Replacing a tile: a common roof repair

Roof tiles have a long life but they can occasionally get damaged: severe weather, debris falling on the roof or frost damage can cause a tile to crack or break.

Another common fault is “nail sickness” – or rusting of the nails used to fix the tiles to the roof.

Whatever the reason, it is wise to check your roof periodically to check for signs of missing tiles or tiles that have slipped.  If you spot a problem you should act immediately – a leaking roof will only get worse.

A single damaged or broken tile can be replaced – although it is not a straightforward job.  Great care is needed when removing a damaged tile – it is all too easy to damage the adjacent tiles and make the problem worse.

Once the tile has been removed, the replacement cannot simply be slipped in to place because the top of the tile will be fixed under the bottom edge of the tile above.   A replacement tile is most likely to be fixed in place using a clip, which will typically be made of lead sheet.

This might all sound like a small job for a competent DIY-er, but there are big safety concerns around working on a roof.   While it may be possible to reach tiles at the perimeter of a roof from a ladder, any damage to the main roof will need specialist equipment to protect both the person doing the repair and the rest of the roof tiles.

It is always best to consult a roof expert rather than trying to undertake a running repair yourself. Not only is it safer, but if the problem is caused by rusting of the fixing nails, it could be an indicator that your roof is going to need further maintenance work.

A roof should last for at least 50 years, but if your roof is reaching that age, it is a good precaution to get it checked by an expert so that you can budget for extensive maintenance in advance.

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Helen on 01 December 2011
Hi, a few days ago a Redlands roof tile fell off. These tiles are hard to source in Dublin. The house was built 15 years ago. I was assured the felt should keep the roof waterproof until such time the repair is made. Please advise where in Dublin I can source your tiles and how urgent is the repair in my case? Best Regards Kevin.

Kevin McSharry on 08 April 2012
Hi Kevin

Roofing underlays are designed to be secondary weatherproofing layers rather than primary ones. Whilst they can cope with small amounts of rainwater they are not designed to take large amounts of rain e.g. deluge rain. The reason is that while the underlay itself can hold out the water there are penetrations of the underlay where the batten nails go through. If left uncovered for long there is obviously more chance of heavy rain at some point and rainwater can track to these batten nail-holes and hence through the underlay to the roofspace below. Tell-tale signs are water staining of the rafters below if this is happening.

In general it always advisable to cover the roofing underlay from the elements because UV from daylight also degrades underlays as well, although this is a slower process.
Redland Technical Team on 10 April 2012

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