Tile Talk: Increasing Efficiency

Increasing Your Bottom Line Through Preparation

by Richard K. Olson, president & technical director, Tile Roofing Industry Alliance

(Editor’s Note: Richard K. Olson is president and technical director for the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance. The association represents industry professionals involved in the manufacturing and installation of concrete and clay tile roofs in the United States and Canada, and works with national, state, and local building officials to develop installation techniques, codes, and standards for better roofing systems. Olson can be reached at rolson@tileroofing.org.)


As Roofing professionals, we always are looking for ways to increase our productivity, reduce callbacks, and improve our bottom line. Through greater organization and planning we can identify areas that will meet these goals.

For steep slope applications, it starts with proper planning before you get on the roof. In today’s world there are several software applications that will create a detailed list of items needed for a specific building. This will be your starting point for getting organized.

Material Selection

From the list of materials, you can review and identify the various specific items you will use, based upon your best practices. For many, it can be a time to identify and present upgraded systems for longer roof performance. For our concrete and clay roof tiles that have longer life cycles, the upgrade of underlayment’s and considering a raised installation can achieve a longer life of the roof assembly and improve energy efficiency through reduced heat transfer to the living space. When properly presented to the building owner, we have found great success in accepting the additional costs.

Once you have assembled your material lists, proper communication with your supplier or manufacturer will assist in receiving the materials in a timely fashion. If color selection of cladding is required, working with the supplier, and communication with the building owner is crucial. Color is very important for aesthetics to many owners and having them visit a supply house for selection should be encouraged.

Roof Preparation

For most steep slope applications, the builder will attach the roof sheathing prior to the roofing professional arriving. You should always walk the roof to check for properly supported sheathing that is attached to truss, fasteners flush not raised, and that the roof is clean of debris. We have seen projects where the raised fasteners or piles of debris have punctured the underlayment from walking during installation. Remember, the underlayment is a second barrier of protection for the roofing assembly.

Roof Layout

This is the most important step in creating efficiency in your project. Too often this step is not given enough attention leading to rehandling of products or improper coursing and alignment. To the building owner, the aesthetics can be as important as the performance for the overall project. Identifying your starting point, hip and valley areas will allow you to understand where roof alignment will need to occur. As part of this process, we should identify where access for footpaths of other trades will need to occur. This can be accessories, chimneys, skylights, and painting, where other trades will need access as you install. Safety plans for fall protection can easily be identified at this point.


Understanding how to properly install your roof cladding is very important, as alignment will create the overall esthetics. A quick review of the manufacturers written product installation guides will help you understand the requirements and restrictions that might apply. For our concrete and clay roofing tiles, we have detailed information on how to determine and run a chalk line for level and coursing for each roof area. In today’s complex designs using numerous roof slopes, our installation guide will help set the top and bottom courses to allow for an even coursing up any roof slope. Triangle and turret roof designs can be challenging if proper detail to layout is not used.

Roof Loading

Efficiency in installing a cladding depends upon locating the materials within reach and not moving stacks/bundles as you progress. For our roofing tiles we have created loading charts that identify the number of tiles per stack and the locations of the stacks that allows the minimal of movement during installation. Too often the roof loading crew will just stack where they want, and the installers could be moving tile for the whole process, which adds significant labor on a project. Done correctly the installer will be able to work three courses of roofing tiles as they move across the roof. The layout chalk lines will make the proper installation task easy. What looks level to the installer on the roof, may not be level as seen from the street. Understanding the field tiles required at hips, ridges, and valley locations will make roof loading easy to accomplish and reduce the complexity of measuring, marking, and cutting of tiles.


The market has numerous types of underlayment from self-adhering, organic, and synthetics to consider. When installing your underlayment, refer to the underlayment manufacturers installation instructions for proper coursing, overlap, fastening, exposure restrictions, or added requirements. Make sure that any damage to the underlayment is fixed prior to the cladding being installed.

Installation of Cladding

With proper layout, the actual installation of your cladding will allow improved efficiencies of labor. For our roofing tiles, you will have selected the required type of installation for either direct deck, batten, or raised/double batten systems. With each of these depending upon the local code designated wind speed, you will be able to select your proper fastening options.

With attention to the proper layout of the full installation process, you will be able to maximize your efficiencies, reduce labor, and improve performance of the roofing system. You will see greater bottom-line profit and the building owner will have an improved project that will be both code compliant and aesthetically pleasing.