Tile roof repairs in Sydney – looking for best solutions?

Maintenance and repair of tile roofs in Sydney are very common because the majority of Sydney houses have tile roofs.

The first thing a Sydney homeowner should do if they are considering a tile roof repair is to determine their reasons for wanting one…

  • The roof is leaking:
  • The roof looks old:
  • The roof capping is loose:
  • The valleys are rusty:
  • There is ‘lichen’ on the roof tiles:
  • The roof tiles are fretting:
  • The roof tiles are getting brittle:
  • Solar panels will be installed:
  • There is a chimney leak:
  • The ceiling is mouldy.

You have a leaking tile roof

This is a situation that demands prompt action to prevent further damage to the house. There are many reasons why tile roof repairs are needed when there is a roof leak.

The simplest is a cracked tile. Then there may be faulty roof flashings. The tiles may have been installed on a low pitch. Flat profile roof tiles have poor drainage design and these are prone to leaks. Extra water loading from downpipe spreaders and valleys will cause water penetration. The absence of weep holes under the ridge capping is a common culprit for causing seepage tile roof leaks. Incorrect installation of ridge capping is one cause of tile roof leaks that is very difficult to locate and repair.

There are plenty of resources on this website about tile roof leaks and repairs. And explanations about how we go about tracking tile roof leaks.

The roof looks old

Concrete roof tiles are factory painted and the paint starts to fade as soon as it leaves the paint oven. Terracotta roof tiles usually baked with a paint coating and this preserves the paint from fading. Concrete tiled roofs will fade a lot more than their terracotta counterparts and this brings about the ‘OLD’ look.

I usually tell homeowners that faded tile roofs match the overall condition of the house. But some like the look of a shiny roof.

This means the homeowner is not looking at a tile roof repair. It is a tile roof restoration that they are thinking of. Personally, I think that spraying some paint on an old roof is a complete waste of time and money. The only time I would consider a paint job (AKA roof restoration), is just before I sell my house – and then I will still be plagued morally and questioning the ‘over capitalisation’ element.

If you are still set on getting a roof restoration – then make sure that the roof restoration company is a good one.

The roof capping is loose

There is always movement of roof elements and because ridge capping on tile roofs is ‘bedded’ on brittle mortar, cracks will develop over time. This will loosen the ridge capping off the bedding and the ridge cap can slide off the roof or be blown off by stiff winds.

Every 15 to 20 years, a tile roof will need some repair to the ridge capping. It may involve a repoint with flexible pointing compound.

A tile roof repoint involves removal of loose bedding under the ridge capping and replacement with fresh bedding mortar. The ridge capping is then ‘prepared’ for repointing by a light grind/clean of the edges of the ridges to allow maximum binding of the new flexible pointing. This will hold the ridge capping down onto the roof tiles to help with waterproofing and stop dislodgement.

There are more resources on this website on bedding and pointing work on tile roofs.

The valleys are rusty

Roof valleys on tiled roofs are made of metal (the old ones are galvanised metal) and after a few decades, they will start to rust.

It is difficult to estimate the remaining life of a rusty valley because the rust is also happening on the underside of the metal valley. A rusty valley may suddenly develop a rust hole (without warning) and cause a lot of ceiling damage. Therefore, it is advisable to get rusty valleys replaced before they start leaking.

We have a page on this website for those wondering what a roof valley is and why they leak.

There is ‘lichen’ on the roof tiles

Officially called a ‘PATINA’ – lichen growth is a feature of terracotta tile roofs in Sydney. The lichen needs moisture and the right pH to propagate and it is often seen on the shaded sides of a tile roof. Concrete roof tiles have a higher PH and are more lichen-proof.

Patina is an organic growth that has no effect on the durability and life of roof tiles. Therefore, they do not need removal for saving of the roof tile. Very heavy patina can cause clogging of the roof tile water courses – but this is quite rare.

High pressure water cleaning is a common solution for patina removal. The downside of this technique is the removal of the paint coating from the roof tile surface. Also, the high pressure washing will cause some water penetration into the roof cavity.

One way to prevent heavy build-up of patina is application of the ‘famous’ WET & FORGET. This will not leave you with a clean shining roof – but the lichen will slowly die and leave the roof.

The roof tiles are fretting

The exact reasons why clay products crumble into powder are not fully known. Terracotta roof tiles will start crumbling and this is called ‘fretting’. This happens with certain batches of terracotta roof tiles in certain areas of Sydney. Salt and terracotta roof tiles don’t like each other and the tiles will lose the battle and start fretting.

A tile roof repair on a Sydney roof that contains fretted roof tiles is quite challenging. It is difficult to find the fretted roof ties without individually lifting up every roof tile. If there is no roof sarking, then a visit into the roof cavity will make spotting the fretting roof tiles a lot easier. If there is sarking, this option is of no help.

Since fretting is an ongoing issue, a short-term repair solution is to replace the very badly fretted roof ties over multiple periods of time. Saving up for a roof replacement is the long term solution.

The roof tiles are getting brittle

Concrete roof tiles rarely get brittle. It is a myth that concrete roof tiles get brittle over time when it fact they get stronger. Terracotta roof tiles are different. The older terracotta roof tiles become ‘BISCUITS’ and roofers hate walking on these because they leave a trail of broken roof tiles after them.

But brittle roof tiles stand up to the weather and function very well. They are quite waterproof. They just don’t like being walked on.

So while it is not urgent to replace a roof because the roof ties are brittle, it can present challenges to roofers trying to do roof repairs on brittle tile roofs. Also, homeowners should not attempt to put solar panels, pool heating or hot water systems on these roofs.

Ridge capping work and the odd roof tile replacement can be done by light footed nimble roofers. But it will be a challenge find these roofers willing to do tile roof repairs on a brittle roof.

Solar panels will be installed

Tile roof repairs will be needed before solar panels are installed. Sometimes, roof repair work is also needed after the solar panels are installed.

Solar panels on the roof steal working space from roof repairers. It makes sense to get ridge capping repairs, valley replacements, water course maintenance and broken roof tile replacements done before solar panels are installed on a roof.

It will be difficult (if not sometimes impossible) to do any roof repair work after the solar panels are installed.

Make sure you have plenty of spare roof tiles on hand to offer to the solar panel installers. Most solar panel installers are not roofers and will not have the correct roof tiles to replace the ones that they break. They will attempt silicone repairs or use incompatible roof tiles if they don’t have easy access to the correct replacement roof ties.

Check your roof for leaks when you get a heavy rain event after the solar panel installation. Call them back if there is a roof leak.

Whilst we can do tile roof repairs under solar panels, they are difficult and expensive to do. Make the solar panel installation panel responsible for the leaks that they create. This is another reason to get your roof repaired and tested by rain before the solar panel installation. Because it leaves no doubt that any leaks after the solar panel installation is all the responsibility of the installer.

There is a chimney leak

A lot of tile roofs in Sydney have chimneys. Some are intact and others have been truncated above the ceiling level.

The intact chimneys will start to leak when the flashings at the base start to fail. Water penetration into the ceiling surrounding the fireplace will show up as brown stains. This is when the chimney flashings will need repair or replacement.

When a chimney has been chopped off above the ceiling and the fireplace removed, there is no sign of a chimney inside the house any more. This presents a slight problem if the top of the chimney has not been covered by a durable cap. Water that can enter inside the chimney does not present a problem with an intact chimney because the water is drained out. But water inside a truncated chimney will just drop onto the ceiling below and cause leaks.

A good chimney cap is needed for disused chimneys.

The ceiling is mouldy

Is a tile roof repair needed if there is mould on the ceilings? Mouldy ceilings do not usually mean that there is a roof leak. The cause of most mouldy ceilings is just the absence of good (if any) ceiling insulation batts.

There are two types of mouldy ceilings. The ones with a central brown stain and black perimeter is usually a sign of a tile roof leak. The extensive grey mould (sometimes in bands) along the side of the room, is typical of a condensation problem caused by inadequate ceiling insulation.

If there is brown staining, get your tile roof leak repaired. It there is plenty of fine black mould, then get a good ceiling insulator.

Some helpful resources on tile roof repairs below…

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