How to install tile roofing

Updated February 21, 2017

Tile is one of the oldest types of finish covering used on pitched roofs. Tile roofing has grown increasingly popular because of its fireproofing qualities. Clay or concrete tile roofing is available in a variety of styles. Clay tile is manufactured by baking plates of moulded clay into tile, and is lighter than concrete tile. However, concrete tile is more durable and is used more often than clay tile.

Install underlayment across the sheathing of the roof. There is a wide selection of asphalt-saturated felt underlayment available, but 30 pound felt is the most commonly used type. Research local building codes to determine what type of underlayment to use. Follow underlayment manufacturer instructions when installing.

Install the metal flashing where needed. Places such as valleys, chimneys, skylights, and where a roof butts against a vertical wall will require metal flashing. The flashing should be a 28-ga corrosion-resistant metal.

Nail the two-inch thick cant strip flush with the eave of the roof. This strip, which is twice the thickness of the battens, slants the first course of tiles so that it matches the rest of the courses. Every four feet, allow a half-inch to one-inch gap to let water drain across the row of cant strip and the battens, which will be placed across the entire roof.

Hook a tape measure to the roof eave and measure up the length of the tile being used; make a mark on the underlayment. The tiles will have a one-inch overhang at the eave and the half-inch head lug at the rear of the tile, so minus one-and-a-half inches from the first mark and make a mark on the underlayment. Do this at both ends of the roof and then snap a line with a chalk box. For example, if the tile is 16 inches, the mark will be made 15 inches up from the eave.

Nail the 1x2 batten below and flush with the snapped line. For the rest of the snapped lines for the battens, minus three-and-a-half inches from the length of the tile being used and snap lines this length across the rest of the roof. For example, if the tile is 16 inches, the marks will be placed every 13 inches up the roof and snapped out for the battens.

Lie the tile down by working in a left to right direction because of the vertical keyway between the tiles. Vertical interlocking joints must be free of any foreign matter to ensure a proper fit and interlocking of the tiles. The head lug, which is the lip at the rear of the tile, will rest behind each row of battens. The number of tiles to be fastened with nails depends on the roof slope, on whether or not battens were used, and on the anticipated wind velocity in the area. Research local building codes to determine the tile nailing schedule.


Flat tiles will have one nail hole, while curved tiles will have two nail holes located at the rear of the tile.

Things You'll Need

  • Roof
  • Saw
  • Battens
  • Cant strips
  • Tiles
  • Underlayment
  • Metal flashing
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About the Author

Elizabeth Arnold has written for a wide variety of publications and websites. Her experience includes writing travel features for "Recommend" magazine and packaging marketing copy for both Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. consumer products. Recently, Arnold was a staff writer for "Special Events" magazine. Arnold studied English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.