The origin of clay roofing tile can be traced independently to two different parts of the world: China, during the Neolithic Age, beginning around 10,000 B.C.; and the Middle East, a short time later. Not only the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, but also the Greeks and Romans roofed their buildings with clay tiles, and adaptations of their practice continue in Europe to the present. European settlers brought this roofing tradition to America where it was established in many places by the 17th century.
Clay tiles are one of the most distinctive and decorative historic roofing materials because of their great variety of shapes, colors, profiles, patterns, and textures. Traditionally, clay tiles were formed by hand, and later by machine extrusion of natural clay, textured or glazed with color, and fired in high-temperature kilns. The unique visual qualities of a clay tile roof often make it a prominent feature in defining the overall character of a historic building. The significance and inherently fragile nature of historic tile roofs dictate that special care and precaution be taken to install and repair them.
Clay tile has one of the longest life expectancies among historic roofing materials-generally about 100 years, and often several hundred. Yet, a regularly scheduled maintenance program is necessary to prolong the life of any roofing system