5 Signs of Damage & Aging on Your Clay Tile Roof

Terracotta style clay tile roofing was very popular for years in the Southwest and other parts of the US, but now it's less widely used because it requires quite a bit of maintenance over the years. If you've recently moved into a home with a clay tile roof and don't know what condition it is in, you can check it for a few common signs of aging and damage. Look for these five signs your tile roof needs repairs or replacement.

Stained Sides

Walk around the exterior of the home to trace the drip line of the roof and see if you can spot any signs of water damage on the eaves, fascia boards, or the tops of the walls supporting the roof. Any signs of lingering moisture, such as discolored paint, dark and uneven splotches, or mildew growth, indicate that the roof itself is leaking and allowing moisture to trickle down somewhere near the water marks. It's tricky to find a leak in a clay tile roof, so contact a company with thermal imaging equipment and other high tech ways of tracking where water is coming through your roof.

Bird Droppings

You might enjoy feeding songbirds or neighborhood crows for entertainment, but watch out if those birds start perching or even nesting on your roof. Even occasional perching in the morning or evenings may lead to the build up of acidic droppings in the valleys of the roof. These droppings can speed up the decomposition of clay roofing tiles, and they're not great for asphalt or wood shingles either. If you have birds and notice dark or bright white accumulations anywhere on the roof, have the tiles professionally pressure washed at a low pressure to remove the residue before it damages the tiles.

Curling Underlayment

Under the layers of tiles is at least one layer of a paper or plastic material known as roofing underlayment. If it's designed to not last as long as your tile roof, you'll pay quite a bit to replace it since it's basically impossible to replace while the tiles are covering it. It's necessary to lift a tile or two to inspect the underlayment, so make sure you keep some extra matching tiles on hand to stick to this important maintenance task. Underlayment that is aging or damaged will develop a wavy or curled pattern, peel apart, lighten in color, or show signs of moisture damage.

Chips and Cracks

Tiles need to stay intact to resist the weathering effects of moisture and ice in particular. When the surface becomes chipped by hail or develops even a minor crack, this allows moisture to soak into the surface. Freezing temperatures cause the surface to break apart even more, leading to a crumbling effect that exposes your roof to moisture. It's tricky to check for chips and cracks without getting on the roof. Try to inspect the surface with a ladder that doesn't lean on the edge tiles, preferably moving the ladder a few times to take a general survey of conditions in multiple areas.

Growing Plants

Finally, don't let algae, lichens, moss, and other tiny plants start colonizing the spaces in between the clay tiles on your roof. This often happens when leaves and other organic debris is trapped and turns into soil that hosts small and enterprising plant life. While it may have a rustic look, it's also very damaging to the tile due to the eroding effect of the plant's root system. It's difficult to remove these plants once they're embedded, so take care to clean the roof regularly with a hose or pressure washer on a low setting to remove debris.

To learn more about roof maintenance or repair, contact a local roofing company.