Tile, that 4,000-year-old roof, has always had some high-performance features. From a venerable and reliable roofing material to an energy-saving, storm-resistant material, tile roofing is undergoing something of a makeover. While there are a fair amount of new products and styles, many of the recent developments in the tile market are simply the result of measuring and quantifying the properties there were there all the time.
Meeting new energy regulations is becoming a requirement in many parts of the country, a trend sure to continue as energy prices escalate. Savvy homeowners are also seeking relief as they spend more time researching the roof’s performance and appearance. By the time a potential customer calls the roofing contractor, many hours have been spent on the Internet and The Home and Garden Channel preparing a list of questions.
High PerformanceThe ancients knew of tile’s merits, and many centuries-old structures still boast their original tile roofs. In the United States, the rise of asphalt shingles and the recent growth in metal roofing has created fierce competition for customers. Tile has made inroads outside of its well-established reputation in the Sunbelt through industry-wide promotions. The Tile Institute, a 30-year-old trade association, is increasing the visibility of tile’s high-profile benefits through Internet and consumer marketing. One avenue it’s plugging is the research that shows how the typical configuration of a tile roofing system can create a heat transfer barrier.
“Sub-tile air ventilation is a major factor in energy savings. It’s something that tile roofs have always had,” says Jeanne Sheehy of the TRI. “We have a lot of technical data, but right now we’re working on our messaging.”
The organization has embarked on a marketing campaign that touts tile’s ability to reflect heat away from the building during the summer and retain a building’s heat during the winter. Lighter colors do make a difference, but the reflectivity, mass and ventilation can reduce heat transference by 50 percent, as compared to a conventional asphalt shingle. According to testing at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, coated clay tiles can reduce that by up to 70 percent.
“The testing that has been done has actually been occurring for years,” says Sheehy. “What’s tough is tile can be flat or barrel-shaped and can have different properties.”
Actual energy savings for homeowners means doing calculations that involve variables like building type, occupancy, and consumption habits. Unlike R-values for insulation, some energy saving products must rely on more complicated tests to measure specific performance and how it relates to the building. Research at Oak Ridge and other facilities can show consumers just how much they can expect to save. Tile roofing manufacturers have found that they can meet Energy Star requirements without any changes to the product. The extra edge is needed in a marketplace, with several new tile roofing manufacturers opening plants throughout Florida: Eagle Roofing Products from California built a new one near Orlando; MonierLifetile expanded its plant in Lake Wales; Hanson Roofing has new plants in Jacksonville and Arcadia. In early 2006, roofing contractors in the Southeast had to wait as long as 12 months for shipments. What a difference a year makes.
“You can get tile within a couple of days,” says Munnell, executive director of Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Association.
On Top of ThatWith new pigments that reflect more solar heat than conventional formulas, tile can further enhance the roof’s energy savings. Such pigments are currently being used on stone-covered metal tile, a popular profile offered by a growing number of producers. The tile panels mimic the look of concrete tile, but are much lighter - as little as 1.5 pounds per square foot. Once a boutique product, some roofing contractors in Florida turned to it when they were waiting for concrete tile after the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005. The building boom has eased and there are now stockpiles of tile available, as the focus of consumers in the Southeast shifts from hurricane resistance to energy conservation.
Finding out your product has an existing advantage is something that Rich Thomas is happy to promote. He is the marketing director for US Tile and Clay, which will open a new clay tile roofing manufacturing plant in Ione, Calif., in early 2008. Manufacturing tile is a tricky business due to shipping restrictions and companies banking on steady customers for decades. The demand is based on a number of factors, and Thomas is happy that energy savings is just one arrow in his quiver.
“Clay is a naturally reflective material. That’s a big deal out here,” he says from company headquarters in Corona, Calif. “Some of our standard line is already a cool roofing product.”
The density of tile not only reflects the sun’s heat, but also helps protect against freeze/thaw cycles, impacts and microbes. It’s a natural product that’s easy to recycle with a color that’s as durable as the tile itself. His company is making inroads replacing concrete tile, asphalt shingles and wood shingles.
The recent wildfires in the South and West - particularly the devastating fires in the Lake Tahoe region - have once again placed a premium on fire resistance. US Tile is eager to fill that need. Several years ago the company introduced tiles that came in under 6 pounds per square foot, the threshold for many building codes to be considered lightweight.
“The shake product is for people to reroof with a similar looking shake while having the fireproof ability of tile. For us, it’s a pretty strong product,” Thomas says. There is also clay tile that imitates slate and the company is even looking at integrating photovoltaic film into the tile to generate electricity. “It’s something we’re taking a real close look at. At this point right now, we’re not in the game. It’s a very high stakes game.”
Thomas concentrates on home value to determine a ripe candidate for a new tile roof. Homes in modest neighborhoods can certainly benefit from a tile roof, but they won’t see the return on investment that similar houses in more expensive communities will experience, he explains.
“Home value is a big factor. People are very aware that the curb appeal of their home is a big factor in the value of their home,” he says, adding that the average price of home where he lives in Santa Clara County is $600,000. “In some parts of the country, it’s your average home. It other parts, it’s the top 2 to 3 percent.”