Roofer Tells a Tale of Tile

Many homeowners are under the mistaken impression their "last a lifetime" tiles don't need inspection.

By Rod Menzel

Spending many  of my working hours on roofs around Ventura County, one thing for certain stands out about Moorpark: tile roofs. Easily, Moorpark has more tile roofs than any other city in the county.

Perhaps it has to do with all the new homes built in Moorpark between 20 and 30 years ago. At that time, perhaps tile roofs were the hot architectural design element. Today I would estimate that only one in five Moorpark neighborhoods have what are known as composition roof shingles.

This is important to note because in recent month—after seeing roof after roof, day after day—I noticed a trend. Not only in Moorpark but also elsewhere in Ventura County and the immediate region, we are seeing more neglect on tile roofs than usual in recent years.

Upon informing homeowners, we find they most commonly were under the impression that “Tile roofs last a lifetime.”

This is almost true. They say tile roofs last a lifetime because the concrete or clay tiles will last a lifetime. But due to the “last a lifetime” phrase, many tile roof owners ignore maintenance inspections. It’s a mistake, as I learned in recent months. Ignoring inspections can result in problems, big problems if surprise rain storms hit.

Most damage to roofs comes from the sun’s rays. Tiles on tile roofs are not the actual roof system that protects your home. That job belongs to what is known as the under layment, usually made of felt, sometimes called tar paper.

A tile roof more than 20 years old will begin to have problems. The main reason is the asphalt in the felt actually evaporates over time, and the felt becomes brittle. Also, some water will get under the tile even if tiles aren’t damaged, because unlike composition shingles, tiles do not lay completely flat to the roof deck.

Much can happen to a tile roof. While clay or concrete tiles are strong, they can be cracked by poor manufacturing, severe cold conditions, or, mainly, people stepping or things like branches being blown onto them by the wind.

Ultimately the cracks allow moisture underneath, which begin to take action against the under-layment. Then, the actual roof system is assaulted.

On top, the roof may look good. Underneath, where it matters, trouble could be brewing.

Moisture intrusion can cause problems such as mold, rotting and insect infestations. For this reason alone, it is prudent to have your roof inspected regularly—at least once a year. Typically problems are near broken tiles, at roof vents, valleys, eaves and at the chimney.

Tile quality has become problematic in recent years as well. As this roof system has grown in popularity, manufacturers have struggled to keep up with demand, resulting in low-quality tiles. Tiles should be certified to ASTM International standards, which ensures tiles are of a certain structural quality and will not break or deteriorate with proper use.

Even with certified tiles, sometimes tile roofs need repair. Most common is fixing leaks beneath tiles. Another familiar repair is replacing broken tiles from objects hitting the roof. To prevent problems outlined previously, it’s advisable to have broken tiles replaced immediately.

Finally, if you choose to make repairs yourself, be very careful. Tile roofs are both slippery and fragile. Walk on the over-lapped portion of the tile and avoid frail or broken tiles. If needed, use foam padding or plywood to create a path to move around.

—Rod Menzel of Moorpark is president and founder of Camarillo-based GreatWay Roofing. Menzel and his wife, Michelle, have been active in Moorpark, donating free roofs to the Moorpark Little League for its concession stand and to the Moorpark Food Pantry. They also have donated roof repairs to several organizations in the community including their church, Moorpark Presbyterian. GreatWay Roofing can be reached at (805) 484-2771 or via www.greatwayroofing.com.

Keith Jajko April 28, 2011 at 07:51 PM
Thanks, Becca - good information and a great feature for future columns with "news you can use" in the Patch. Hot months ahead, hopefully someone submits one with lawn care tips!


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