Common tile roof problems explained by Licenced Builder (and Managing Director) Greg Catton.

Most home owners are oblivious to the inner workings of a tile roof and how it all fits together.

Most of us believe that a roof is there to permanently protect our home and precious contents, and that it will do its job for eternity, with a bit of luck.

We rarely give our roofs a second thought. Roof Repair and Roof Restoration isn’t always high on our list of priorities when it comes to looking after our home. 

But the fact is, Australia isn’t Utopia where the sun gently shines and the rain softly falls on our most important asset. 

It’s the opposite… as you can see from the following list, your roof cops the full brunt of everything Mother Nature throws at it!

Australia has the hottest roofs under the sun causing roof tile problems

As we say in our popular new resource –

Free “Repair, Restore or Replace” eBook

 – your tiled roof is more prone to breakdown and decay than any other building materials… and the bad news gets even worse if yours is a fairly modern concrete tiled roof. (And I say “modern” because today’s flimsy roofing tiles aren’t a patch on the rock-solid ones they manufactured 40 or 50 years ago.)

As a builder specialising in home improvements – and in particular roofs – I’m often asked by worried home owners how to tell if have problems with their tile roof.

I tell them to simply look up.

You see, most tile roof problems are quite visible to the naked eye.

One quick glance, either from ground level or the roofline if you want to grab a ladder, will tell you just about everything you need to know.

Tile roof problem # 1: fading and peeling paint

The most obvious thing you’ll see is the roof colour. Not quite as vibrant as it once was, is it?  With good reason.

Being out in the blistering hot Aussie sun and torrential summer storms is going to play havoc with the paint. (Even a top-of-the-range brand like Nutech will eventually fade, so you can imagine what the sun is doing to normal roof paint.)

Over time, it’s going to lose its lustre and its sheen, and start to fade.

Apart from no looking as good as the Jones’ up the road, and lowering the resale value of your home, having faded roof tiles isn’t necessarily a problem in itself.

However it can be an important tell-tale of more sinister problems, either right now or in the near future.

If the colour is badly faded, it indicates that the structural integrity of the paint is failing.

This can lead to peeling and cracking, which diminishes the protective properties of the tile roof paint, which will have a serious impact on your tiles.

But even that’s not the worst of the problem that affect tiled roofs.

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Tile roof problem # 2: mould and lichen

When you look up at your roof and see that it has started turning darker and grimier in patches, chances are that’s black lichen, commonly known as mould.

Mould is a big problem on tiled roofs because it actually eats the tiles.

Not as in “chomp chomp”. It’s more a slurping sound as it ever-so-slowly sucks the minerals – and saps the strength – out of your roof tiles.

If left to feast away for a few years, the black lichen (which is actually green, go figure) will break down the concrete structure of the roof tiles and make them brittle and easy to break or chip.

There are 3 things you need to know about Mould:

1. It only happens on tiled roofs because they are porous and full of the nutrients that mould loves

2. It really starts to take a foothold once the coating of the paint has gone, and

3. It is more common on roofs facing south, or those shaded by trees that don’t get full sun, because mould thrives in moist dark areas

Tile roof problem # 3: broken tiles

Scan your tiled roof from every angle and you may notice one or two – or one or two dozen – broken roof tiles, as well as many others with chipped corners.

This could be a result of:

> normal wear and tear

> the paint coating being weakened by the sun and other elements

> attack by mould

> someone installing a TV aerial and not being careful about where they walked, or by

> flying debris during one of our fierce sub-tropical storms.

Whatever the cause, they will stand out like crabs’ eyes.

If you see several broken roof tiles, it’s probably time to call in the cavalry because once a few tiles go, they all will…and the longer you leave them, the more expensive they will be to repair or replace.

Another trouble with broken roof tiles, is that it’s like a chink in armour; one small opening can let rain in causing water damage, or wind can get underneath them and start to lift them off.

And if you ever see a 5kg roof tile blowing in the wind, you’d better duck for cover!

Of course a lot of people see chunks of broken concrete on their roofs or in their guttering and think it’s from the concrete roof tiles.  It’s not…

Tile roof problem # 4: weakened ridge caps

Everyone knows what a ridge cap is, but in case anyone is confused, it’s the inverted “V” at the top of the roof.

It plays a very important role in keeping your roof waterproof and intact in stormy and windy conditions. Here’s why…

Roof tiles are laid from the guttering up, with each new row laid on top of the previous one.

When they reach the top of the roof (also known as the peak or ridge), or where the roof angle changes, they need something to lock them into place…you guessed it, the ridge cap.

The caps are then cemented in and a flexible pointing compound is added. (It’s called pointing because we use a pointed trowel to smooth it on.)

Unfortunately, the sealant deteriorates in time along with concrete, and it is this broken concrete that you’ll see on your tiled roof and in your gutters.

It’s a sign that your ridge capping is falling apart.

The trouble is, the ridge capping is the first and last line of defence on your roof, the “cornerstone” that holds everything in place; once it weakens, you can find yourself in strife in storms. But wait, there’s more…

Tile roof problem # 5: sagging roofs

Movement is a massive problem with tiled roofs, especially in areas with shifting foundations like Blacksoil and Collingwood Park in Ipswich.

If the framework of the house suffers even the slightest movement, it can crack the pointing holding the ridge capping in place and the slippery slope begins.

The problem of sagging isn’t just confined to movement of course.

In older homes, the eaves themselves can sag, causing the ridge caps to pop up…and once they do, the capping isn’t doing its job of holding the tiles in place, and they are free to blow away in a strong wind.

And you can see all of these tiled roof problems – or at least their aftermath – simply by regularly looking up at your roof.

Naturally My Home Improvements take it one step further.

Thorough Tiled Roof Inspections, up close and personal.

The roof restoration team at My Home Improvements almost always climb up onto your roof for a first-hand look before completing a detailed report.

We’re more than happy for you to come up and have a look with us too, so you can see what is really going on. But if you can’t, we’ll record problem areas for you on our smart phones, or via a drone.

And when I say “almost always” I’m reminded of the one and only time I DIDN’T actually do a thorough tiled roof inspection.

It was for a mate of mine, let’s call him Nick from Carindale (because that’s who it was!)

Nick’s roof [pictured here after the roof restoration] was only 15 years old and looked OK from the ground so I quoted him $xxx to fix it, thinking that I’d only have to replace about 20 tiles and do a little re-pointing.

Six months later, when he finally accepted my quote, I discovered to my horror that all the cement bedding under the ridge caps of his home was like the Kalahari Desert and just crumbled into sand when you picked one up.

Then there was the 80+ broken roof tiles…it was like the abdominal snowman had been stomping across his roof!

I know what you’re thinking: Greg you’re a professional and should have known this, but what I’m getting at is this, if it looks okay from the ground it may not be, and it pays to have a proper look to make sure.

Which brings me to my final point…

Solving tiled roof problems before they become problems.

It’s a crying shame that most of my customers only take an interest in roof repairs or tile roof restorations at the 11th hour.

It’s really unfortunate that all of us think like this.

Me included.  One day I’ll get it stuck in my head that a stitch in time really DOES saves nine.

When your roof gets to the urgent stage, the cost of repairs and or roof restoration generally increases as more remedial works are required to get the tiles and roof structurally sound again before re-sealing.

If we all try to take part in a regular maintenance check or works, I can guarantee you that a number of problems will be picked up long before your cement tile roof turns into the “Kalahari Desert”.

As they say, prevention truly is better than the cure.

For more information and advice about any tile roof problem you might have, please call 07-3808 0700 and speak to one of our friendly, ever-helpful consultants, or simply click here to contact us.


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