January 9, 2024

Considerations for Installing Solar On Terracotta Tiles

In this article:

Roofs with Terracotta tiles are becoming increasingly popular in Australia. However, if you want to install a solar system, you’ll need to have a blunt conversation with your solar installer. They will certainly have a blunt conversation with you to establish some realistic expectations about this finicky roof type. Terracotta tiles pose unique challenges for the most experienced solar installers.  

At Penrith Solar Centre, we have a lot of experience with a variety of roof types. Roofs with Terracotta tiles have some limitations and complications that can extend your installation into additional days depending on the size of the system and other external factors. While we’re experts at installing solar systems on Terracotta roofs, there are a variety of things for you to understand if you have this roof type and you want to put a solar system on it.  

In this article, you will learn: 

  • How Solar Panels are Installed on Terracotta Tiles 
  • What We Look at When Installing Terracotta Tiles
  • How Terracotta Tiles Will Affect Your Installation 

By the end of this article, you’ll be an expert in how solar systems are installed on Terracotta tile roofs.  

How Solar Panels Are Installed On Terracotta Tiles

Terracotta tile roofs are an increasingly popular option for homes in Australia. They often last 50 years or longer, and they’re well-insulated, holding up to all kinds of weather.  

Installing solar panels on Terracotta tile roofs requires a high level of attention to detail. Here’s our installation process: 

A man is cutting tiles on the roof of a house.
Penrith Solar Centre installer cutting tiles on a roof – Source: Penrith Solar Centre
  1. The first step is evaluating the roof. This is done during a site visit from a member of the sales team, who then reports it back to the installation crew, so they know what to expect on the day they arrive to install your solar system. During this initial site visit, factors such as the type of Terracotta tiles and other external factors will determine how many days your installation will take.  
  2. Installers will arrive on the day of your installation with a plan and design to make sure the roof is fit for solar installation. They’ll assess where they’re going to attach the mounting system to the roof, which requires measuring out where the roof trusses (support beams) under the tiles are located and which tiles need to be removed to access those trusses.  
  3. It’s important that there are replacement tiles on site for the ones that will crack. This is normal for installing on Terracotta roofs as the tiles can be fragile – at least, more fragile than concrete tiles or metal roofs. We recommend having at least 20 ready on the day we arrive.  
  4. Our installers lift individual tiles and grind down the underside of them. Making sure the tiles that support a roof bracket fit well and won’t crack in the future is important. The installer grinds down the underside of the tile so that it sits back and doesn’t stick up. Even though it only sticks up about 10 to 15 millimetres on the bracket without being ground down, after 5 to 10 years, it might crack and cause a leak. This careful process ensures that the tiles stay even when they are replaced over the roof bracket and don’t crack over time.  
  5. Next, the installers are going to fit the mounting brackets to the trusses under the tiles they removed and ground down. Then they attach the rails to the brackets, and the solar panels to the rails.  
  6. Connecting all the electronics requires a bit of work. The wiring will go into the home through a tile in the roof. This requires using a 28mm hole saw to create a hole in the tile. Next, they feed a 25mm conduit through the hole and seal it with Sikaflex sealant to create a strong and watertight seal. Finally, the team with install flashing to guard against water infiltration. There’s lead flashing that’s tucked under the tile that allows for water to run off and over the flashing and spread across the overlapping tiles. This is called a dektite.  

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What We Look at When Installing Terracotta Tiles

Terracotta roofs pose unique challenges for installers for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the aspects of this type of installation that we consider when we get to work. 

We absolutely evaluate the age and condition of a Terracotta tile roof before installation. Older roofs with older roof tiles may be more fragile, potentially requiring repairs or more replacements before moving ahead with solar panel installation. 20 replacement tiles are often enough, as our installation crews know their trade, but there are always exceptions that prove the rule.  

Penrith Solar Centre installers on roof.

The type of Terracotta tiles that make up your roof can affect the labour and material costs as installers must take extra precautions to prevent breakage of different types of Terracotta tiles. Swiss Terracotta and Terracotta shingles especially pose unique challenges to installation crews.  

Terracotta tiled roofs, known for their beautiful and intricate designs, can limit available roof space for solar panels. Installers may need to work around these patterns, reducing the number of panels installed and potentially limiting the system’s energy-generating capacity.  

Homeowners may also be concerned about the aesthetics of solar panels on their tiled roofs, impacting the property’s visual appeal. It’s certainly something we take very seriously at Penrith Solar Centre, which is why we use sleek, black mounting systems and all-black solar panels for a uniform and tasteful finish. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how we install solar panels on Terracotta, you might want to check out the following article titled, Installing 22 Solar Panels on a Terracotta Roof. It has a really nice video that showcases the work of our talented installation team.

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How Terracotta Tiles Will Affect Your Installation

The most important thing to understand about installing on a Terracotta tile roof is determining the type of Terracotta tiles your roof is made up of. This, more than anything, will affect your installation. 

The fragile nature of Terracotta means that solar installers need to spend more time installing panels with care. This extended installation time can make solar projects on tiled roofs less efficient compared to installations on sturdier materials like metal or asphalt shingles. To compensate for the additional time and labour needed, we may need to add additional days to your solar system installation.  

It’s also important to remember that the placement of solar panels on a tiled roof is often restricted by the location of the roof rafters, adding additional time on installation day as our team measures and assembles the mounting system. 

Tiled roofs often feature numerous hips and valleys, making it challenging for installers to access roof trusses and attach solar panels. This can prolong the installation process and increase difficulty. 

French Terracotta: This is a more durable Terracotta tile type. As you can see from this picture, the tiles are interlocked and less delicate than other Terracotta types. Some styles of French Terracotta don’t even need to be ground down to prevent leaks, as we mentioned above. The tiles are able to interlock once the task is complete. They are also sturdier for our installation team to walk on.  

A house with a Terracotta tiled roof.
French Terracotta tiled roof – Source: midlandbrick.com.au

Swiss Terracotta: This style of Terracotta tile is more fragile than the French Terracotta tiles. It frequently requires much more attention to the process of grinding down the underside of each tile. Our installers have to walk more gently on these types of tiles, stepping only on the toes of the tile where they are sturdiest (the rounded part of the tile). These two factors slow a crew down and might end up requiring an additional day of labour depending on other conditions of your roof and installation process.  

A close up image of a Swiss Terracotta tiled roof.
Swiss Terracotta tiled roof – Source: madlandbrick.com.au

Terracotta Slate: These are very fragile Terracotta tile types. They crack easily, and working on them requires a delicate touch. This will slow down the crew, adding to the length of the installation. They also usually require a different type of mounting bracket to adjust for the longer size of each tile. These factors slow a crew down and will usually add an additional day to the installation.  

A solar panel on a Terracotta slate roof of a house.
Terracotta slate tile roof – Source: Penrith Solar Centre

Despite these challenges, installing solar panels on a tiled roof is feasible. However, it’s crucial to choose a qualified and experienced solar installer with a proven track record in installing solar panels on tiled roofs. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how your roof will affect your installation, you might want to check out the following article titled, How Does Your Roof Affect Your Installation?

Now You’re Shingle and Ready to Mingle!

You’ve learned about the ins and outs of installing solar on a Terracotta roof. You understand the process of how your solar system will be installed, what considerations affect the installation, and how different styles of Terracotta tiles may slow down your installation.  

At Penrith Solar Centre, we work on all styles of Terracotta tiles and move heaven and earth to make sure your solar system is installed with tender love and care. Our team will step lightly and double-check their work to ensure your new solar system and your Terracotta roof work seamlessly together. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how your roof will be cared for by your installer, particularly how efficiently they will work for you, we recommend you check out the following article titled, In-house Installers vs. Subcontractors. It’s a good one.  

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