How to Replace Broken Roof Tiles


Being able to remove or replace all types of roof tiles or slate is a good skill to have, but if you’re not sure what to do then read on because this article has some useful tips. We’ll help you with roof tile fixings, removing and changing interlocking and plain tiles and removing and replacing slate.

However, before you start and certainly before you get anywhere near a roof, make sure you look out for robust scaffolding towers and ladders for sale – the last thing you want to happen is a nasty accident at height.

How to attach roof tiles

It’s common practice to attach roof tiles every third row with clout nails (either aluminium, copper or galvanised steel), starting with the bottom row and every third row thereafter. However, if you live in a council house, or in an area that’s exposed to very strong regular winds, you’ll find every tile on every row is nailed down.

Roof tiles generally have two fixing options, lugs, or lugs and nails. Roof slates, on the other hand, are always nailed, as they don’t have lugs – in some cases, old traditional slate roofs may have wooden pegs.

How to change an interlocking roof tile

Interlocking roof tiles are made from concrete and coated with a mixture of paint and sand. Normally the tiles are single overlap, which means the tile above overlaps it once, and the sides interlock with the tile next to it. This creates a watertight join.

First, use the end of your hammer’s handle to tap and shift the two tiles that sit directly above the damaged tile. You’ll then be able to pull out the interlocking tile. Now replace this tile with the new one and then carefully slide back the two tiles above. For a short video demonstration, click here.

How to change a plain roof tile

Plain roof tiles are very common and unlike the interlocking tiles above, they have no interlocking features and are usually overlapped twice by the tiles above. To replace a tile you should first use a flat bar to raise the tile to be replaced so you can get your fingers under it, then you shift the flat bar further up to raise the tile slightly. This will help you to pull out the tile easily.

To fit the new tile, lift the two tiles above with the flat bar, position the new tile in place and then, with the flat bar now under the new tile, slip it into its place. If the tile is nailed, slip the flat iron under it, then work the flat bar gently up and down to loosen the nails. These should easily pop out, still attached to the tile. A short video will show you how.

How to remove and replace a roof slate

It can be quite tricky to replace a broken roof slate and you’ll need to use three tools – a slate cutter, a hammer and the very important slate ripper – a slate ripper with a raised handle is best.

First, slip the slate ripper under the slate you want to remove. Hook the end of the ripper onto one of the nails that’s holding the slate in place and, keeping the ripper flat against the roof, hammer gently downwards on the upraised ripper handle until the nail comes away. Repeat this process for the other nail, then using the ripper and pressing your hand flat on the tile, work the tile out.

If you don’t have any spare slates, you’ll have to buy replacements of the same size or slightly bigger (but never smaller). To fit the new slate, slide it into position, making sure the top of the slate fits on top of the wooden batten. Then make sure you can nail the tile into the bottom batten nail hole. You must use copper, aluminium or galvanised clout nails for this.

Never hammer the nail in too tightly so it pinches, as this might crack the tile, and don’t hammer the nail in too loosely, as it might then protrude and could puncture the slates above. You may have to trim the sides of the tile with the slate cutter to ensure a perfect fit. As it’s difficult to hammer in a second nail, don’t worry about this, as one nail is perfectly adequate. This is because the slates lean snugly against each other.


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