Low Cost Roof Tile Manufacture (MCR)

Practical Action.org: Micro-concrete Roofing Tile Production
“Much attention has been paid to developing the small-scale production of concrete roofing tiles as an affordable alternative to both traditional roofing materials, such as thatch, and modern, mass-produced, often inappropriate, galvanized iron sheeting or asbestos cement. These tiles are relatively low in cost, durable (with a life span expected to exceed 20 years in most areas), aesthetically acceptable, able to offer adequate security and comfort, and provide protection from both the heavy rain and the hot sun.

Concrete roofing tiles are now produced by small businesses in a number of countries in Africa, South and Central America, Asia and Southeast Asia, and in the former Soviet Union. The key to the success of this technology was the development of equipment and techniques to produce the tiles on a small scale. It typically costs US$5,000 (excluding land and buildings) to set up a concrete roofing tile workshop, and can be less than US$1,000 in areas where the vibration equipment and the moulds are made locally.”

Detailed article at the text source: Practical Action.org

Microconcrete roofing tiles are now big business in some parts of the world. Our building supply centers have an area about half the size of a football field with many colors and styles of roofing tiles to choose from. The quality of big name brands is far above what can be made on machines like in the video. Quite impressive, actually, and I love the tile look. I like MCR tiles because they’re more durable and look better than most metal roofing, and don’t get as noisy in rainstorms. MCR tiles are fast and easy to install. However, metal roofing is my favorite for speed and ease of installation. Both work well for roofwater harvesting.

24 thoughts on “Low Cost Roof Tile Manufacture (MCR)”

  1. Hi,

    Looking to start a small roofing tile MFG business with my brother in-law who lives in Dominican Republic.
    I live in the USA and am curious where the closest supplier is to buy the molds and some of the table/shaker Jigs for making the tiles.
    Anyone know where to direct me?

  2. for a while now i’ve been making research on Mirco concrete roofing tiles. I want to go into production of it here in my country but I am restricted by funds. I’d like to know how to start on the lowest scale and how to get the equipments for a start and your advice. thanks.

    • I’ve never made them, and there’s lots of online resources, so you’ll have to figure things out on your own. I know there are very simple methods that don’t require machinery. The machines speed things up and often improve quality, but they’re not essential.

    • The cost can be very competitive if made on the village scale. Millions of homes have roofing tiles like these, including our house. MCR tiles are way less noisy in the rain and don’t get as hot. They look better and last much longer than most metal roofing you find in developing countries.

  3. Interesting information. I come to know alternative option i can suggest my friends if they have low budget to go for microconcrete roof tiles as metal and MCR tiles both works same for roof water harvesting.

  4. Interesting discussion here, no?

    Perhaps a co-op or green building organization could create a successful rental business by investing in plastic molds for month-by-month rental?

    • I think quite a few groups are producing tiles like this worldwide. Yesterday I found an all woman group in India that makes roofing tiles. Also note numerous companies make machines. We’re not promoting any particular brand and I don’t know which ones are best.

  5. I think the easy and cheap way to make molds is to use the Steve Kornher sand bed method for creating repeatable shapes. (At least I think it was Steve that used a method similar to what I’m about to describe, but I can’t recall for sure.)

    Build a sand bed.

    Wet it with a little water so that it will hold a shape.

    Then use one wooden master mold shaped like the desired roofing tile shape that can be pounded (stomped on with your feet) into the sand to leave behind a negative impression.

    Take the plastic sheet (e.g. garbage bag) from the shake table with the wet concrete on top and slide it off onto the sand bed with the impression left from the master mold.

    … repeat until your sand bed is full.

    … wait until the concrete is set enough to move the tiles

    … repeat the whole process again until you have enough tiles

    Now you only need one master mold (a good strong rugged master mold) for any particular shape.

    • I think I would add some sort of stabilizer to the sand so the form is more durable. Do it right and the mold could last for many years. Again, this is probably how tiles were made many years ago.

  6. Here’s an idea that might work if your construction site, like many, ends up being a giant mud pit: let the work site be the mold. Make two profiling tools to scrape the mud into the curve you want, one inner, possibly one outer. When the mud around your work site started to dry and rain isn’t likely for the next day or so, scrape the mounds to shape. Cover with something to control moisture transfer and smooth the down side of your tiles. Waxed paper, tarp, whatever. Make sure you coat it with something to prevent the concrete from sticking to it. Apply concrete, possibly apply the second profiling scraper to get the proper curve on top, let cure. Remove backing material. It won’t be as durable as one made on a vibrating table, but now the limiting factor becomes how much area can you devote to this for the needed curing time. And the equipment needed for the whole operation now fits in the back of 1 light pick up truck.

    • Good point. This probably how tile roofing was made years ago. The tiles would not be as perfect as those cast on plastic molds, but the results should be good enough and the cost should be lower. This method avoids buying all those expensive molds.

    • Yes. I think that’s a big part of the expense. You need one mold per tile. So if you make 200 tiles per day you need 200 molds. After one day the tiles are removed and cured in a water tank.

  7. I found my problem. I had signed up for their newsletter, but had not registered. You must register with Practical Action before you can download. They do have a number of other hoops to jump through, as well, but the info is worth the effort.

  8. This is an excellent idea for not only one’s own house, but as a microbusiness.

    I signed up at the Practical Action site, but am having difficulties downloading the document.

  9. Owen:

    This is intriguing but I don’t get it.

    Why the vibrating apparatus?

    Can’t molds simply be filled with concrete and left to dry?

    Are there other, alternative concrete mold systems for making tiles available in the U.S.?

    • Vibrating concrete consolidates the material and helps remove air bubbles, thereby making the tiles stronger. This is explained in the Practical Action.org document. (Excellent website with tons of good information, by the way.)

      Other more elaborate systems are no doubt available. I showed this low tech method because it’s affordable and used widely.


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