Here in the Phoenix area, our roofs are mainly tile these days. There are still plenty of shingle roofs in the Valley of the Sun but virtually all new home builders install concrete tile roofs on their homes.
If you found this article, you were probably searching around the net looking for tips on caring for your tile roof. The Internet is filled with info on shingles and how to keep algae off. Now, this might be helpful if you live in a more damp region of the country but not so much in our dry desert climate. I, myself, was trying to find information for a customer who wanted to research tile roofs in Arizona, specifically the Phoenix area with our heat and unique weather issues. When I couldn’t find anything I decided to create an article using my own insight to try and help those who might want a little more information.
How long should my tile roof last?
A tile roof built using today’s standards and guidelines should last a minimum of 15 years with most lasting up to 30. There are a lot of determining factors such as environmental and what underlayment is used. Phoenix has a unique climate and you need to make sure the underlayment you choose will stand up to the heat and the rapid temperature changes we experience during the summer Monsoons. Another important factor is pests such as birds. Nothing will ruin your roof faster than the acid in bird droppings. The best advice I can give a homeowner is the moment you see birds nesting on your roof, you should get them off as quickly as possible before they nest and consider your roof their home. If you have a bird problem already, call in a bird removal expert – they cost a lot less than a new roof.
Roof debris is another item that will shorten the life span of your roofing system. Keep trees and leaves off of your roof. Roofs are designed for water to flow down and off quickly. Debris, especially in the valleys, can prevent water from flowing and create a water dam. Water dams can allow water to back up and flow under the roof system, causing a leak. See Nut’s and Bolts of a tile roof for more information. If you use a quality underlayment, and keep your roof clean from pests, debris and tree limbs, your roof could very well last 40 years or more before it needs to be replaced again.
How much does a new tile roof cost?
This is such a hard question to answer; so many factors go into the cost of a roofing system.
Is there access to the roof? If the roofing company can put a dumpster right up to the roof line and drop the trash off into the container it will save you money. If there is no place to put a dumpster then the roofing company has to pay the workers extra to offload the debris onto the ground and then pick up and upload it into the trash container following OSHA’S safety guidelines.
How steep is your roof? The pitch factor (how steep) of your roof will also play a factor in cost. Most roofs in Phoenix have between a 4:12-6:12 pitch anything more will increase the cost. Steeper pitches require more safety protocols and slow down production. Workers get paid higher wages to install on top of steep roofs because of the added danger and the slower rate the product is installed. Also steep roof pitches don’t allow for the material to be loaded onto the roof, the workers must hand load the material as they go which also cost more.
What type of tile roof do you have? Concrete tile is the most cost effective and common tile. Sandcast and clay tile is the most costly. If you have one of these types of roofs and have ever had a leak, you know what I mean. Although they look beautiful, when things go wrong it’s not easy or cheap. If you develop a leak or even just trying to replace a few broken tiles out of reach from the edge, it is a major ordeal and most times will leave you frustrated. The best way to answer this question is to say if you have a standard concrete tile roof that isn’t above a 6:12 pitch over a home that has approximately 3000 square feet of roof (not livable square feet) you should budget $10,000 for a tile remove and reset. If you are looking to throw away your old tile and purchase new tile you should budget $15,000 for the same roof. Those two numbers are just to give you an idea, I cannot stress enough on how every roof is different and if you are in the market to get a new roof call for a roof estimate, they are free.
Tile replacement, is it necessary?
In most cases no. There are only a few circumstances that require you to throw away your existing tile and purchase all new and these are rare. I must first explain that there are three things to consider; manufacturer, color, and profile (shape).
If the manufacturer went out of business or they no longer produce your color or profile, there is a chance you will have to purchase all new tile. It is normal to have to replace a few missing or broken tiles when replacing the tile underlayment. Roofing companies try to find your tile in what we call bone yards and even when we are lucky, chances are the new tiles will not match exactly. Imagine cutting out a piece of carpet in the middle of your living room and replacing it with a new piece, even if it is the same color and manufacturer, it isn’t going to be an exact match. You are going to see it. The roofer will try to hide it on an area of the roof that is not visible from the ground. Sometimes there are no hidden areas on the roof or the amount of tiles needing to be replaced is too much to hide. In these cases the homeowner must decide if they can live with it or buy all new tile.
I have only seen this a few times. It is very rare but a manufacturer’s defect can cause your roof tiles to crumble and break. If the manufacturer isn’t around anymore to uphold their warranty, you unfortunately will be forced to buy all new tiles.
Nuts and bolts of a tile roof
Tile roofs are designed to be on a pitched roof that allows water to run downhill and off the roof quickly. Installation starts with the most important factor: the underlayment. The crew will start by securing a layer of underlayment at the bottom edge of the roof, and adding an overlapping layer moving upwards towards the peak of the roof. Then, they will measure and chalk lines for proper tile spacing and batten installation.
Battens are installed to lift the tile up off of the underlayment and allow water to flow properly. I would recommend getting a cost for upgraded battens, the cost isn’t usually much and it increases the life span of your roof by allowing better air and water flow.
Flashings are also installed at this time. Tile roofs should have two flashings over each pipe penetration: an aluminum and galvanized roof jack. Other common flashings used in tile roof installations are eave metal, bird stop, weather blocking, valley metal and roof to wall metal.
Have a chimney? You might need a cricket behind the chimney to help prevent water from pooling and deteriorating your roof faster in that area. If you have a room in your house that is hotter than the rest, you may want to see about adding extra vents to allow for better air movement in that part of the attic.
For more detailed information on how to install a tile roof in Phoenix visit the TRI Concrete and Clay Roof Tile Installation website at http://tileroofing.org/resources/installation-guides/
Signs I need to replace my roof
Tile roofs are tricky; you usually can’t see a problem before it is a problem because the underlayment is hidden by the tile. If you want to prevent water damage to your home, the best thing you can do is to keep an eye on your roof with roof maintenance. At Jim Brown & Sons when you purchase a new roof system we offer yearly free roof inspection. When your roof is new, it is important to have the inspection done to identify any possible workmanship issue that might appear within the first few years. After that, we are looking for any possible problems you should avoid such as bird or rodent issues, any minor damage that may have occur from a storm or a third party contractor and roof debris such as trees or vines.
As your roof ages 10-15 years, we will look for signs of the underlayment reaching its full life expectancy so that you can prepare for a new roof when the time comes. Signs that we look for are dried out, brittle, shrinking, and curling underlayment. If you have a leak but your underlayment is in good condition we check for proper overlapping on the underlayment. If the underlayment wasn’t installed correctly, your roof can only be a few years old and need to be replaced. Just like your favorite cotton t-shirt, your roofing underlayment shrinks in the heat overtime. If not enough of an overlap was given then your roof lifespan shrinks as well.Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in a track home built during the housing boom 2004-2009.
Another sign is to walk around the outside of your home and look at the eaves of your roof (not everyone has exposed eaves) pic 3. If you see water staining, it is a sign that water is getting under the roof system and settling at the bottom. Water runs downhill until it finds a spot to enter. If no spot is found it sits on the eaves and rots the wood. This is why 90% of all roof leaks are at roof penetrations such as bathroom vents, ceiling light fixtures and a/c ducts.
If you are physically able to go into your attic, you can also stick a flashlight up there and look to see if there are any signs of water stains under the roof. I make my husband do this every year when getting the Christmas decorations down. I would do it but hey, he is up there already so why not? Winter is a much better time to be inspecting the underside of your roof versus summer. I don’t recommend doing this during our summer months or if you are not comfortable being in the attic. Temperatures during Phoenix’s summer months are not safe. You can get too far back in a crawl space and be overcome with heat exhaustion and pass out.
When in doubt, call a licensed roofing contractor. If it is too, hot we will make arrangements to come out in the early mornings during the summer months. Don’t be fooled! If you have a leak it doesn’t mean you need a new roof. Get multiple estimates from reputable companies. A good resource to find licensed, responsible roofing contractors in Phoenix is through the Arizona Roofing Contractors Association. They have a list of roofing contractors who are licensed, insured, and reputable on their website at www.azroofing.org. If your roof is over 20 years old and you are experiencing multiple leaks, then chances are you need a new roof but it still never hurts to get a second opinion.
Should I get maintenance and how often?
We already touched base on this a little. Inspections are free after you purchase a full roof system from us but maintenance has a cost. If you purchased a roof from us and are utilizing our free inspections, then I wouldn’t recommend maintenance until your inspector starts to find areas of concern. If you have a lot of roof debris, you might want this service right away. If you have a clean, pest-free roof you can hold off on the maintenance for up to 10 years. After your 10 years, maintenance is a good idea. We will clean off debris, reseal pipes, repair mortar joints, replace broken missing tile and re-secure any slipped tiles this service comes with a leak warranty as well. Most roofs need maintenance every 2 years. However, some need it every 6 months if they have a lot of dirt and debris. Again, it just depends on the environment around your roof.
What is the difference in underlayments?
There is a big difference in underlayments and I can’t stress this enough: the underlayment is your roofing system and is the most important thing. Don’t skimp on the product. The Tile Roofing Institute says the minimum underlayment required is one layer of ASTM D226 Type II (No. 30 felt) /ASTM D4869 Type IV or ASTM D 1970 (self adhering), meeting AC 152. Make sense? No? What that means is the basic system must have a minimum of one layer ASTM grade 30 pound felt. We don’t recommend this. For a few bucks more you can get a 40 pound felt and for a few more bucks you can get two layers of a 40 pound.
The best system to give your roof the longest life span is a self-adhering tile underlayment. I say that but if you ask two roofers you will get three opinions. Some experts will say that two layers of anything is better than one layer of the best underlayment.
So, do your research and make the decision that best fits you and your roof. Every roof is different and has its own challenges. Talk to your contractor and discuss what options might be the best for your situation. Money always plays a part in your choice, but I promise you, your money is best spent on upgrading your underlayment. It’s like my grandpa always said, “spend more money on good shoes and a good mattress because if you aren’t on your feet, you are on your back.” Same concept goes with your roof. If you have to choose between spending money on an upgraded cosmetic look or on an upgraded product that protects your assets, choose the protection.
Do I need to be home for the roof inspection?
Yes, you and your spouse or anyone who is responsible for making choices should be home if possible. There are a lot of decisions to be made when choosing to purchase a new roof and if this is your first time, you might be a little overwhelmed with the options. Once the contract is signed and products are ordered you don’t want to change your mind on colors or products. It can cost you money. We dislike change orders just as much as our customers do and try to never go back asking for more money. One way that is unavoidable is when we purchase the material and it is delivered and someone doesn’t like it. I am sure it has never happened to you but occasionally one spouse picks something out and the other spouse doesn’t like it. An argument ensues and now we have a change order because we can’t take the product back. It is just easier on everyone if all decision makers are there to talk about roof concerns and options.
Valorie Brown-Miller (aka “The Girl on the Roof”) has been in the roofing industry for over 12 years. She was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Her first job at JBS Roofing was climbing up roofs, finding leaks, and providing estimates on commercial buildings. She then moved to the new construction division, negotiating contracts and building relationships with general contractors. In 2010 she was put in charge of restarting the residential division at JBS Roofing and was made Vice President in 2011. She is the past President of the BNI chapter Arrowhead Legends, Co-Chair of the Marketing and Membership committee for the Arizona Roofing Contractors Association, sits on the Convention Committee and volunteers on their multiple charity events as well. Her father, Ron Brown, owns Jim Brown & Sons Roofing and has been in the roofing industry for over 45 years. Her husband Larry Miller has worked in the roof industry for 32 years and they have 5 children.