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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : features : features April 15, 2014

8/16/2013 6:00:00 AM
Ask the contractor: Tile roofs are long-lasting, but underlayment is not

Q: We are building a new home in Yavapai Hills and want to install a tile roof. However, there is a major cost difference between tile and shingle. If we install tile, will our roof last forever?-Kate and Lou, Prescott

A: I have discovered lately that, when I ask questions of our contractors, more often than not, the answer is yes and no. Will your tile roof last forever? The answer is yes and no.

Roof tile is available in a wide variety of colors and different profiles that can enhance and add value to your home. Roof tile is virtually maintenance-free, is structurally superior to other traditional roofing materials, and will last longer. Tile roofing is also Class A fire-rated. Tile is an energy-efficient material choice and has better insulating properties than other materials. Tile roofs are pest-resistant, do not rot in wet climates and are not damaged by heat or sunlight.

However, tile is not the waterproofing component of your roof. The tile roofing system does facilitate water shedding, but keep in mind it is what's underneath the tile that keeps your roof water-tight. The tile underlayment that sits between your wood decking and the tile is the critical waterproofing component, and this barrier does not last forever.

Unlike shingle and flat roofs that show wear and tear, the aging component of your tile roof is not evident, as it is covered by tile.

The best way to know where you are in the lifespan of your roof underlayment is to pull up a few tiles and take a peek. The aging of the underlayment is detectable. Ideally, you'll see flexible, sturdy material, and nothing that is brittle or deteriorating.

There are certain areas in a roofing system that degrade first, and those are the dead valleys where rainwater has no outlet and where debris tends to gather. It is important to keep those areas free from dirt, leaves and debris, and they can creep into the underlayment and cause erosion of the underlayment.

If you discover that your underlayment has lost its useful life, do you need a new roof? The answer is maybe yes, maybe no. A roofer would most likely remove the tiles in the affected underlayment area, replace the underlayment, and then replace the tile. Almost all tiles will be able to withstand the removal process, with the exception of the Mexican clay tiles, which are too fragile and will break apart.

During tile removal, not all tiles will be able to be reused, so you'll have to purchase new tiles. Depending on how old a tile roof is, you may or may not be able to locate an exact match of color and design of the tile.

You can see there is no easy answer as to how long your tile roof will last. The most important thing to know is that all roofing systems require maintenance and will not last forever. A professional should look at the underlayment every six to nine years.


The Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce, along with YCCA, Blue Cross Blue Shield and The Daily Courier and sponsoring an inaugural Fall Home, Health and Lifestyle Expo Sept. 14-15 at Tim's Toyota Center. Don't miss it. We have vendor booths available. Call me with any questions at 778-0040.

Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities. Call YCCA for information on hiring a contractor at 778-0040. Submit questions to ycca@cableone.net or through www.ycca.org.

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