Most roof tiles are made from cement or clay.
And while clay or terracotta roof tiles are generally too porous and not suitable for painting, concrete roof tiles can be painted when using the right type of paints.
In fact, cement tiles should be painted or protected in some fashion as they have a porous surface as well.
This means that if left untreated, the exposure to water and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere creates a weak form of carbonic acid.
The acid forms on the surface and penetrates the tiles causing them to weaken layer by layer.
At some point, the concrete will then age rapidly and require the replacement of the tiles.
It should be noted that clay tiles are not vulnerable to carbonic acid.
To properly paint concrete tiles, you will need to do the following.
What You Will Need?
You will need the following items before you can start to paint the tiles.
Keep in mind that painting roof tiles are not for everyone.
You may want to hire a professional to ensure that the job is performed properly.
Plus, you can hire a professional whose work is guaranteed, so they can correct any mistakes they have made.
If you are going to do the job yourself, you will need the following items.
- Paint suitable for concrete tiles
- Pressure washer
- Moisture Meter
- Masking tape
You may also need some Fired Earth Bonding Liquid, but that is only if you discover that the surface of the tiles is covered in a powdery, chalky layer.
Steps for Painting Tiled Roof
Before you can paint, you will need to clean the surface of the tiles and ensure that the surface is rough enough for proper paint adhesion.
So let’s start with the very first step of washing…
Step 1 – Wash & Brush
A good pressure washer will remove the loose particles from the roof.
Remember to keep the pressure at the moderate end so you do not damage the tiles themselves.
A good strong brush can also be used to remove the particles that the pressure washer cannot reach.
Step 2 – Rinse & Let Dry
Once you have fully washed and rinsed the roof, let it fully dry before you start to paint.
This is where the moisture meter comes in to check the tiles.
It should be less than 15% before you start to paint.
Step 3 – Check the Surface
Press a short line of masking tape into the surface of the dry tiles.
When you pull it away, you’ll see one of the following.
- No Material on Tape: Tiles are ready for painting
- Sandy Particles: Re-wash the roof
- Chalky, Powdery Material: Apply Fired Earth Bonding Liquid
The Fire-Earth Bonding Liquid will ensure that the surface is sealed at least enough to hold the paint.
Otherwise, the chalky residue indicates that the surface may be too porous and allow moisture to seep underneath the paint and cause it to flake or peel away.
Step 4 – Plywood & Carpet
Standing on a tiled roof may cause damage to the tiles themselves.
You can cut sections of plywood into several 2’ x 2’ pieces and tack old carpet on them.
Place them carpet-side down on the roof and secure them in place.
The plywood will distribute your weight evenly to prevent damage.
Step 5 – Roof Harness
Now it’s time to secure yourself to the roof.
Be sure the ladder itself is secure, then attach the harness to the opposite side of the roof along the lip of the gutter and then back to the ladder.
This will secure it in place.
Step 6 – Rust Remover
All exposed iron should be sprayed with rust remover to ensure that it is properly cleaned and ready.
Also, be sure to tape off any areas (like vents or skylights) that are not to be painted.
You can use plastic sheets to cover and then seal the edges with painter’s tape.
Step 7 – Spray Primer and then Paint the Roof
Use the appropriate water-based primer, mix it with the right amount of water, and load it into the sprayer.
Start spraying at the top of the roof and work your way down.
Make sure the entire roof is covered in primer.
Let the primer dry and then load up the paint, mix it with water, clean the sprayer, and then load the paint into the sprayer.
A single coat should do thanks to the primer. Let it dry.
What paint to use to paint roof tiles?
Water-based acrylic paints or latex paints will work best for your roof in most conditions.
And you should try to pick the white color paint as it will help the roof to reflect light better and keep the home cooler during summers.
Things to Remember When Painting Roof Tiles
In addition to having the right supplies and allowing enough time for the paint to dry, there are a few things to remember.
- Check the Forecast: Avoiding painting in the rain or when rain is expected soon
- Start Painting Late in the Morning: Preferably after 8-am in summer, 10-am in winter
- Stop Painting After 12pm: This avoids excessive temperatures in the summer
- Keep Remaining Paint: You’ll need it for touchup work
Before painting also take certain precautions so that you can perform your job safely.
Some of these are:
1- Hire a roofing inspector:
Let him do the job by climbing and checking the roof before you paint
2- Get a helper who can come on the roof with you:
You may need one while performing tasks like moving the airless sprayer’s tank
3- Wear a safety harness and shoes with non-slip soles:
These will help you walk easily on the steep roof without getting slipped or falling off. And that is what you need when you want to DIY paint your tile roof.
Remember to hire a professional for the best results, especially if you have difficulty doing the work yourself.
Can You Paint Terracotta Roof Tiles?
The answer to the question is no.
This is in part because already modeled and fired terracotta roof tiles are crafted from clay, which is used as a raw material that can be quite moist.
The reason why terracotta tiles can last for years (without the paint) is the clay absorbs the moisture naturally and can withstand weather exposure.
Just in case, you are planning to paint terracotta roof tiles, here are a few pros and cons you need to keep in mind…
- Can turn aged look into a more attractive looking roof
- Can be painted using an airless sprayer which makes the task easy and fast
- Wide range of color options available to choose from so that you can match the roof tiles closely with your house
- Requires more maintenance and care after painting
- As a result, it also lowers the resale value of your home
- Since the paint does not adhere to the terracotta roof tile for long you need to repaint them regularly
It should be noted that not all terracotta roof tiles are alike.
There are glazed and unglazed tiles which are different in certain ways.
I will come to the basic differences between these both in a while.
For now, let’s see how can you refinish the terracotta roof tiles when the painting isn’t your option.
How to Restore Terracotta Tiles on the Roof?
Since terracotta tiles cannot be painted well, you will need to follow another process if you want your roof to look in like-new condition.
What follows are some simple steps that will restore your roof.
Step 1 – Remove all Cracked or Broken Tiles:
Such tiles cannot be repaired, so be prepared with some new tiles to replace the ones that are being removed.
If this exposes the roof, be sure to cover those areas before taking the next step.
Step 2 – Anti-Fungal Spray
You will need to apply anti-fungal spray if lichen and moss are present on your terracotta tiles.
If you do not treat your tiles, the lichen and moss will grow to the point where they can restrict the flow of water into the gutters.
It also helps that removing the lichen and moss will brighten up the tiles themselves.
Step 3 – High-Pressure Cleaning
You’ll need a pressure washer to rinse away the anti-fungal spray and clean the tiles.
This should restore the tiles to their natural appearance.
Step 4 – Re-Bedding Tiles
Now is the time to add in the new tiles to replace the old ones.
This type of work will require a professional to do the job.
They can re-bed and re-point the ridge cap tiles to create the proper appearance of your roof.
Step 5 – Clean the Gutters
After the new tiles have been put into place, the professional restorer will clean the gutter and repair them if necessary.
The result will be the water flowing unimpeded to the gutters and away from the house.
The specialist will also check the valleys along the roof to ensure that they are in good shape as well.
Any rusted or compromised areas will be replaced.
What is the Difference Between Glazed & Unglazed Tiles?
The main difference is the glazing process itself which is applied to the tiles after they have been created.
An unglazed tile is more vulnerable to damage because they are porous in nature.
This allows for more moisture, dirt, and debris to penetrate the tile itself.
However, unglazed terracotta tiles are quite popular because of their natural appearance.
But they do need regular maintenance because they lack a coating of glaze.
A glazed roof tile has a layer of protection that helps seal up the surface.
This makes it less porous and thus, less vulnerable to the elements. It also makes them last longer and requires less maintenance.
But with either glazed or unglazed terracotta tiles, they cannot be painted.
This is because the paint will peel away from the tiles relatively quickly, usually within six months.
While there are instances of painting actually working, it does not last long and will need constant maintenance.
Be careful not to confuse terracotta tiles with concrete roof tiles that can be painted.
Because in some cases they may look similar, a concrete roof tile is generally stronger with a surface that allows for paint to stick properly.
If a professional painter claims that they can paint terracotta tiles, it is best that they show proof and guarantee their work.
Otherwise, if the appearance of the tiles is dimming or needs brightening, then you will need a roof restoration specialist that works with terracotta tiles.
The Bottom Line
Your roof is your home’s first line of defense against bad weather and also during the change in season.
Performing regular checks to ensure it is in good condition is therefore essential.
While repainting your roof can be a viable option, if your roof is extremely old or in need of extensive repair, then you may be better off replacing it altogether.
Also, never attempt to perform any repairs unless you know well what you need to do and how.
Instead, it’s a good idea to hire experts for repairing and repainting done on a professional level.
This way you can make your roof ready for chilly winters and red hot summers.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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