Types of Roof Tiles: Which Is the Best?

Types of Roof Tiles: Which Is the Best?

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So, you’re moving away from shingles and are exploring your other roofing options. There are a plethora of tile roofing materials, shapes, and installation methods, and one of them is sure to fit your needs.

Let’s take a look at the different types of roofing tiles, their advantages, and disadvantages, and whether they might be right for you.

What Are Roof Tiles?

Roof tiles are pieces of roofing material, typically made from locally available natural resources. They can be made from clay, concrete, slate, and sometimes metal. These tiles are installed on the roof with nails in overlapping rows, beginning at the lowest part of the roof and working up to the peak.

In cases where the roof’s slope is above 7:12, a grid-like structure of wood, plastic, or metal called battens is installed before the tiles. The tiles are then fastened directly to the battens.

They are also used in wet and cold regions that are susceptible to ice damming and occasionally in very warm climates. The gap between the tiles and the roof allows water to drain completely and generates a thermal barrier.

Roof tiles come in a variety of shapes and styles, from flat shingle-style rectangular shapes to flat interlocking tiles, c-shaped pan and cover tiles (Mission-style tiles) to Spanish S-tiles, with each serving a different aesthetic.

5 Types of Roof Tiles

This post concentrates on five types of materials for roof tiles: clay, concrete, slate, metal, and solar.


Clay tiles are typically made from natural clay, locally sourced by the manufacturer. The wet clay is placed into molds or pallets and baked in a kiln at high temperatures. The color of these tiles will vary based on the region, and the weight and feel are determined by the baking temperature and time.

One of the main advantages of clay tiles is their strength and durability. If properly cared for, these tiles can last for 100 years or more. They withstand storms and water, can handle winds up to 150 mph, are fire retardant, and are resistant to hail. Those that are looking for a low-maintenance option that seriously boosts curb appeal will find it in clay roofing.

However, there are some disadvantages to this option, which mainly center around the cost of the materials and installation. In 2023, clay roof installation costs between $7 – $25 per square foot, with the materials being $3 – $8 per square foot, with an average installation of about $14,000.

Clay roofs can be brittle, which is why walking on the tiles is not recommended. These tiles can also be heavy, often requiring additional money for roof reinforcement before installation.

This roofing is ideal for hot climates and areas that see infrequent rain, but large quantities at a time. It’s not the best option for areas that see extreme cold and ice, especially where added weight from extreme snow is a real concern.


This material is made from a mixture of sand, Portland cement, and water subjected to high heat and pressure in a mold. The tiles are then finished with an application of a paint-like material to protect them from UV rays and give them a polished look. These tiles come in the same shapes available in clay tiles, but with a wider color palette.

The benefits of concrete roof tiles are their ability to absorb noise, insulate against cold, and resist fire and wind. In warm climates, concrete is a great material for reflecting the heat of the sun. These tiles have a lifespan of about 50 years, and are a lower-cost alternative to clay, costing about 20% less.

A major drawback of concrete roofing is the additional amount of maintenance required to keep up the integrity of the roof. Frequent inspection for water damage, mold and dirt, and color fading is needed, and the underlayment needs to be routinely replaced. Concrete is also quite heavy, often requiring reinforcement so the roof can hold the added weight.

Concrete tiles are excellent for all climates, where the home can support the added weight of the roof. For homeowners that want the look of clay tiles, but with a smaller budget and a little more maintenance time on their hands, concrete is a great option.


A naturally occurring metamorphic stone, slate is known for its signature blue-gray color and unique texture. It is typically cut into thin, shingle-like plates, and is both smooth and flaky due to the way its thin layers break off during production.

The advantages of slate include its life expectancy–up to 200 years–and beautiful appearance. It requires little maintenance, is energy efficient, durable, and holds up to damage from wind and hail. It is great for energy efficiency, insulating the inside of the home, and resisting heat from the sun.

Unfortunately, slate is incredibly heavy. It adds 8 – 10 lbs per square foot to the weight of your roof, which often means that homes either need to be built to withstand the added weight or reinforced later before installation.

Fortunately, there are hybrid and synthetic slate options available to help cut some weight. It is also a very expensive roofing material, costing between $10 – $30 per square foot for natural slate, $9 – $16 for hybrid, and $4 – $12 for synthetic.

Slate is an excellent material for all climates. For those that are willing to pay the additional cost and whose infrastructure can handle the additional weight, slate is a great low-maintenance option that can seriously increase the value of your home.


Metal roofing tiles embody all of the beauty of clay, but with their own benefits. There are tiles available that show the metal surface and some tiles that are coated with a natural stone composite to give off a more natural look.

There are many advantages to metal roofing, with one being that they require minimal maintenance, with rain washing away dust and debris easily. The material is naturally resistant to mold and algae and can withstand winds over 140 mph, and can easily last over 50 years with proper care. Metal tiles have the added benefit of fire resistance, making them a great choice for climates that see annual hot and dry seasons.

The primary disadvantage of metal tiles is the cost. Depending on the type of metal used, this roofing can cost anywhere between $75 – $1,200 per roofing square (100 square feet), with the added cost of labor averaging about $3,000. Despite it being quite durable, metal has a tendency to dent with impact and is prone to an effect called oil canning, which creates visible waves on the flat sections of the roof.

Metal is a great, versatile roofing material. It’s suitable for all climates, is energy efficient, and eco-friendly. It’s also relatively lightweight in nature and is a good option for those that like a clean, moderately industrial look.

We wrote a detailed comparison of metal roofing and clay tiles here.


Solar roof tiles, also called solar shingles, are made from slim sheets of photovoltaic material that absorb and store sunlight to reconvert the energy as electricity within the home. Becoming a more popular roofing material, the availability of solar tiles is still limited, but the leading companies are reputable in their craft.

The most outstanding advantage of solar tiles is their energy benefits. Depending on the number of tiles installed, the average cost of a home’s electricity bill can be cut by 40 to 70%. Solar tiles are also surprisingly durable and have a lifespan of up to 20 years. They need minimal maintenance, though repairs can be expensive.

The drawbacks of solar tiles are their limited performance in regions that see more overcast and rainy days. Integrated solar tiles generally produce less energy than solar panels, but the technology is rapidly catching up. The cost of solar tiles is high, with installation costing between $20 – $30 per square foot, or about $36,000 to $54,000 for a 1,800-square-foot roof.

Solar panels are best for environments that see a lot of sun and for homeowners that are eco-conscious and looking to cut their energy bills.

What Type of Roof Tiles Is the Best?

Tile roofing isn’t typically a one-size-fits-all material. Different options will outperform others based on their purpose and application.

Best on a Budget

For homeowners that want a high-end look, but don’t have a high-end budget, concrete is the best roofing material. It is great for most climates where added weight from intense snow isn’t a concern. However, with that lower cost comes an increase in maintenance requirements, so that is something to keep in mind.

Best for Added Value

The fastest way to add a huge amount of value to a home is to install a slate roof. Slate comes at a high cost, but it also significantly increases resale value. If natural slate is too pricey, the hybrid or synthetic option can give you the desired look at a lower dollar amount.

Best Overall

Overall, the most balanced option for roof tiles is clay. They’re incredibly long-lasting, come in a variety of colors and shapes, and are suitable for most climates. Clay adds a huge amount of value and curb appeal to your home with minimal ongoing maintenance.


Whether it be clay, metal, slate, or another option, there are so many roofing tiles on the market that you’re sure to find one that’s right for you. This should serve as a guide to point you in the right direction.

Before making a final decision, you might also want to read how roof tiles compare with shingles.