An introduction to tiles and slates

There are many different types of roof tiles and slates which are made from various materials and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all of which come in a plethora of different colours and finishes. You can read about each tile type in our Tile Guide or read on for more information on tile and slate backgrounds. 
To help get your head around the all these options it's worth understanding a little about roof tile design. Most roof tiles available today have evolved from just four original types of roof covering that were first introduced hundreds of years ago and still remain popular today. These are : -
  • Slate - thin rectangular sections of quarried metamorphic rock that come in varying sizes and thicknesses.
  • Plain Tiles - small rectangular sections of clay with a smooth or sanded surface finish.
  • Pantiles - a distinctive clay tile with an 'S' shaped profile.
  • Roman Tiles - similar to a Pantile, but has a cross section that is flat with a small roll.
The principal designs outlined above have evolved over the last 50 years with the majority of new tiles and slates falling into one of the above family of products. Tile design evolved with added features to improve performance and reduce cost. This first started in the 1950s when manufacturers began to use concrete to create more economical plain tiles and pantiles. In the 60s and 70s after successfully copying clay tiles in concrete the manufacturers went one step further, by taking the traditional pantile and roman tile designs and forming them into larger double unit concrete tiles. These new designs were quicker, easier and therefore cheaper to install. The same approach was applied to slate, which spawned alternatives made from concrete and fibre cement. More recently, new clay tile designs have appeared that match concrete in size and ease of installation. There are also new clay tiles that take on a slate appearance, creating cost effective natural alternatives to traditional slate.
It's worth noting that one of the key constraints on roof tile design, is the planning system, which demands that new and refurbished roofs reflect traditional and local styles. This is one of the reasons that new tile designs do not stray too far from any of the original traditional designs. Instead, manufacturers create hybrids that introduce added benefits but remain respectful of each tile's origins.
Today consumers are now spoilt for choice. The resurgence in demand for traditional designs, such as plain tiles and slates, made from materials such as slate and clay, means there is now a greater choice of natural roofing materials than has been available for many years.
There has also been plenty of innovation, driven by the need to minimise build costs, with a growing demand for larger labour saving designs. Many of these innovations are made from clay, which means that there are now more cost effective options available to satisfy planning constraints, which can mean big savings for many homeowners.
It also means that the aesthetic benefits of natural materials are now within reach of most budgets. One of the reasons clay tiles and slates remain popular today is that natural materials such as clay will never lose it's colour. However, due to their size, traditional materials have been beyond the reach of many budgets. Up until recently, those wanting their roof to keep its looks in the long term had to buy traditional designs such as clay plain tiles, pantiles or natural slates. These products can range from double to even four times the cost of a large format concrete tile roof. Today, the arrival of larger more affordable clay tiles, means that you can put on a clay roof for only a few hundred pounds more. This equates to around £2 per square metre. 


A Tile Guide


Want to find out more

about each tile type?

Click here

Cembrit Blunn


The best natural and man-made slates

Maintenance Plan

Missing tile? Cracked Mortar?

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