How to Install Barrel Clay Tile Roofs

Written by d.c. winston
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Clay barrel roofing tiles are an ancient and beautiful roofing material that evoke the old-world charm of Tuscany, Spain or France. Used for centuries, clay is a very durable roofing material when installed correctly and well maintained. Installing a clay barrel roof is a very labour-intensive and detail-oriented process. Unlike other roofing materials, tile roofing is not an installation where you establish a rhythm and then speed through it in a day; this takes much more of a craftsman approach. Keep this in mind when planning for the project, and allow sufficient time for a quality and durable installation. Clay barrel tiles can be installed in several ways, either nailed to wood battens or cant strips placed over or under the felt and waterproof membrane, nailed into roof felt and decking or by using mortar between tiles. Installation choices are dictated by the type of barrel tile you are using, the climate and weather conditions the roof is regularly exposed to and the specific pattern of your clay tile roof, of which there are a great many choices.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Clay barrel tiles to cover roof square footage
  • Copper ring nails, 11-gauge or more or stainless steel or brass screws
  • Copper roof flashing, 16 gauge+
  • Asphalt roofing felt, 43 weight+
  • 3/8-inch roofing nails
  • Bituminous or other waterproof membrane
  • Wood battens
  • Cement mortar
  • Small trowel
  • Bucket
  • Chalk line tool
  • Hammer
  • Cutter or box knife
  • Ladder
  • Safety harness
  • Roof jacks
  • Measuring tape
  • Wet saw with 10-inch diamond blade
  • Eye goggles
  • Ventilator mask
  • Silicone building sealant/caulking
  • Cordless drill
  • Tile nippers
  • Steel awl
  • Carpenter's pencil

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  1. 1

    Roll out 19.5kg. asphalt-coated roofing felt in a single layer over the entire roof, overlapping each panel by at least 7 inches. Nail into place within the overlap range with 3/8-inch roofing nails. Lay down the adhesive-backed waterproof barrier over the roof, extending out to the edge of the eaves.

  2. 2

    Install copper flashing tiles or roll lengths around all openings and along all ridges and valleys of the roof landscape. Use flashing with a minimum weight of 454gr and width of at least 18 inches, overlapping any joints by a minimum of 3 inches. Flashing can be nailed into place under the overlap or attached with silicone adhesive for a more seamless installation.

  3. 3

    Determine your tile mounting style. Understand the pattern of your roof tile installation by measuring the amount of tile that is exposed on each course. Snap chalk lines horizontal to your eaves and vertical chalk lines perpendicular to the eaves that correspond to your specific tile installation pattern. Perfect measurements here will ensure a crisp and consistently patterned finished roof. If using the wood batten installation method, run battens along the horizontal chalk lines, and attach battens with galvanised nails.

  4. 4

    Nail down each tile with the appropriate number of copper nails specified in your manufacturer's specifications, typically between one and three. If nailing to the roof decking without battens, make sure nails penetrate through to the decking material. If using battens, make sure the nails penetrate the depth of the batten but not into the decking. Cut tiles with the circular saw according to your pattern.

  5. 5

    Butter between 1/4 and 2/3 the length of the barrel tile with cement tile mortar, in keeping with your manufacturer's installation instructions. Stack buttered tiles on one another with the appropriate reveal for your particular pattern. Nail buttered tiles into place according to your application plan. Nail down roof cap tiles and gutter tiles after buttering the back with silicone adhesive.

Tips and warnings

  • Clay tile roofs are very heavy, and 225 tiles weigh more than 454kg. Calling in a structural engineer to assess whether your existing roof can carry this load, or if some structural retrofits will be required, is a worthwhile investment on the front end.
  • Obviously, any time you are working on the roof there are exponentially increased safety hazards. If attempting this type of installation, never work alone, and always wear safety equipment. Consult with a professional installer if in any doubt about pursuing this job on your own.

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