Although it is possible that tile roof materials can last for many years, contrary to popular opinion, they do not last ‘forever’ and some types of tile roofs, or their underlayment, can be problematic as far as leaks are concerned. There was even a period of time some years ago when no underlayment was required by the building code for some tile. It has been changed back to requiring underlayment on all tile roofs, especially since the underlayment is a crucial part of the roof and the lack, or improper installation of it can cause many leak issues. If your home is one of the homes built, or re-roofed during that period of time, you may have experienced leak problems, especially problems with wind-driven rain leakage.
There can be any number of factors contributing to leaks on tile roofs, aside from a lack of underlayment.
1. If debris builds up in the gutters or valleys, water can easily back up under the tiles. Even with underlayment, eventually a leak will occur as the underlayment becomes saturated and possibly even rotten.
2. Fine cracks can occur in the mortar, or pieces of mortar can crack and come off, allowing water intrusion at ridge and hips.
3. Leaks can ‘travel’. While one leak may have been stopped, another leak can occur in nearly the same area as before, but it may actually be traveling from another location on the roof. Water will always take the path of least resistance. Your roof very well may have had two or more actual leaks originating from different areas on the roof, but all manifesting in the home in one spot, leading you to believe you only had one leak. Once the most obvious leak area is repaired, it’s not uncommon for the other ‘traveling’ leak areas to now show up under the right conditions.
4. As mentioned above, it’s quite common for tile roofs to leak during very windy rainy weather as the rain can blow up under the tiles. No one can stop the wind from blowing sideways or in gusts.
5. Due to age, weather and other factors, tiles can sometimes slip out of place, allowing water intrusion.
6. Because many people are unaware of how to walk on tile roofs to prevent breakage, it often occurs if anyone has been up on your roof, other than a qualified roofer, to install or repair antennas, satellite dishes, solar equipment, skylights or even clean gutters, and this can lead to leaks.
7. Flashings or counterflashings not installed correctly.
8. Improper installment of underlayment, use of inferior underlayment, improper batten system, improper ventilation, or the tiles themselves. If the underlayment was not installed correctly, or the tiles were ‘stretched’ (tiles installed without proper headlap), the underlayment can deteriorate much more rapidly than it should.
9. Almost everything can get under a tile roof, from rain and snow to leaves, dirt, small birds, animals and their nests, and of course insects like wasps and bees. Any of these things can eventually compromise the ‘watertightness’ of a tile roof.
Other factors to consider if you have a tile roof and/or it leaks:
1. Tile roofs can be very slippery in wet or rainy weather, thus making them extremely dangerous to access until they are dry. Naturally, though, this is when you most want someone to come solve your problem!
2. Finding a leak can be a process of elimination, especially if the leak is traveling (see #3 above).
3. Tile roofs need maintenance just like any other type of roof, in order to prevent future problems. It is imperative to keep debris off the roof and gutters cleaned out.
4. Some tiles start fading when exposed to the sun. If replacement tile is needed, it can take years for it to blend in. It is very difficult to match colors when the tiles come from different runs. Thus, a replaced area will rarely ever look quite the same as the rest of the roof. Colors and shades come and go all the time and manufacturers change colors fairly frequently, except for a few standards they may have.
5. Worst case scenario: There are times when the underlayment on the entire roof will need to be replaced due to any of the factors already mentioned, OR underlayment needs to be installed for the first time to prevent continuation of problems you may already be experiencing. If this is the case, every effort is made to remove and save the tiles themselves for reinstallation once new underlayment and battens have been installed. It’s nearly impossible not to break a few, though, which means there’s a chance the colors will be slightly off in some areas. Sometimes it is possible to take original tiles and exchange them for tiles that need replacing in high visibility areas, like the front of the home, so that those areas of the roof appear more uniform and the ‘mismatched’ colors are not as easily noticed.