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Replacing plain tiles

Safety: Working on a roof involves working at height (even on a bungalow), so always use scaffolding or other stable platform, never use just ladders.

Plain tiles have a long design life (40 years plus), but over time they can become damaged, generally this is because of the roof settling, frost damage or objects falling on them (often pieces of tree or similar). Often it will be an isolated tile which is damaged although sometimes a larger area is affected.

An isolated tile.

For an isolated damaged tile,

  • Tilt up the sound tiles each side of the damaged one; use a brick layers trowel slid underneath to lift the front edge but don't use too much force - you are actually lifting the whole roof. Slip a wedge or piece of wood under each of these tiles to hold them up.
  • If you are lucky, the damaged tile will be one which has not been nailed, in which case,
    • Wiggle and twist the damaged tile to get its nibs out from behind the batten and lift it clear.
    • Slide the new tile into position with the nibs over the batten - use a bricklayers trowel so that you can lift the back end of it over the batten.
    • Support the tile on either side in turn, remove the wedge or piece of timber used to hold it up and allow the tiles back into position.
  • If the damaged tile is in fact nailed, but the roof tiles are definitely not ALL nailed down,
    • Remove the wedges from under the side tiles, move up the roof two rows, then lift the adjacent tiles and remove the tile directly above the damaged one by wiggling and twisting it to get its nibs out from behind the batten and lift it clear. Move the wedges outwards by one tile and remove the tiles on both side of the it. Then remove the two tiles in the row below overlapping the damaged one (so you will have removed 3 tiles from this row). The nail heads will now be exposed and you can extract them and lift the damaged tile clear.
    • Put the new tile in place and secure it with non-corrosive nails (aluminium, copper or stainless steel nails - not galvanised). Make sure that the nails are only long enough to go into the batten, but not through the underfelt.
    • Replace the two tiles overlapping it above.
    • Slide the three tiles from the next higher row back into position with their nibs over the batten - use a bricklayers trowel so that you can lift the back end of them over the batten.
    • Support the tile on either side in turn, remove the wedge or piece of timber used to hold it up and allow the tiles back into position.
  • If all the tiles on the roof are nailed,
    • The only option is to try using a slate ripper to pull out the nails - this should be the last resort, using a slate ripper can be quite violent on the surrounding roof and it could cause damage to other tiles, especially clay tiles, and also possibly the battens which may not be immediately apparent. You really need to think hard whether you want to do it!!
    • If you do, use the slate ripper to pull out the nails of the damaged tile.
    • On the replacement tile, cut off the nibs.
    • Make a 'tingle' from a strip of lead 225 x 25mm (9 x 1 inch), fix one end of the tingle to the batten between the tiles underneath so that the bottom 50mm (2 inch) or so of the tingle project below the bottom edge of the tile to be replaced.
    • Slide in the 'nib less' tile so that its back end rests on the batten.
    • Support the tile on either side in turn, remove the wedge or piece of timber used to hold it up and allow the tile backs into position.
    • With the tiles in their final position, bend the lower part of the tingle back up onto the front face of the tile to prevent it slipping.

Replacing an area of tiles.

Where an area of tiles are damaged, you need to assess whether a repair is worthwhile or if a complete slope needs to be replaced, sometimes the latter is easier especially where all the tiles are nailed.

Assuming you decide to do a local repair;

  • At the top, in the middle of the damaged area, tilt up the tiles each side of one of the damaged tiles; use a brick layers trowel slid underneath to lift the front edge but don't use too much force - you are actually lifting the whole roof. Slip a wedge or piece of wood under each of these tiles to hold them up.
  • If the damaged tile in between the lifted ones is in fact nailed, but the roof tiles are definitely not ALL nailed,
    • Remove the wedges from under the side tiles, move up the roof two rows, then lift the adjacent tiles and remove the middle tile directly above the damaged area and the ones on either side of it. Then remove the two tiles in the row below overlapping the damaged one. The nail heads will now be exposed and you can extract them and lift the damaged tile clear.
    • Remove the other damaged tiles working sideways and downwards, most of those overlapped from above you should be able to slide sideways so you can lift the out. Any nailed one will need the nails removed, any overlapped nailed tiles will need the tiles above removed first to get to the nails.
    • Once all the damaged tiles have been removed, start placing the new ones from the bottom, secure the new tiles at about the same spacing as the originals with non-corrosive nails (aluminium, copper or stainless steel nails - not galvanised). Make sure that the nail are only long enough to go into the batten, but not through the underfelt.
    • As you reach the top, lift the existing tiles and slide the new ones into position under them with their nibs over the batten - use a bricklayers trowel so that you can lift the back end of them over the batten.
    • Remove any wedges or pieces of timber used to hold it up and allow the tiles back into position.
  • If all the tiles are nailed,
    • The only option is to try using a slate ripper to pull out the nails until the ones underneath are exposed - this should be the last resort, using a slate ripper can be quite violent on the surrounding roof and it could cause damage to other tiles, especially clay tiles, and also possibly the battens which may not be immediately apparent. You really need to think hard whether you want to do it!!
    • If you do, use the slate ripper to pull out the nails of the top row of damaged tiles. Once you've exposed the nails of the tiles below, you can pull out the nails using a claw hammer and remove the damaged tiles.
    • Once all the damaged tiles have been removed, start placing the new ones from the bottom, secure the new tiles with non-corrosive nails (aluminium, copper or stainless steel nails - not galvanised). Make sure that the nails are only long enough to go into the batten, but not through the underfelt.
    • For the top row of replacement tiles, cut off the nibs from the tiles.
    • Make a 'tingle' from a strip of lead 225 x 25mm (9 x 1 inch) for each tile. Fix one end of the tingle to the batten between the tiles underneath so that the bottom 50mm (2 inch) or so of the tingle project below the bottom of the row of tiles to be replaced.
    • Slide in the 'nib less' tiles so that their back ends rest on the batten.
    • Support the tile on either side in turn, remove the wedge or piece of timber used to hold it up and allow the tiles back into position.
    • With the tiles in their final position, bend the lower part of the tingles back up onto the front face of the tiles to prevent them slipping.