I have a house with the curved Spanish style tiles in which many tiles are stacked on top of one another with cement in between them. An inspector looking at the roof identified that many of the top tiles were missing or broken. This was apparent because some of the current top tiles have cement on top them. However, there has been no sign of leaking even after some fairly heavy rains recently. Also, as far as I can tell there are several more layers of tile below these missing top pieces. Am I correct in understanding that the only reason to replace these is for cosmetic purposes? Also, is there not more risk in creating new problems by having someone walking around on these tiles in order to replace the missing ones?
Sue J. ~ Santa Barbara, California
Hi Sue, it's difficult to give a good answer to a question like this. It's possible that your roof could go another 5 years and never have a problem, but it is also possible that your roof is leaking right now, and you have just not seen the evidence yet. Tile roofs, and just about any other type of roof, are designed to function when all of their components are installed correctly. When some of those components are damaged or missing, it can increase the chances of the roof not functioning as designed, which can lead to water intrusion.
I have watched news reports over the years of the heavy rains that Santa Barbara, and other parts of California can receive, and if you have roof tiles missing, there is a good chance that if your roof is not already leaking, it can be very soon. You are correct, tile roofs can be damaged by someone walking on them. However, a roofing contractor with tile experience should be able to get on your roof without doing much, if any damage. I think it would be worth it to have an experienced contractor come out and do a replacement of the damaged and missing tiles. I would give the same advice to a homeowner who had some shingles or cedar shakes blow off of their roof. A roof can leak for a long period of time before you are able to see the evidence in your living space, and by that time you could have a lot of expensive damage done.