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Why do tile roofs leaks


tile roof infographic

For you folks who have actually read my post, you know I am not much of a writer. I tend to have bad grammar and write what interest me really, forgetting often that most people are not as “into” roofing as I am … I literally have dreams about it.


Anyways, all that aside I am really trying to push a message that there is a better way of doing things, that not all roofs or roofers for that matter are created equal. There is so much more to consider when choosing a roofer, then the price at the bottom of their proposal.


The head line to this post says “Why tile roofs leak” well the answer is because they aren’t installed correctly, other then that they leak because they are old, or there was some kind of mechanical damage like a tree falling or something. But for the HUNDREDS of tile roof leaks that I have repaired I feel pretty safe in saying its ganna be the installation.


Tile roofs in Arizona tend to leak in the valleys, along the front edges, around pipes and other penetrations and at walls. Especially those little walls on either side of your front door, in that little popped out area. I am guessing your master bed room is one side and the leak was near the window or in the closet … does that sound familiar? I know many of you said: Yeah man … you been to my house?


Ok so if the problem is the installation then why does it take three, four or five years to see it? The answers starts with: it does not rain that much around here and ends with: because it was slow leak that took time to do enough damage to see, unless your me and can spot the signs far in advance, yeah I got it like that.


Then you call a roofer, he comes out and says “Uh we are ganna have to replace this entire section from here to there and yadda yadda $2ooo or more later, you are good to go, but are you? As for myself, when I do this kind of job as a contractor I upgrade to an SBS modified base, which just means a heck of lot better and I will double on that at the walls and the eaves because that’s the area of concern, that’s where the leak is going to be AGAIN … if we don’t double up.


If the roofer just comes along and installs the roof the same way it was before, guess what? Yep, you got it right … a few years down the road BAMN ! Same leak gain, plus a few more since you know the entire roof was installed this way to begin with.


Oh I am sorry, you don’t know how the roof was installed to begin with. Ok, fine I will tell you. The guys, if this was the original roof, they would be sub-contractors, getting paid umm not that much, nail on a base sheet. Perhaps a 45 pound base, that’s pretty common. Then they nail cheap, I mean standard, 1X2 wood batons to the deck over the base sheet. If they did that right, the “sticks” or “batons” are going to be about four foot long, in straight rows going up the roof and spaced about 2” apart. then they nail on the edge metal and start installing tile and other flashings. I have yet to see a roof in Arizona (residential that is) that is not done this way.


Sadly this is also why they leak ! I know I said the reason Arizona tile roofs leaks is because of they are incorrectly installed and what I just described is accepted and common place … its also the very, absolute, cant get no lower standard allowed … think builder’s trying to make money, they wants to increase their profits where ever they can.


What happens is that water gets under the tile here and there, because the “sticks or batons” are the way they are, they don’t allow for the best water flow off the roof. Debris builds up along the “sticks or batons” more the lower you go, and since the metal is usually nailed over the base sheet the water gets under that.


Adding to the water flow problem, most tile roofs are not vented very well, if at all. That means it gets really hot under the tile and it cooks the base, and the water on the base and the debris on the sticks, and the sticks and the …. yeah, you get the idea, its an oven under there cooking everything, until it all a dry crumbling mess and WHAMN BAMN ! A leak comes out to say hello, get your check book out.


So yeah, get a new roof right. Exactly the same as the old one. Heck why even bother tearing off the old base, just go right over it. “That’s an extra water barrier” some roofer might say. No, you don’t think roofers would do that? Sorry but they do, yes sir! They will put the new just like the old, and most of the time right over the old.


What’s ganna happen? (insert jeopardy music here)


WINNER ! The same problems, the same leaks sooner or later.


GOOD NEWS there is a better way, and it wont cost that much more either. At the top of this post I posted a simple raises baton roof system that solves the ventilation and the water flow problem, have the contractor use a self adhering water barrier at the eaves, walls, and ridge and you have a roof what last for many long years, even decades beyond your neighbors roof, who hired the contractor who put the same old roof his house.


Considering getting a new roof, you might want to consider hiring me as your roof consultant. Yes, even if its just your own home, I can help you in ways that I cant even begin to list here, because this post is done.


Call me and lets talk (480) 265-1613

If you are looking for a roof consultant in the Phoenix area, please call us at 480-265-1613 or complete our consultation form.


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