Unlocking the clay interlocking market

Build time, cost and skills challenges are encouraging more roofing contractors to turn to large format clay interlocking tiles.  Sarah Jackson, marketing product manager, from Marley Eternit discusses this growing sales opportunity for merchants and explains how the development of two new low pitch tiles is opening up the market.

The development of modern large format interlocking clay tiles has brought about real competition to the large format concrete tiles which had dominated the UK since the end of World War two.  They have continued to make inroads in the UK housing sector and recently there has been a noticeable growth in the clay interlocking tiles market, which we estimate has grown from about 1% to 6% in the last ten years. 

Although this is still a relatively small part of the roofing market in the UK, in some European countries, clay interlocking tiles make up 50 to 70% of the market.  Therefore, we believe there is real potential for growth in this country as well, making it a significant sales opportunity for merchants.

With the Construction Products Association predicting a growth of 16% in private new housing starts this year and a growing skills shortage, building and roofing contractors need to balance rising tender costs brought about by an increase in both labour prices and inflation.  As a result, there is a growing demand for roof tiles that offer a premium aesthetic to differentiate properties in a competitive market, but at a lower cost. 

Large format clay interlocking tiles are the perfect product for merchants to offer customers as a way of getting the clay aesthetic quickly and cost effectively, because they have the high coverage rate of a large format single lap interlocking tile, cutting installation costs by as much as 30%.  They also address the skills shortage concerns because they are just as easy to fix as their concrete equivalents.

Although they are opening up opportunities for clay sales, to date there has been very little competition in this large format clay interlocking market and merchants and their customers have been able to choose from only a handful of products. 

Earlier this year, at Marley Eternit, we took the decision to launch two very easy to lay large format interlocking clay roof tiles in popular profiles, double roman and a clay single pantile, to give contractors more choice and importantly, to offer a much lower pitch than any other clay product in the UK.

As well as having an open or flexible gauge, our new Maxima and Melodie tiles have been designed to work with our standard concrete segmental ridge tiles and third round hips, as well as our universal fittings and accessories.  This not only keeps the cost of the roof down but also means that merchants don’t need to stock any complicated extras.

The Melodie roof tile is a single interlocking precision engineered clay pantile with an extremely robust interlock and integral weatherbars and drainage channels.  The interlock includes raised weather bars to prevent water ingress and wind driven rain seeping under the tiles which, together with built-up nail holes, make them resistant to even the harshest of UK storms.

The high weather performance of this tile means it can be used at a lower pitch than any other interlocking clay tile on the market, down to as low as 12.5 degrees.  This means it can be used where other tiles are not suitable without the addition of costly fully waterproofed  membranes or substrates.  The launch of this product opens up the market for merchants to target low pitched roofs and single storey extensions, as well as normal roof pitches up to 70 degrees.

The low minimum pitch was one of the main reasons the UK’s leading independent roofing merchant, Burton Roofing Merchants Ltd, was the first in the UK to stock the Melodie tile.  Darren Horrigan, branch manager for Burton Roofing in York, explains: “We chose to stock the Melodie tile because of its performance capabilities.  I’ve never heard of anything like it achieving a 12.5 degree minimum pitch before, it is the only product we have in stock that can perform lower than a concrete tile.

Melodie - the anatomy of a tile

“My branch of Burton Roofing is in a heavily populated traditional clay pantile area and the Melodie gives more flexibility to our contractor customers because of its low pitch capability which gives us the opportunity to offer a fresh new tile to the general builders’ merchants we supply. Although it uses modern technology for better weatherproofing and easier fixing, once the Melodie is on the roof, the weatherbars are hidden so it looks just like a traditional pantile.  This is still a very new tile to us, it is priced competitively in the market and we had the first order for a new housing development on the day we introduced the product.”

The other new product is the Maxima, a clay interlocking double roman tile which can be installed on roofs with a minimum pitch of just 17.5 degrees, as low as any concrete tile.  It offers many of the same features as the Melodie tile with interlocking benefits for speed of installation.  The design of the interlock, raised weatherbars and built-up nail holes provides protection against the intrusion of water, even in cases of high wind pressure and low pitch.

Maxima is a larger tile than the Melodie with a classic roman profile and high coverage rate of 10.1 tiles per m2, giving an economical clay roof covering.  The left hand interlock is hidden inside the next roof tile roll so it isn’t visible on the roof but has the advanced performance of a modern interlocking tile.

Both of the tiles are available now either as a stocking item or for delivery directly to customers.  For further technical information, samples and literature, please contact 01283 722588.  Copies of the new Maxima and Melodie brochures can also be downloaded here.

Maxima and Melodie clay interlocking tiles are manufactured to BS EN 1304 and are produced in factories that operate ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 Quality Management and Environmental systems.

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