Terracotta vs. Slate vs. Sand-Cast Roofing Tiles

When people talk about tile roofs, they usually refer to one of three main types: terracotta, slate, or sand cast. In Arizona, terracotta (clay) tiles are the most prevalent, but sand cast and slate are also very popular. Keep reading to learn the difference between these three types of roofing tiles and tips for maintaining a tile roof.

Terracotta Roofing Tiles

Terracotta roofing tiles are crafted from natural clay and baked at high temperatures to achieve their characteristic red or earthy hues. These tiles are renowned for their durability and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions. Terracotta tiles are also energy-efficient, providing natural insulation and helping to regulate indoor temperatures. Their timeless aesthetic appeal makes them a popular choice for homes with Mediterranean or Spanish architectural styles.

Sand-Cast Roofing Tiles

Sand-cast roofing tiles are manufactured by molding and baking sand mixed with other materials (often clay), which are then fired, giving them a unique appearance. Whether machine-made or hand-finished, these tiles add character to any roof. They are typically heavier and thicker than other roofing materials, contributing to their strength and resistance to wind damage. Sand-cast tiles offer a rustic charm and are often used in custom or high-end residential projects. As they age, they acquire a patina that enhances their natural beauty.

Slate Roofing Tiles 

Slate roofing tiles are made from quarried natural stone and split into thin sheets. They are known for their exceptional longevity, often lasting over a century with proper maintenance. Slate tiles are fire-resistant and impervious to insect damage, making them a robust and low-maintenance option. The natural variations in color and texture (usually in blues, greens, and blacks) provide a unique and sophisticated look suitable for various architectural styles, particularly colonial and Tudor homes.

Caring for Tile Roofs

Proper maintenance is crucial for the longevity and performance of tile roofs, whether they are terracotta, sand cast, or slate. While the general maintenance guidelines are similar across these types, slight variations may necessitate specific attention.

To keep your tile roof in good condition, we recommend:

  • Regular inspections: Conduct routine inspections from the ground and schedule annual professional maintenance to identify and address any cracked or broken tiles.
  • Cleaning: Remove debris, moss, and algae periodically to prevent moisture retention and potential damage.
  • Repairs: Promptly replace damaged tiles to avoid water infiltration and structural issues.
  • Sealant application when appropriate: Apply a sealant to tiles every few years to protect against water absorption and staining.

While each type of tile has its unique properties, adhering to these maintenance tips will help preserve the beauty and functionality of your roofing tiles.

BONUS TIP: Avoiding Walking on Your Tile Roof

Walking on a tile roof, regardless of the type of tiles used, is highly discouraged due to the potential damage it can cause. Tiles are specifically designed to offer robust protection from the elements when properly laid, but they can be pretty fragile under direct pressure. A person's weight can easily crack or break the tiles, leading to costly repairs and compromising the roof's integrity. Additionally, broken tiles can allow water to seep through, causing leaks and affecting the roof's underlying structure.

To avoid these issues, minimizing foot traffic on tile roofs is crucial. If accessing the roof is absolutely necessary, such as for maintenance or repairs, it is best to use a qualified roofing professional, like Lyons Roofing, who can utilize specialized equipment and techniques to distribute weight and prevent damage.

Are you considering installing a tile roof on your Arizona home? Turn to Lyons Roofing for advice. Contact us online to discuss your options.