How to replace a roof tile

Don’t wait for a missing or broken roof tile to become a serious problem. Act promptly to fix the problem.

Missing or broken roof tiles allow water to penetrate the roof space and wind to lift more of the neighbouring tiles. If you attend to the problem immediately you won’t end up with serious repairs later on.

You will need:

Ladder
Wooden wedges
Safety harness – if you have to climb onto the roof
Hammer
Cutters
Bucket on a rope
Replacement tiles
Tile clips
Galavanised wire
Flat-head nails

Here’s how to replace a roof tile:

Safety first: Secure the ladder firmly on its feet and wedged firmly against the edge of the roof.

With one hand, slide up the row of tiles immediately above that over-laps the one that is to be replaced. Use the handle of a hammer or a couple of small wooden wedges to support the tiles while you work. To remove the broken tile, tilt it sideways to separate it from the interlocking tiles. You should be able to free it without disturbing them.

Safety first: To keep your hands free, lower the broken tile in a bucket on a rope to a helper on the ground.

Lever the tile upwards to release it from any clip that holds it to the batten. If the tile is wired to the batten beneath (every second course is) try reaching in under the tile above with cutters to snip the ties. Otherwise, you will need to enter the roof space to free the tile. Take particular care as old tiles become very brittle with age and are easily damaged.

Carefully brush dust and dirt from the grooves on the tiles either side of the space where the damaged tile was located. Be thorough, as it is these grooves that prevent water entering the roof space.

To fit the replacement tile, insert the new tile at an angle, slide it into position and make sure it engages with those on either side and is firmly locked in. Lower the layer of tiles above until they are back in place and remove your wedges.

Replacing a group of roof tiles

Remove the highest tiles as for a single tile. Lower tiles simply need tilting to free them. Remove the clips wherever you can. When replacing the tiles, fit the lowest course first and work from right to left. Fit a clip for each tile wherever you are able to nail it to the batten. Lodge the hook of the clip over the ridge at the side of the tile and hammer the nail through the hole in the clip into the top edge of the batten near the bottom edge of the tile you are fitting. You can also nail alternate courses to the battens. The highest course cannot be nailed and the last tile of all cannot be fitted with a clip because the batte will be covered.

Replacing a tile cap or ridge tile

The ridges of tiled roofs can weather and eventually leak. Fixing or replacing them is a simple enough job, it’s the fact you’ll be working at a height that’s daunting. Don’t take chances – buy or hire a harness to wear whenever you’re working on the roof. Also watch out for hazards such as electrical cables, tree branches and aerials.

Remove loose caps and chip away old mortar. Chip old bedding from caps using an angle grinder for stubborn pieces. Attach small cut tiles by nailing a 75mm galvanised flathead nail in the top of the hip rafter and secure with wire. Lay caps in position and mark with chalk. Mix four parts river sand to one part cement, add water until creamy. Lay sausage-shaped mortar inside the chalk line. Secure starter cap with wire around a 75mm galvanised flathead nail 150mm above.

Press in the cap, keeping mortar 20mm thick at highest point of the tile. Fill gaps with mortar and flush to the edge of the cap. When dry, trowel flexible coloured pointing compound 5mm thick over the mortar and collar of the caps.