where it shouldn’t. With robust detailing and adherence to the manufacturer’s installation guidelines a metal roof will not fall victim to rust either.

Clay Tile vs. Metal Roofing: Which One Should You Use?

There are one or two instances where it might be inadvisable to use one or the other of either clay tile or metal roofing panels.

For metal roofing it would be prudent to consider whether a maritime environment would be beneficial. Wind driven salt water might well shorten the lifespan of a metal product, no matter how well protected it might be from the effects of chemical attack.

Clay tiles, on the other hand, might be particularly vulnerable in an area where they could be exposed to very high winds, either at high altitude or in a region vulnerable to tornadoes or other extreme weather events.


Metal roofing has developed and changed over the decades and is far removed from the old tin shed your grandpa kept his garden tools in. For one thing they are not nearly as noisy in the rain, and with proper insulation to code, are no hotter than other roof coverings.

Metal roof systems are ideal for low slope roof constructions and are almost entirely maintenance free if installed correctly. Installing this kind of roof in a high-wind zone is also likely to be a good bet, as long as the work is carried out on a windless day as the panels may be hard to handle if it gets too breezy up on the roof.

Clay tiles are a great traditional looking roof finish, but they are pretty heavy and so this should be taken into consideration when specifying a new build as the structure will have to be able to handle the weight.

At the end of the day the final decision is yours to make, however, if you have any doubt take a look at the local neighborhood and see what similar buildings to yours have on their roofs. If the predominant roof type is clay tile or metal then that will clue you in to what works best where you are.