Concrete Roofs - Types, Installation And A Brief History

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Concrete Roofs – Types, Installation And A Brief History

Concrete Roofs – Types, Installation And A Brief History

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Most readers of this article are just curious about a concrete roof and not actually serious about wanting one. These types of roofs are very popular in third world countries but practically don’t exist here in the United States. However, there are concrete tiles, which while still not very popular, they do exist here.

As you can imagine, a concrete roof – or concrete tiles, to be precise – are a popular choice due to many benefits they have, most notably their durability (after all it is concrete). Still, this doesn’t mean they are without flaws, or that they are the best choice for each situation.

What Is a Concrete Roof?


A concrete roof isn’t just one single piece of concrete that goes on top of your house (well, in South America it is).

concrete roof Concrete Roof In South America

However in USA, most concrete roofs are in tile form.

To get concrete tiles, manufacturers mix cement, sand, water, and, most of the time, iron oxide for added pigment. This mixture is heated and molded in a shape of standard roof tiles, and it serves as a strong, water and weather-resistant layer that goes on top of your roof.

When installing a concrete roof, it requires removing  the old roofing material, underlayment replacement, and adding battens so the tiles could be fastened. This isn’t as simple as it appears to be at the first glance, especially if your roof has step penetrations, complicated shapes, or steep pitches. While laying the concrete tiles may be easy, you are going to find yourself in big trouble if you don’t get your flashing right.

Concrete roofs are not very high in demand due to its weight and installation complexity.


Types of Concrete Roofs


As we slightly touched on there are two forms of concrete roofs:

  • Concrete Shingles
  • Concrete Slab

Shingles are standard tiles that you or a professional lays on the roof in a specific pattern. This creates standard roofs most homeowners imagine when they think about getting concrete roofs.

concrete roof tile



Concrete roofs can also be made out of a single slab, which is basically a huge, several inches thick tile that covers your entire rooftop. Due to the construction style and weight, you almost never see these roofs in USA.




Which Homes Are Suitable for Concrete Roofs?


Unfortunately, not all homes might support concrete roof tiles for reasons we’ll talk about later. With that in mind, some properties are better suited for this type of roofing than the others.

Most homeowners think about a house’s appearance when they choose a type of roof for them. Aesthetic appeal is important to many, just like functionality. Fortunately, concrete roof tiles will look great on most roofs. They are very versatile and can come in many colors. In fact, they might even mimic the look of other types of tiles, such as slate, clay, and shake. They seem to be slightly cheaper than some of the Spanish style tiles but almost everyone is going to prefer Spanish tile over concrete.

Most importantly, your house needs to have a strong structure that can withstand the weight of concrete. I have personally witnessed zero houses that are built to support the weight of concrete. Talk to a local professional before even thinking about going this route.


Concrete Roof Price


The cost of concrete roof and its installation will vary depending on the type of the roof. However, some approximate expenses can be calculated.

Most of the time, concrete tiles will cost anywhere between $6 and $12 per square foot. This includes the installation price. If an average roof has 1,500 square feet, you can say that the price of a concrete roof is anywhere between $11,680 and $22,950.

Of course, this is only an average price for a standard concrete tile and a standard roof. Many more things can influence the price, such as the size of the roof, the pitch, the area you live in, and whether there are some reinforcements or changes that need to be done so the roof could support the additional weight.

Not just that, but the brand can also influence the price. If you choose a well-known, reputable brand, chances are their tiles will cost more than if you purchase from a lesser-known one.


Concrete Roof Pros


There are many benefits to choosing a concrete roof. This is a durable, waterproof type of roof that will likely last you for decades to come. It’s no wonder why this is one of the more popular materials for building a roof.

Here are some pros of concrete roofs:


Style and Versatility

While it might not look like it, concrete is the most versatile of all materials tiles can be made of. In fact, it can even imitate the functionality of some much more expensive tile materials, such as clay. At the same time, it can even imitate the look of cedar shakes.

Another thing that makes it versatile is that there are several concrete roof designs, also known as profiles. This includes:

  • Low / flat concrete roof, one that comes without curves.
  • Medium profile, when there is a 1:5 rise to width ratio (or less).
  • High profile / high barrel, when there is a rise to width ratio greater than 1:5.

You can choose the style depending on what it is you want to do with tiles. For example, flat concrete tiles can suit almost any home, while medium-profile tiles give your home the look of Mediterranean architecture. High barrel, on the other hand, looks just like terracotta tiles that you can find on Spanish rooftops.

Not just that, but you can find concrete roof tiles in almost any color imaginable. This gives them the possibility to mimic any other material. For example, if you’d want your rooftop to look as if you have clay tiles, you can get concrete ones in copper and brown shades. You can even get more colorful options, such as blue or purple. Many people even opt for a multi-color blend!

All in all, no matter what’s your style and what you want your home to look like, you can get a concrete roof tile for you.


Weather Resistance

Concrete tiles are among the most durable types of tiles out there. Tile Roofing Industry Alliance stated that concrete tiles far exceed seismic load requirements. In other words, they can sufficiently survive even strong earthquakes.

At the same time, they have a Class A fire rating, so they aren’t susceptible to fire damage. They are resistant to rots and insects, and can even withstand winds that reach 150 miles per hour! If you live in a state where hurricanes are common, concrete tiles are a great option.

Also, concrete tiles are resistant to freeze-thaw cycles, which also makes them a great option if you live in countries with harsh winters.

As you can see, if you live in a state where weather can be unpredictable, whether you’re facing cold winters, hot summers, or hurricane seasons, concrete roof might be a great option for you.



Concrete roof tiles are quite long-lasting. In fact, they can last for more than 50 years! This is a great option when compared with the longevity of other tile materials. For example:

  • Asphalt shingles last around 20 years.
  • Synthetic Shake lasts approximately 35 years.
  • Wood shake lasts 30 years.
  • Clay and slate tiles last over 50 years, just like concrete tiles.

We’ll speak more about longevity of concrete roof tiles in a bit.


They Save Money in the Long Run

Concrete tiles, while they aren’t the cheapest when it comes to installation, will help you save money in the long run. There are many ways how they’ll do this. We’ll explain.

Concrete roof tiles have great thermal properties. They’ll slowly absorb and emit heat, and they’ll help create air channels underneath individual tiles. This will behave as an additional insulation layer that will help you save energy, no matter if it’s summer or winter. This will also help relieve your heating, air conditioning system, and ventilation.

According to a 2007 study, a concrete tile roof can reduce the transfer of heat from the rest of the home to the attic by almost 50% compared to a standard asphalt roof. This means that you won’t have to rely as much on your heating and air conditioning. As a result, your utility bills will be lower.

Another way to save energy is by buying concrete tiles in so-called cool colors. These cool roofs will behave almost like mirrors, reflecting the sunlight and the heat. This will further reduce the need to turn on AC during hot, summer months.

Doing simple tasks such as old concrete roof waterproofing can further help decrease the costs, as this process alone can save you bunch of money on water damage later on.



Concrete is an eco-friendly material out of three reasons:

  • You don’t have to replace it often.
  • It reduces energy consumption.
  • It’s made out of natural materials that are easy to recycle.

Once again, we’ll compare it to asphalt shingle roofs. Asphalt roofs, which are more or less the standard, need to be replaced every two decades. When all is said and done, they take up approximately 8% of total demolition and construction waste. As this is only the roof of the house, you can see how this is a large percent of a landfill.

When you choose a material that lasts long and that is easy to recycle, you’ll help minimize landfill waste. If you’re eco-conscious, you’ll understand that concrete roof tiles is the right direction to go.


Concrete Roof Cons


As mentioned before, no material is without flaws. The same goes for concrete roof tiles. We’ve explained their benefits, but they also have some downsides that might turn you away from using them.

Below are a few cons of concrete roofs.



First and foremost, we have to address the elephant in the room: Concrete is heavy. It weights between 820 and 1,200 lbs per 100 square feet. This will put a lot of pressure on your roof structure. In fact, concrete might easily be the heaviest material you can use as tiles.

Sure, some brands offer lightweight concrete tile options. You might even find some that weight 600 lbs per 100 square feet. However, this is still more, especially compared to the standard shingles that weight approximately 400-430 lbs per 100 square feet.

If your house wasn’t initially built to withstand concrete roof tiles, chances are you’ll have to do some structural changes to allow it to withstand this additional weight. You might need to do some reinforcements, and at the very least you’ll need to hire a professional structural engineer that will do the calculations. In fact, some homes might not be compatible with concrete tiles, at all! This is something a professional should determine.


Initial Costs

You’ve probably noticed by now that the price of concrete roof tiles falls to the higher end of the spectrum. While concrete itself isn’t expensive or even challenging to make, concrete roof requires a tedious installation process that cannot be done by a regular homeowner that doesn’t have experience.

Installing a concrete roof usually requires consultations from a structural engineer, and, as mentioned before, it might require some roof reinforcements and even a whole new roof deck. All of this can add to the initial cost.

If you’re renovating your home and would like to save as much money as possible, or if you’re planning on fixing your house to sell, concrete is not the best option.

However, it’s important to note that concrete is still more affordable compared to some other options, such as slate and clay.


It’s More Fragile Than You Think

Concrete roof is very sturdy when it comes to weather damage. It’s even resistant to fire and rotting! However, this doesn’t make it indestructible. In fact, concrete is rather susceptible to physical damage, such as severe hail, falling tree branches, or even foot traffic. All of this will require repairs or at least a good concrete roof sealer coating as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you’re risking water damage.

If you live in a heavily wooded area, concrete roof might not be the best choice for you. If you truly want to install it, consider removing the tree branches that are overhanging your house. This will reduce the chances of cracked tiles.

Unfortunately, if you live in an area where heavy hail is common, you might want to avoid concrete roof tiles altogether. There is no way to fully protect your home from severe hail storms.


Color Fade

No matter what roof material you use, you can expect the color to fade after a while. This is because the roof is exposed to the elements and UV rays, causing the pigment to gradually fade. On its own, this isn’t an issue. Some homeowners would argue that weathered tiles can even improve a home’s curb appeal.

However, some brighter, painted colors, such as orange or blue that concrete roofs often come in, can fade much more significantly than other, more standard colors. This can cause a huge discrepancy in color once it’s time to replace damaged tiles. In fact, this might result in you having to paint your entire roof, which can end up costing several thousands of dollars!



Even though concrete roofs aren’t prone to breakages, all roofs still have to be repaired from time to time. From structural damages to removing moss, algae, or dirt, chances are you’ll need to have some work done on your roof from time to time. This might require you to remove tiles to get to the core of the problem.

Unlike the tiles, underlayment rarely lasts longer than 20 years. Removing concrete tiles, then placing them back on the roof, can sometimes end up costing more than simply replacing old tiles. This is also something you need to take into the account.


Concrete Tile Roof Lifespan


The precise lifespan is usually determined by the National Association of Home Builders. They have found that the lifespan of concrete roof tiles is 50+ years – and we’re not even talking about reinforced concrete roofs. This is fairly longer compared to most alternatives.

In fact, many concrete tile manufacturers will even offer lifetime warranties on their tiles. This means that your concrete roof might last as long as the rest of your house!

This long lifestyle is another way how they’ll save you money after a while. You won’t have to replace your concrete tile roof for many years – in fact, you likely won’t have to replace it for as long as you’re alive. Not just that, but the value of the tiles will actually raise the value of your home if you decide to sell.


How to Install Concrete Roofs


Concrete roofs are challenging to install, which is why they should always be installed by a professional. We wouldn’t advise you to try to do this on your own, as not only you might not end up with a properly installed roof, but you might also injure yourself.

That being said, if you’re interested about the process, we’ve compiled a short step-by-step insight.


How to Install Concrete Shingle Roofs

Shingle roofs are a bit more challenging to install of the two, even though it might not seem so. Here is how this process goes:

  • Estimate the number of tiles you’ll need for your entire roof.
  • Try to determine the weight of the tiles as closely as possible. This will let you know how strong the structure of your home needs to be, and if some adjustments need to be made to reinforce everything.
  • Build a strong base and attach sheathing.
  • Use flashing to secure any open areas.
  • Fasten the tiles to roof battens or the felt.


How to Install Concrete Slab Roofs

If you’re working with concrete slab roof, the process goes as followed:

  • Create a framework of pressure treated lumber or insulating concrete structures. This will be a skeleton of your future roof.
  • Reinforce the skeleton with a mixture of concrete and steel bars.
  • Determine just how much concrete you’ll need to fill in the entire roof. Then, install the formwork and pour concrete on it, starting from the corner furthest away from you.
  • To ensure that your roof doesn’t have any air pockets, use a concrete vibrator.
  • Use a bull float to keep your roof level and smooth and to seal everything down.
  • Allow the roof to dry. This might take days, or even months.


Is Concrete Roof the Right Choice for Me?


With all this in mind, it’s easy to see why many homeowners opt for concrete roof tiles. They are durable, can save you hundreds on utility bills, are eco-friendly, and will enhance your home’s appearance with the many colors they come in.

However, they are very expensive to install, and their large weight can make them unsuitable for some properties. Not just that, but if your roof underlayment ends up needing repairs, you might end up with some costly expenses.

If you think concrete roof is the right choice for you, you might want to book a consultation with a professional engineer who will inspect your home and let you know whether there are some reinforcements needed. This type of roof can be a great option, but you need to make sure everything is done properly. Hopefully, this guide helped you make up your mind.

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