Understanding tile roof repair. A guide

Understanding Tile Roof Repair

Posted on April 22, 2024 by baker-admin

Repairing a leaking tile roof is a delicate process that requires thorough understanding, precision, and adherence to best practices in roofing. Here, we explore the essential steps and considerations involved in effectively fixing a tile roof, including the roles of underlayment, batten systems, and tile exposure, as well as the risks associated with improper installation and repair.

Understanding Tile Roof Leaks

Tile roofs are admired for their durability and aesthetic appeal but are not immune to issues. Leaks can arise from several sources, such as underlayment failure, cracked or slipped tiles, inadequate flashing, and more. Identifying the exact cause of the leak is the first critical step in the repair process.

Initial Inspection

When you enlist a professional roofing company to handle a leaking tile roof, the inspection process is conducted with a high degree of expertise and systematic precision. Here’s how a professional team typically performs this critical inspection:

Initial Consultation

A professional roofing company begins with a consultation to understand your concerns and gather historical information about the roof, such as its age, previous repairs, and any recurring issues. This initial dialogue helps set the scope of the inspection.

Detailed Roof Inspection

The inspection process involves several key steps:

Visual Examination: Roofing technicians start with a visual examination from both the ground and the roof. They use ladders and safety harnesses to access the roof and conduct a thorough walk-through when conditions permit.

Detailed Tile Inspection: Each tile is scrutinized for integrity. Professionals look for cracks, breaks, and any tiles that have shifted from their position or are missing. They also check for subtle signs of wear that might not be immediately obvious.

Flashing and Sealant Inspection: Special attention is given to the flashing around chimneys, vents, skylights, and the intersections where the roof meets walls. The condition of the sealants used in these areas is also assessed to ensure they are intact and functioning correctly.

Structural Check: The inspection includes checking the underlying structures, such as rafters and trusses, from the attic if accessible. This helps in identifying any signs of water damage or structural weakness that could indicate more extensive problems.

Use of Advanced Diagnostic Tools

Professional roof inspectors often use advanced tools and technology to pinpoint leaks and assess the condition of the roof. These may include:

Infrared Cameras: These devices can detect variations in temperature that indicate moisture presence beneath the roof surface.
Moisture Meters: These are used to measure the level of moisture in different parts of the roof structure.
Drones: In cases where roof access is challenging, drones equipped with high-resolution cameras can be used to take aerial photographs and videos of the roof to inspect hard-to-reach areas.

Comprehensive Reporting

After completing the inspection, the roofing company compiles a detailed report that outlines their findings. This report includes:

Condition of Tiles and Flashing: Specific details about any damage or wear found during the inspection.
Photographic Evidence: Images taken during the inspection to illustrate issues and provide a clear reference for where problems are located.
Recommendations for Repairs: Based on the inspection, the roofing company will suggest the most effective repair solutions to address the identified issues, along with an estimated cost.

Discussion and Planning

The final step involves discussing the findings with you, the homeowner. The professional team will explain the issues in detail and recommend the next steps. This is also an opportunity for you to ask questions and clarify any concerns about the process or proposed repairs.

By choosing a professional roofing company, homeowners can ensure a comprehensive and accurate assessment of their tile roof’s condition, backed by expert recommendations for maintaining the roof’s integrity and functionality.

2. Underlayment

Underlayment serves as a critical secondary barrier that protects the roofing structure from water intrusion beneath the tiles. Typically, this layer is made from synthetic sheeting, which provides a durable and effective moisture barrier. During the repair of a leaking tile roof, a thorough assessment of the underlayment’s condition is essential. If this layer shows signs of damage or deterioration, it must be replaced, necessitating the careful removal of the tiles that lie above it. This step is crucial yet labor-intensive, requiring meticulous handling to prevent damage to adjacent tiles.

In specific scenarios, particularly in regions prone to ice dams or severe weather conditions, it is advisable to opt for an ice and water barrier instead of plain synthetic underlayment. The ice and water barrier is a self-adhering waterproof membrane that offers superior protection against water penetration due to its adhesive back, which seals around the nails driven through it. This makes it particularly effective in preventing leaks from wind-driven rain and ice buildup.

The decision to use an ice and water barrier over plain synthetic underlayment should be based on several factors:
Climate: In colder climates where ice dams, snow, and frequent freeze-thaw cycles occur, the ice and water barrier provides essential protection that can extend the life of the roof.
Roof Features: Roofs with low slopes or complex designs with multiple valleys, dormers, or penetration points (like vents, chimneys, or skylights) benefit significantly from the added protection of ice and water barriers.
Local Building Codes: Some local regulations may require or highly recommend the use of ice and water barriers under tile roofs in certain areas.

Ultimately, the choice between synthetic underlayment and an ice and water barrier depends on the specific environmental conditions and roof characteristics. Professional roofing contractors will be able to provide guidance based on local climate patterns and building codes, ensuring that the chosen underlayment offers the best protection for the roofing system.

3. Batten Systems

Tiles are typically installed on wooden strips known as battens. The spacing and alignment of battens must be precise to ensure proper tile placement and water drainage. Incorrect batten installation can lead to tile slippage or inadequate ventilation, both of which can cause leaks. When repairing a roof, ensure that the battens are still in good condition and properly aligned. Replace any rotted or misaligned battens.

4. Tile Exposure

Tile exposure refers to the portion of the tile that is exposed to the elements. Correct tile exposure is crucial because it ensures that rainwater sheds appropriately over the surface of the roof rather than seeping beneath the tiles. During repairs, it’s important to reinstall the tiles with the correct exposure. Follow manufacturer guidelines and industry standards to ensure proper overlap and alignment.

5. Replacing Tiles

When replacing damaged tiles, it is vital to match the new tiles with the existing ones in terms of color, material, and style to maintain the roof’s aesthetic and functional integrity. Handle tiles with care during installation to prevent damage to neighboring tiles.

6. Flashing and Sealants

Inspect and repair the flashing around roof penetrations and intersections, which are common sites for leaks. Use high-quality sealants and ensure that all joints and edges are well-sealed to prevent water entry.

Risks of Improper Installation and Repairs

Improper installation or repair of tile roofs can lead to several risks:

Water Damage: Poorly installed tiles or underlayment can allow water to seep into the roof structure, causing rot, mold, and structural damage.
Reduced Lifespan: The lifespan of a tile roof can be significantly reduced if it is not properly installed or maintained.
Increased Costs: Incorrect repairs often result in further damage or the need for more frequent repairs, leading to higher overall costs.
Safety Hazards: Loose or improperly secured tiles pose falling risks, which can be dangerous for both occupants and passersby.

Best Practices for Tile Roof Repairs

– Always use high-quality materials that meet local building codes and manufacturer’s specifications.
– Employ skilled professionals who have experience with tile roof installation and repair.
– Conduct a thorough inspection both before and after repairs to ensure all potential issues are addressed.
– Maintain regular maintenance checks to identify and rectify minor issues before they escalate into major problems.


Properly repairing a leaking tile roof requires a meticulous approach to ensure that every component functions cohesively to protect the structure from water damage. By understanding and respecting the complexities of tile roofing systems, homeowners can ensure their roofs remain both beautiful and functional for many years to come.

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