Cement Roof Tile Installation

Written by bob haring
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Masonry roofing comes in several variations. There is the red clay or terracotta tile common on Mediterranean or Spanish style houses. There is concrete roof tile, which can be made to resemble clay tile or to look like slate panels or wood shakes. And there is cement fibre, made to resemble wood or clay, from fibres bonded and tightly compressed with cement. All have similar strengths and weaknesses. Installation techniques are similar with all types.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Mortar or adhesive (optional)
  • Nails (optional)
  • Trowel
  • Hammer
  • Roofing nails
  • Waterproof underlayment
  • Metal flashing
  • Masonry saw

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  1. 1

    Use concrete, cement fibre or clay tiles only in areas not subject to extreme freeze/thaw cycles. A masonry tile has tiny pores that make it subject to freeze damage as water seeps in and expands with freezing, then contracts. This causes cracks and degradation of the tile over time. Use masonry tiles only on roofs with fairly steep pitches, at least 4/12 (slopes 4 inches in 12 feet) or higher. Measure the roof area with a tape measure to determine quantity of tile needed.

  2. 2

    Choose a tile pattern. All masonry tiles come in high profile (the traditional half-round Spanish version); medium, which has low patterned ridges; and low, which is flat or has serrations to resemble cedar shakes. All need firm decking -- 1-inch lumber or 3/4-inch plywood -- and roof framing sufficient to support the masonry weight. All need sturdy felt or similar fabric underlayment and metal flashing for eaves and valleys.

  3. 3

    Install tiles with mortar, adhesive or nails, screws or wires; adhesive of some sort is recommended in most installations. Use cement-based mortar, synthetic mortar or various types of mastics or polymers. Mastics have better holding quality than mortar in high-wind locales. Some tiles have lugs to be installed over battens, 1-by-2-inch boards or metal strips nailed to the roof decking; tiles slide over the battens and are nailed or screwed to the battens.

  4. 4

    Start at the bottom of the roof, once all flashing and underlayment is installed. Lay tiles in courses, overlapping courses by at least 3 inches (check manufacturer's recommendations as overlaps will vary). Set tiles in a mortar bed if securing with mortar or spread adhesives and place tiles on it; make sure each tile is set firmly and squarely. Alternate tiles so seams in one course do not align with the one below. Cut tiles to fit where needed with a masonry saw. With half-round tiles, set one tile with open side up, the two adjoining tiles facing down, so they overlap.

  5. 5

    Complete any masonry tile roof project with ridge caps, special tiles moulded to cover the top seam where two roof sections meet. Lay ridge cap tiles facing away from any prevailing wind and overlapping from one end to the other. Secure with mortar, adhesive or nails, depending on manufacturer.

Tips and warnings

  • Use caution when working on roofs.

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