East Meets West

Japanese Style Clay Roof Tile… Quietly Becoming the First Choice for High-end Homes and Commercial Buildings

by Lyla Lawry, marketing coordinator, MCA

From Western Roofing Jan/Feb ’09

Marketed in the U.S. for over 60 years, Japanese-style clay roof tile is quietly rising to prominence in the high-end residential and commercial market. With its distinctive good looks and sophistication, this beautiful tile can be seen throughout the country on custom homes, restaurants, historical buildings, teahouses, and gardens.

Buddhists brought the Japanese-style tile to Japan from China over 1400 years ago. Some roofs are simple, while others can be ornate, with upturned flaring corners, and extraordinary ornaments. Traditional designs, as in a Japanese-style temple or teahouse, feature ornaments of various shapes and sizes. The historical clay tile color, known as “Ibushi” in Japan, is smoked and is through body color.

Built in 1967, the Pavilion at the Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon, is a fine example of Japanese-style “Ibushi” tile. In the spring of 2001, the Japanese Garden Society called on CC & L Roofing in Portland to repair the Oriental clay tile roof on the Pavilion building. Dan Cornwell, president of CC & L, and former president of the Western States Roofing Contractors Association, says, “The original clay tile roof was a low grade clay tile, and was deteriorating. We knew we would need to re-roof the entire building with a superior product of Japanese-style tile. We were familiar with MCA’s high-quality Japanese-style tile, and we also knew we could count on the MCA staff for any technical advice we might need.” With Cornwell’s expertise on Japanese-style tile installation and the skilled craftsmen of CC & L Roofing, the project went smoothly every step of the way. Cornwell continues, “When we finished the Japanese Garden Pavilion, it looked incredible. The owners were delighted.”

Japanese-style tile roofs are widespread throughout the country. A custom home built in Big Sur, Calif., in 1959, was distinguished by a Japanese-style clay tile roof, complete with large hip and ridge ornaments. When the original home was recently destroyed by fire, local codes required the home be rebuilt to the exact original specifications. MCA Japanese-style tile matched the original tile, and ornaments were custom made to duplicate the old ones. Scudder Roofing, Marina, Calif., was the roofing contractor for the project.

Commercial projects such as The Tokyo-Wako Restaurant, located in Long Beach and built by Pan Construction, Rosemead, Calif., is another marvelous example of the traditional Japanese-style tile. Kyung Hoon Kim of Orion Roofing, Los Angeles, installed the tile roof which features graceful curves, upturned corners, and ornamentation. Without the use of decorative ornaments, Japanese-style tile also lends itself to contemporary, western designs. The Spaghetti Factory Restaurant in Portland, Oregon, with its beautifully simple blue tile roof, is a perfect example of modern western architecture incorporating Japanese-style tile.


Japanese-style tile can sometimes be difficult to install, but the skillful roofing contractor has found a very profitable nitch for this popular tile. “Japanese-style tile is not difficult, but tolerances must be precise,” says Mike Blackburn of Dan’s Roofing, Lake Elsinore, Calif., who expertly installed Japanese-style tile on a custom home in Temecula. “The lapping ridge tile was a bit of a challenge, but the outcome was well worth the effort.”

The 12” X 12” tiles must be installed with precision which can easily be accomplished by a skilled roofer. If the roofing contractor follows exact measurements, the installation can be done without difficulty. There are 144 pieces-per-square, and the tile also has built in wind-locks and comes in a variety of colors.

“Once considered a job to be tackled only by the most experienced craftsmen, Japanese-style tile has quietly moved into the mainstream and has found a very lucrative market for high-end homes and commercial buildings,” says Bob Hale, sales manager for MCA, located in Corona, Calif. “We have been selling Japanese-style tile for over 25 years. MCA has both ICC and Metro-Dade approval, and we also provide take-offs and technical support for the Japanese-style tile. This is the newest trend in roofing material and homeowners, designers, builders, architects, and roofing contractors should not be afraid to jump in.”

Please follow and like us: