Handmade roofing

Hayden Building Maintenance installs 95,000 custom-made tiles on a residential roof system in New Jersey

  • Before making tiles, a tilemaker will work with clay to achieve the correct consistency.
  • Sand is then dusted into a wooden box in the desired tile shape.
  • Next, a 40-pound lump of clay is thrown into the box.
  • Excess clay is cut off using a bow and the back of the tile is scraped until smooth.
  • A lever then is pulled down to form nail holes and nibs.
  • Finally, the tile is removed from the box and the bottom edge is sanded before being placed on a rack to dry.
  • An aerial view of the completed roof system
  • Stuart Matthews, founder of Northern Roof Tiles U.S. Inc., Wilmington, Del., and Kevin Lyons, steep-slope president of Hayden Building Maintenance Corp., West Nyack, N.Y.
  • Hayden Building Maintenance workers custom-fabricated all metal for the roof system that included cold-rolled standing- and flat-seam copper as well as copper gutters, 
downspouts, finials and flashings.

In 2000, Stuart Matthews, founder of Northern Roof Tiles U.S. Inc., Wilmington, Del., was contacted by the youngest son from a small family-owned tile factory located two hours outside the port city of Izmir, Turkey. The company, Sahtas,® makes French-style tile and handmade bricks for the local market using the same production methods practiced by the Babylonians thousands of years ago. At the time, Northern Roof Tiles was looking for a partner to make truly handmade English-style shingle tiles for its North American market.

Matthews faxed Sahtas a drawing of a wooden bench and simple tile press and then traveled to the plant to instruct the workers how to make English-style tiles exactly the way they were made during the Tudor and Elizabethan eras. After some work to prepare the clay to the correct consistency, Matthews was able to help the workers successfully make the tiles. Since then, Matthews has continued to commission Sahtas to create tiles for Northern Roof Tiles clients in North America.

During 2016-18, Hayden Building Maintenance Corp., West Nyack, N.Y., partnered with Northern Roof Tiles to supply and install more than 95,000 handmade tiles on a residential project in Saddle River, N.J.

Making the tiles

To create the clay tiles, a tilemaker dusts sand in a wooden box constructed in the desired tile shape, serving as the template. Because clay sticks to wood and metal, the sand acts as a release agent on the faces of tile and gives the tile a sandy finish. The sand can be colored to create earth tones. For the Saddle River project, a blend of classic gray and brown was used.

The tilemaker then lifts a 40-pound lump of clay above his or her head and throws it into the box. The clay must have a lot of moisture so it can be squeezed through the tilemaker’s fingers. If the clay is too stiff, throwing it can break a tilemaker’s wrist.

Next, the tilemaker cuts off excess clay with a metal bow and scrapes the back of the tile smooth and then pulls a lever down to form nail holes and nibs.

Finally, the tilemaker removes the tile from the box, sands the bottom edge and places the tile on a rack to dry. The process repeats until enough tile is created. A tilemaker will create between 800 and 1,000 tiles per day.

For the Saddle River residential project, about 80,000 field tiles, 1,475 hip and ridge tiles, 1,855 valley tiles and 12,150 turret tiles were individually handmade in Turkey and transported via cargo ship to New Jersey for the project.

A notable feature of the New Jersey home’s roof system is the use of valley tiles, an English-style detail.

“As this roof features a sweep at the eaves, we used different angles to allow the valley to transition through the sweep,” says Kevin Lyons, steep-slope president of Hayden Building Maintenance. “No metal flashing was used in that roof area.”

Northern Roof Tiles worked with Hayden Building Maintenance installers to calculate all the reducing sizes of tiles needed for two turrets and the rounded hip detail by the front entrance. These custom-shaped tiles virtually eliminated the need for cutting on-site.


Roofing material installation on the newly constructed 27,000-square-foot house began in February 2016.

Main house

Hayden Building Maintenance workers applied self-adhering Carlisle WIP® 300HT underlayment and then fastened GAF Tiger Paw™ Roof Deck Protection to the wood deck. Next, workers installed 1- by 2-inch pine wood battens spaced accordingly. Workers then laid Hog Back Ridge tiles and tapered overlapping hips with an 8 1/2-inch exposure. Next, workers laid full and half-tiles on the gables and valleys with eave courses of tile laid on the eaves to the low-slope roof and turret. To support the overhang at the gable, installers laid undercloak tile and bedded the gaps using Flexim, a flexible mortar system.

Hayden Building Maintenance craftsmen also fabricated and installed 16-ounce cold-rolled copper on 30 conductor heads, four copper dormers and nine spires. To create door pans and flashings at 31 locations and window pans and flashings at 56 locations, workers custom-fabricated and fully soldered 16-ounce cold-rolled copper. Workers also custom-fabricated and fully soldered the garage door flashings.

“Kevin Lyons and his crew are master craftsmen who pay special attention to detail that sets them apart from most roofing contractors,” says John Avanzato, president of John Avanzato Inc., Ramsey, N.J., the project’s general contractor.

Cabana roof

For the roof on the cabana, underlayment, wood battens and tile were installed to match the main house. Then, Hayden Building Maintenance workers custom-fabricated and installed 16-ounce cold-rolled copper gutters, downspouts, finials, a conductor head, door pans at two locations and one window pan with tops. Workers also installed snow guards on this roof area.

Other metal work

In addition, Hayden Building Maintenance craftsmen fabricated and installed 16-ounce cold-rolled standing-seam copper on three bay windows, eight arched dormers, the garage and its side-entry overhangs, a rear veranda roof, drip and rake edges, a pipe, a wall, transitions, valley and chimney flashings, the trough with crickets, the scuppers and through-wall flashings. Workers also fabricated and installed 20-ounce cold-rolled flat-seam copper on lower roof areas.

Additionally, Hayden Building Maintenance craftsmen custom-fabricated and installed 16-ounce cold-rolled copper gutters and downspouts on the veranda, and all vents were wrapped in copper.

“The custom fabrication and installation of flat- and standing-seam copper roofing and 6-inch quarter-round 20-ounce cold-rolled copper gutters proved extremely time-consuming and tedious,” Lyons says.

Hayden Building Maintenance workers also fabricated and installed 20-ounce cold-rolled copper gutters for the other roof areas complete with soldered joints, end pieces, outlet tubes, hangers and elbows.

Home sweet home

On July 25, 2018, Hayden Building Maintenance workers completed their work on the Saddle River residence.

“This project required a high level of skill from the installers and the need to coordinate the installation of the tiles over many months with other trades, especially the stone masons, and accommodate the sometimes-changing needs of the client,” Matthews says. “Throughout the whole process, I found Hayden Building Maintenance to be highly organized and its installation crew to be motivated and extremely skilled and, most importantly, a pleasure to work with.”

For demonstrating exceptional workmanship on the Saddle River residential project, Hayden Building Maintenance received a 2019 Gold Circle Awards honorable mention from the Roofing Alliance.

Chrystine Elle Hanus is Professional Roofing's associate editor and NRCA's director of communications.

Project name: Private residence
Project location: Saddle River, N.J.
Project duration: Feb. 24, 2016–July 25, 2018
Roof system types: Clay tile; copper
Roofing contractor: Hayden Building Maintenance Corp., West Nyack, N.Y.
Roofing manufacturers: Carlisle® WIP Products, Carlisle, Pa.; GAF, Parsippany, N.J.
Roofing tile supplier: Northern Roof Tiles U.S. Inc., Wilmington, Del.


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