The difference between clay and concrete tiles may be obvious to those who work in the industry, but for those with little or no experience, the distinctions are not so clear-cut. Concrete tiles have become the most popular tile option on the market, but clay tiles continue to show their value. Depending on the requirements of the build, either option has its own benefits. Read on to discover the main differences between the two materials and for information on deciding which is right for your property.
The Make-up of a Concrete Tile
Made from a mixture of cement, sand and water, concrete tiles are created under heat and high pressure before being moulded into shape. The surface almost acts like a blank canvas because the grey material can be coloured to closely match many other shades and styles such as clay, slate, wood and stone.
There are three main 'profiles' (referring to the shape of the material) of concrete tile which offer the following appearance:
- Flat profile: A flat, straight tile with no curves
- Low profile: This tile has a small curve and rise to width ratio up to 1:5
- High Profile: A concrete tile with larger curves with a rise to width ratio greater than 1:5
The Make-up of a Clay Tile
The aesthetic appeal of clay tiles comes from their earthy natural appearance. Made by baking moulded clay at high temperatures, the colour of the material can vary between orange, brown, white or yellow. However, we mostly recognise its natural terracotta tone.
Clay tiles are not prone to fading because the colour is bonded to the material during the manufacturing process due to the high temperatures in the kiln. The natural source of the material also means it is an attractive eco-friendly option.
On many occasions, the cost can prove to be the decisive factor. Clay tiles are generally 20-25% more expensive to purchase than their concrete counterparts, due mostly to the manufacturing process. If possible, you should give consideration to the long-term effects of your purchasing decision and weigh up the pros and cons of price vs value.
Think about how long the roof will be in place on the property, and if you are re-tiling to sell, the added value could have a significant effect on the price you secure on the market.
When seen up close, clay tiles come out a clear winner in this department. Improvements in technology in the past few decades have seen the manufacturer’s ability to mimic the colour and design of clay tiles improve considerably. What concrete cannot match, however, is the vibrancy clay tiles naturally produce that will increase in character the longer they are in place.
As adaptable as concrete can be, when the colouring is compared directly with clay, the differences are instantly notable. The artificiality of concrete is one thing that is ultimately hard to disguise on closer inspection. Due to continued exposure to the elements, concrete tiles will also eventually fade and become greyer. This will alter the original look of the property’s exterior. Clay tiles will not peel or fade over time.
Building restrictions can be a concern and an ongoing complication at the best of times. This can also apply to the type of tiles used on your roof. For example, listed buildings or properties in conservation areas mean clay may be the preference in order to retain the original aesthetic.
This can extend further into handmade clay tiles which provide an even more authentic finish. The cost for anything handmade is always going to considerably higher, so this has to be factored into any budget. While you will struggle to find a better-looking tile, the price could be anywhere up to 50% higher than standard machine-made clay tiles.
The lifespan of both clay and concrete tiles is certainly comparable. Manufacturers will usually supply a 30-year warranty, although in the vast majority of cases both clay and concrete tiles will survive for twice that amount of time at the very least. Much of that will come down to how well the roof is maintained over the course of its lifespan and the general weather conditions the tiles are exposed to.
While both materials are guaranteed to protect the property’s interior from the outside elements, cement will absorb water at a faster rate. Neither clay nor concrete is a high maintenance material and a yearly clean should be sufficient enough to wash away any mould or algae. Breakages should be addressed quickly regardless of the material, although clay is more susceptible to cracks during the colder months.
The rate at which each material absorbs water will have an impact on the lifespan and overall look of the tile. In ‘average’ weather conditions a clay or concrete roof tile will have almost equal performance levels. However, exposure to higher levels of water can lead to higher levels of mildew and the development of stains on concrete tiles.
Concrete tiles have a higher water absorption rate of around 13% compared to clay which absorbs water at almost half the rate at approximately 6%. The issue that water absorption creates for concrete tiles is the added weight. Concrete tiles are already heavier than clay and the roof underlay is put under extra pressure due to the presence of water. In most cases, this will not create any further issues but in areas of sustained rainfall, the roof structure may need to be reinforced as an extra precaution.
It almost goes without saying that concrete tiles are considerably heavier than clay tiles. The extra weight that comes with installing concrete tiles will usually mean re-enforcing the structure underneath to offer additional support.
On average, concrete tiles will generally weigh upwards of 70kg per m², although this will vary depending on the style of tile being used. Clay roof tiles are a lighter option with products available at around 30kg per m² but there are heavier variants which can weigh up to 65kg per m².
There are clear advantages to be found in both clay and concrete tiles, depending on your requirements and any restrictions that may impact the project. Concrete is the more cost-effective option and stands up well against severe weather conditions, while clay provides a beautiful natural look and weighs less even after experiencing heavy rainfall. Take your time to choose the right tile to suit your property and if you are still unsure, get in touch and we’ll be able to give you all the advice you need.
Below are examples of some of our most popular types of clay and concrete tiles, to help you weigh up the right type for your property.
|Sandtoft Olympus Tile||Clay||408 x 327mm||34.7kg/m²||£1.56||22.5⁰|
|Marley Plain Concrete Tile||Concrete||267 x 168mm||73.8kg/m²||From £0.42||35°|
|Marley Acme Single Camber||Clay||265 x 165mm||64kg/m²||From £0.42||30°|
|Sandtoft Plain Concrete Tile||Concrete||265 x 165mm||78.0kg/m²||From £0.42||35°|