How to replace a roof tile or slate
In this article we will be looking at the most basic roofing skill, changing a roof tile. You will find instructions on how to replace nearly all types of broken roof tile or roofing slate found today in the UK. Being able to easily remove roof tiles is the key to unlocking a roof, so you can work on it to repair or modify it. Interspersed with dedicated videos and pictures you will see not only the removal process of a broken tile, but often the removal of the tiles around a missing or broken tile to gain access to it. All without creating further unnecessary damage.
Some of the things covered in this article…
- Roof tile fixings… what you can expect
- Removing and changing a interlocking tile (concrete or clay)
- Changing a plain tile
- Replacing hanging tiles or hanging slates
- Removing and replacing a slate
- Roof tile identification
One important tip when replacing any broken tiles or slates is this, always try to get a colour match if possible. Often a good roofing merchant will have a reclamation section where worn, nearly new tiles, or various coloured slates will be available, this will make the final repair extremely hard to detect after light weathering. If this isn’t an option tiles can be removed from the rear, or the bottom row of a property, where it’s hard to see them and they can be swapped for any breakages higher up the roof. The new replacements can then be fitted to the bottom row and be almost undetectable.
Tile and slate fixing procedure
With roofing tiles it’s common practise in large parts of the UK to fix every third row of tiles with clout nails, starting at and including the bottom row, every third row after that including the top row and they should be nailed with either galvanised steel, aluminium, or copper clout nails. The other two rows of unfixed tiles rely on lugs cast into the tile itself on the underneath of the tile near the top (head), this allows the tiles to hang from the horizontal timber roofing batten (laths) with the weight of the overlapping tiles above holding it in place. This isn’t because of laziness or the cost of the nails, the general idea is that if you accidentally break a tile whilst installing the roof, or a third party maintains the roof in later years, so that they or you can gain access to replace any breakages by sliding the non-nailed tiles out of position for ease of access. Quite often though in areas exposed to high winds, or on council houses, every tile on every row may be nailed.
Fixing points – Generally roof tiles have two fixing options, lugs or lugs and nails. Roofing slates on the other hand will always be nailed as this is their primary and only point of fixing unless it’s a hook fixing, or in very rare occasions, old traditional slate roofs may have wooden pegs.
How to change a broken roof tile
Lets start off with probably the most prolific type of roof tile found on roofs in the UK, the interlocking roof tile. Most often these are made from concrete and coated with a finish of coloured paint, patterned paint, or textured with a mixture of paint and sand called ‘sand faced’. Normally these tiles are single overlap, meaning the tile above overlaps it once, and the sides interlocks with the tile next to it to create a watertight join.
Replace a roof tile – Here we see how to replace most concrete and clay interlocking roof tiles when they are both fully nailed and un-nailed.
Roof tile and felt – This is one of my first videos on how to change a roof tile and it also shows how to replace not only a tile, but the roofing felt, membrane and battens should they be damaged by a long term leak.
Common types of roof tile
The three most common roof tile manufacturers in the UK are Marley, Sandtoft and Redland, clicking these links may help you to identify any tiles that you need help with. Other large roof tile companies include Russel roof tiles, Forticrete and Dreadnought.
Roof tiles – These come in many variations of manufacturer, shape, size and colour, the make and model of which can usually be found on the underneath of the tile when it has been removed. Here are a selection of common roof tiles for identification, approximate sizes, and anatomy.
Often roof tiles from different manufacturers may be a direct replacement, or an as near as dammit option if you are struggling to source a particular tile, or a tile that is no longer produced. If the roof tile has no discernible mark or brand underneath you can take a sample to a good roofing yard and they will find a match for you, it’s always a good idea to make the effort to find a dedicated roofing supplier rather than a general builders yard because their roof tile choices, options and knowledge will be far superior. Quite often they will have a reclamation section too which can be a great resource for matching unusual or old tiles.
How to change a small plain roof tile
Plain tiles are also very common in the UK, unlike the concrete or clay interlocking tiles above they have no interlocking and water proofing features at the sides at all, and are usually overlapped twice by the tiles above, a lot like traditional roofing slate (double overlap).Common sizes are 266mm x 165 (10 and a half inch x 6 and a half inch) or there abouts. These days they are mostly machine made concrete, painted, textured or both in the same manner as concrete interlocking tiles, but are also available in modern fired clay, and the old fashioned handmade clay from the reclamation section at a good roofing yard.
Replace plain roof tiles – This video shows how to replace concrete or clay plain tiles both nailed, and un-nailed with minimum breakages and fuss…
How to replace a hanging Tile
Hanging plain tiles or slates can be very awkward when it comes to changing even one. Every single tile will be nailed to the timber lath underneath, normally with two large galvanised clout nails, and if you’re unlucky the nail heads will be driven tight and flush to the surface of the tile face, making extraction even more difficult. Lots of roofers dread the phrase ” can you just change that broken tile for me please? “ because when it comes to replacing a hanging tile customers often think it’s a 5 minute job or something that should be thrown in for free if mentioned near the end of the day. Safety over doorways, windows, glazing and people is also a major concern when working with hanging tiles.
Hanging tiles – In this video on how to replace a hanging tile we see the correct but long winded way of replacing both hanging tiles and hanging slates, as well as some faster short cut methods.
On some occasions you may find tile patterns or decorative tiles like Club, Bullnose, Arrowhead or Fishtail tiles used to break up a plain mass of plain tiles, or add a feature, sometimes they are used in combination together which at fist sight may appear confusing.
Feature tiles – These days they can be quite tricky to get hold of if one of these is broken, the best place is often a reclamation yard or a roofing yard with a reclaimed tile section.
How to replace hanging slates
Changing a broken hanging slate is quite similar to a hanging plain tile in some ways, and the video above on how to change a hanging tile also shows methods for hanging slates too, so check it out if you haven’t seen it already. One snag you will find when trying to chop out a single hanging slate is that often the clout nails may have been driven tight to the surface of the slate, clamping the slate very tightly. This makes getting a slate rip onto the nails as seen in the video below on ‘how to remove and replace slates’ very difficult as the slate rip can become wedged.
Individual hanging slate removal – Sometimes a good tactic is to place a large 300mm (12″) hacksaw blade in a hacksaw blade holder, and cut through the two nails that hold the slate, rather than use the slate rip and risk further damage.
How to replace a roof slate
Changing a broken roof slate is actually quite easy as long as you use the right kit, and crucially understand how it works, and how to use it. If you require a good slate rip that wont have you bashing your knuckles or breaking unnecessary surrounding slates you cannot only find links to buy one, but modify it like me if you want to as shown in my tools page linked at the bottom of the article.
Remove and replace a slate – Here we not only go through how to remove and replace slates, but talk about understanding and using a slate-rip. Also shown are alternative fixing methods for slate at the end.
For more in-depth dedicated help with removing and replacing slates, see my article slate roof repair here or in the links below.
- How to find a trusted roofer – Too complicated or dangerous? Call in a Pro
- Roofing prices – What you can reasonably expect to pay for roof repairs
- Slate roof repair – Common slate roof leaks and problems and how to fix them
- Roofing tools – Some of the tools I use daily