A tile roof can be a significant investment when new. Of course, the two things that make it a worthwhile investment are beauty and longevity. The unique look of tile may be exactly what your home needs. And a new tile roof can last 50 years or more. But over time a tile roof will require maintenance and repair. And the day will eventually come when it needs to be replaced. But how do you know when that is? Well, here at Eagle Watch we have some great suggestions for how to tell if it’s time to replace your tile roof.

Is it Time to Replace Your Tile Roof [infographic]

Installing a Tile Roof

Tile roofs are not the most common type of roof in Georgia. However, if you have a Mediterranean style home or just like the look, nothing beats tile. The most common type of tile today is concrete tile. Concrete tile can be manufactured to look like almost any other type of tile, including the classic clay and terracotta. It can even be manufactured to mimic the look of other materials including wood shake and slate. Sand cast and terracotta tiles are less common and more expensive, but you can still find them on some homes.


Tile roofs are meant to be pitched to let water run off the roof quickly. However, like many roofs, waterproofing starts before you lay the first tile. With any tile roof, underlayment is an import factor is keeping out water. Underlayment is installed starting at the bottom edge of the roof. A stip of underlayment is installed on the edge of the roof first. Then another stip is installed above it and overlapping it. This pattern continues up the roof to the ridge. When installed properly, underlayment should keep out a lot of water.

According to official guidelines provided by the Tile Roofing Institute, tile roofs require at least one layer of ASTM D226 Type II (No. 30 felt) /ASTM D4869 Type IV or ASTM D 1970 (self adhering), meeting AC 152. While this sounds very technical, it basically just means that TRI suggests at least one layer of 30 pound felt underlayment. However, since the underlayment in your roof’s main water shield, it pays to go a bit beyond the basic recommendation. Options for improvement include using 40 pound felt for just a few bucks more. Or even better, use two layers of 40 pound felt. Finally, there are self-adhesive underlayments that also provide superior water protection. In short, don’t skimp on the underlayment. It’s not that expensive and can save you a lot of money on repairs.

Battens and Flashing

After the underlayment is installed, a series of battens are attached to the roof. Battens are long strips of material, usually wood, that will support the tiles and lift them up slightly from the surface of the underlayment. This provides for airflow and better drainage. In fact, installing tiles over batten creates an air pocket, or thermal barrier, that helps keep heat and cold from penetrating the roof. That can translate into significant reductions in temperature control energy use.

At the same time that battens are installed, that is before the tiles, flashing is also installed. Metal flashing helps direct water away from areas where it could collect or penetrate the roof. Flashing is installed in valleys where two slopes meet to direct accumulate water off the roof. It is also installed around any roof penetrations, including pipes, vents, skylights, and chimneys. A chimney may also require a cricket. A cricket is a ridged piece of flashing that keeps water from collecting behind a chimney and directs it around the chimney instead.

Once the underlayment, battens, and flashing have been installed, the tiles can be installed on top of the battens.

How Long Should a Tile Roof Last?

The lifespan of a tile roof could be 50 years or more. But a lot depends on the environment, the type of underlayment used, and maintenance. In Georgia, we get plenty of hard rains and hot, humid days. That makes moisture protection especially important. The underlayment, which protects against moisture, becomes especially significant in how long a roof lasts. But maintenance is also a major factor.

In general, it is important to keep your tile roof clean. It may come as a surprise, but one of the worst things for a tile roof is bird droppings. Bird droppings are acidic and will eat into your tiles. If you notice birds nesting on your roof, it is important to shoo them away as quickly as possible before they damage the roof. If you have a bird problem, or birds are already nesting on your roof, you may need to call a professional. A professional bird expert or pest control professional can safely remove birds from your roof.

Another significant source of damage to a tile roof comes from accumulated debris. Roofs are designed to direct water down and off the roof as quickly as possible. Fallen leaves, tree branches, and other debris stop the flow of water off the roof. Especially if it accumulates in valleys, debris on your roof can seriously restrict drainage. When water takes too long to run off the roof, or starts to pool, damage is not far behind. Pooling water can seep through the tiles and into the underlayment. Remember, good underlayment is key to the longevity of a tile roof. But the more water you can keep off of the underlayment, the better. A roof that is kept clean and has a good underlayment can last 50 years or more without issue.

Signs I Need to Replace My Roof

Even though a tile roof can have a long lifespan, it will eventually need to be replaced. If conditions are not optimal or the roof is poorly maintained, it could be much sooner than 50 years. The weakest point in any tile roof is the underlayment. While tile can last 50 years or more, underlayment is less rugged. Underlayment is made on natural fiber and shrinks over time. If the original installer didn’t overlap the underlayment enough, as it shrinks, gaps could appear. Even if the underlayment was installed properly, over time it may become brittle, dried out, or curled. All of these things make it less effective at keeping out water.

One good way to tell if you need to replace your roof is to look for signs of water damage. Check any exposed eaves. Look up and search for signs of water stains. If water is getting under your tiles and the underlayment, it will run down your roof until the eaves, where it will accumulate and rot the wood.

However, if you have roof penetrations like skylights, chimneys, and vents, the water may not make it all the way down to the eaves. 99% of all roof leaks are around roof penetrations. One good way to check for these leaks and other you can’t see from the ground is to go into your attic. If you can get into your attic or crawl space, go up with a flashlight and look at the ceiling. You will be looking at the underside of your roof. Check for stains and signs of water damage. If the is foam or other insulation, look for dark spots that could indicate water damage.

Safety When Working in an Attic

Georgia has hot and humid summers. If it is hot outside, it will be much hotter and stuffier in your attic. While you may think you can handle the heat, it is best to wait until it cools down a bit. You could crawl into a tight space in your attic, be overcome by the heat, and pass out. If you plan to work in a hot attic, let someone know you are going up and have them check on you after a while.

When to Hire Professionals

If you notice signs of water damage, bring in a roofer to do an inspection. Eagle Watch Roofing is happy to do a free inspection of your roof. Even if you don’t see any damage, get your tile roof inspected once every year or two. Catching damaged tiles early will prevent more extensive damage. It is also good to have your roof professionally cleaned once a year. This will prevent a buildup of debris that could harm the roof. Don’t attempt to walk on a tile roof yourself, as this could damage the tiles. Instead, contact Eagle Watch Roofing and we’ll happily take care of your roof so you get its full lifespan.