The origin of clay roofing tile can be traced independently to two different parts of the world: China, during the Neolithic Age, beginning around 10,000 B.C.; and the Middle East, a short time later. From theseregions, the use of clay tile spread throughout Asia and Europe.
Not only the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, but also the Greeks and Romans roofed their buildings with clay tiles, and adaptations of their practice continue in Europe to the present. European settlers brought this roofing tradition to America where it was established in many places by the 17th century. Archeologists have recovered specimens of clay roofing.
Tiles from the 1585 settlement of Roanoke Island in North Carolina. Clay tile was also used in the early English settlements in Jamestown, Virginia, and nearby St. Mary’s in Maryland. Clay roofing tiles were also used in the Spanish settlement of St. Augustine in Florida, and by both the French and Spanish in New Orleans.
Dutch settlers on the east coast first imported clay tiles from Holland. By 1650, they had established full scale production of clay tiles in the upper Hudson River Valley, shipping tiles south to New Amsterdam.
Several tile manufacturing operations were in business around the time of the American Revolution, offering both colored and glazed tile and unglazed natural terracotta tile in the New York City area, and in neighboring New Jersey. A 1774 New York newspaper advertised the availability of locally produced, glazed and unglazed pan tiles for sale that were guaranteed to “stand any weather.” On the west coast clay tile was first manufactured in wooden molds in 1780 at Mission San Antonio de Padua in California by Indian neophytes under the direction of Spanish missionaries. By far the most significant factor in popularizing clay roofing tiles during the Colonial period in America was the concern with fire. Devastating fires in London, 1666, and Boston in 1679, prompted the establishment of building and fire codes in New York and Boston. These fire codes, which remained in effect for almost two centuries, encouraged the use of tile for roofs, especially in urban areas, because of its fireproof qualities. Clay roofing tile was also preferred because of its durability, ease of maintenance, and lack of thermal conductivity. Although more efficient production methods had lowered the cost of clay tile, its use began to decline in much of the northeastern United States during the second quarter of the 19th century.
In most areas outside city designated fire districts, wood shingles were used widely; they were more affordable and much lighter, and required less heavy and less expensive roof framing. In addition, new fire resistant materials were becoming available that could be used for roofing, including slate, and metals such as copper, iron, tinplate, zinc, and galvanized iron. Many of the metal roofing materials could be installed at a fraction of the cost and weight of clay tile. Even the appearance of clay tile was no longer fashionable, and by the 1830s clay roofing tiles had slipped temporarily out of popularity in many parts of the country.
Revival Styles Renew Interestin Clay Roofing Tiles
Since clay tile frequently outlasted many of the earliest, less permanent structures, it was often reused on later buildings.By the mid19th century, the introduction of the Italianate Villa style of architecture in the United States prompted a new interest in clay tiles for roofing. This had the effect of revitalizing the clay tile manufacturing industry, and by the 1870s, new factories were in business, including large operations in Akron, Ohio, and Baltimore, Maryland. Clay tiles were promoted by the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, which featured several prominent buildings with tile roofs, including a pavilion for the state of New Jersey roofed with clay tiles of local manufacture. Tile making machines were first patented in the 1870s, and although much roofing tile continued to be made by hand, by the 1880s more and more factories were beginning to use machines. The development of the Romanesque Revival style of architecture in the 1890s further strengthened the role of clay roofing tiles as an American building material Alternative substitutes for clay tiles were also needed to meet this new demand. By about 1855, sheet metal roofs designed to replicate the patterns of clay tile were being produced. Usually painted a natural terra cotta color to emulate real clay tile, these sheet metal roofs became popular because they werecheaper and lighter, and easier to install than clay tile roofs.
Clay roofing tiles fell out of fashion again for a short time at the end of the 19th century, but once more gained acceptance in the 20th century, due primarily to the popularity of the Romantic Revival architectural styles, including Mission, Spanish, Mediterranean, Georgian and Renaissance Revival in which clay tile roofs featured prominently. With the availability of machines capable of extruding clay in a variety of forms in large quantities, clay tiles became more readily available across the nation. More regional manufacturing plants were established in areas with large natural deposits of clay, including Alfred, New York; New Lexington, Ohio; Lincoln, California; and Atlanta, Georgia; as well as Indiana, Illinois and Kansas.
The popularity of clay tile roofing, and look alike substitute roofing materials, continues in the 20th century, especially in areas of the South and West-most notably Florida and California-where Mediterranean and Spanish influenced styles of architecture still predominate.
During the 17th and 18th centuries the most common type of clay roofing tiles used in America were flat and rectangular. They measured approximately 10″ x 6″ x 1/2″ (25cm x 15cm x 1.25cm), and had two nail or peg holes at one end through which they were anchored to the roofing laths. Sometimes a strip of mortar was placed between the overlapping rows of tile to prevent the tiles from lifting in high winds. In addition to flat tiles,interlocking S shaped pan tiles were also used in the 18th century. These were formed by molding clay over tapered sections of logs, and were generally quite large. Alternately termed , crooked, or Flemish tiles, and measuring approximately 14 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ (37cm x 24cm), these interlocking tiles were hung on roofing lath by means of a ridge or lug located on the upper part of the underside of each tile. Both plain (flat) tile and pan tile (S shaped or curved) roofs were capped at the ridge with semicircular ridge tiles. Clay roofing tiles on buildings in mid18th century.
Moravian settlements in Pennsylvania closely resembled those used in Germany at the time. These tiles were about 14″15″ long x 6″7″ wide (36cm38cm x 15cm18cm) with a curved butt, and with vertical grooves to help drainage. They were also designed with a lug or nib on the back so that the tiles could hang on lath without nails or pegs.
The accurate dating of early roofing tiles is difficult and often impossible. Fragments of tile found at archeological sites may indicate the existence of clay tile roofs, but the same type of tile was also sometimes used for other purposes such as paving, and in bake ovens.
Glazed Roofing Tiles Offer Color Permanence, Durability & Resistance to Nature’s Elements
The proper selection of roofing tile for a building or home can be as important as an artist selecting a frame for an art masterpiece. The artist strives to select a frame that will enhance the artwork, while maintaining the beauty of the painting. When choosing clay roofing tile, a product with up to a 75 year warranty, it is also important to select tile that provides a special look to enhance the building structure. Ceramic glazed roofing tile is often the best choice.
Available in a wide range of colors in glossy or matte finishes, glazed roofing tiles will never fade or change in appearance. The glazed surface is an impervious, durable inorganic coating that resists mildew and seals the surface of the natural clay body. The glaze is composed of carefully selected materials which melt and fuse with the tile during the firing process. The glaze raw materials are naturally occurring minerals such as clay, feldspar, calcium carbonate and often frit, a pre-reacted glass melted from minerals and oxides. Just as the glaze coating is a combination of carefully selected natural materials, the coloring materials are often oxides of natural materials such as iron, copper, cobalt, manganese and chrome. Blues, greens, white, black, grays, yellows and even fire? engine red are all possiblein ceramic glazes.
Glazing a natural clay product has a long and distinguished history. What history museum would be complete without several examples of fine Greek pottery featuring red and black slip glazes? The red and black figured vases are early examples of ceramic glazes used to decorate and seal the surface of the natural clay body. It is not uncommon that many of these ceramic artifacts are more than 25 centuries old, and still look as fresh and vivid in color as the day they emerged from the potter’s kiln. This is truly a testament to the timeless beauty of glazed ceramic products.In like fashion, the beautiful polychromatic glazes on natural terra cotta bodies produced during the Italian Renaissance are a tribute to this art technique.Often used as architectural ornamentation on royal palaces, churches and cathedrals, glazed terra cotta exhibits inherent beauty, while withstanding continuous outdoor exposure for more than five centuries.
Traditionally, several manufacturing techniques are used to create the variety of color appearances in ceramic roofing tiles. First, the selection and blending of colored clays produces the well?known reddish, red orange and buff shades of tiles. In addition, by thoroughly blending natural oxides of metals, such as iron and manganese into the clay body, the color range is extended. Another method is to apply a coating material rich in coloring oxides to the tile, or use materials present in the kiln atmosphere to produce a flash?effect on the tile’s surface. The production method with the widest color range is the application of a glaze coating to the tiles. This technique involves applying a durable, inorganic coating that allows for a very broad range of both colors and textures on the tiles. The glaze and tile are fired together in the kiln, fusing the glaze and sealing the surface of the once porous clay body tile. This same manufacturing method is used in producing ceramic floor and wall tile. Consequently, the entire range of colors and textures available in ceramic floor and wall tile are available for roofing tile as well.Ceramic glazed roofing tiles allow the architect, builder or homeowner to create their own distinctive style on their home or building, while maintaining color permanence, durability and unique resistance to the elements of Nature. Ceramic glaze is truly an art of timeless beauty.
Turrets the Easy Way
Clay Tile Turrets are Beautiful, Impressive, and Now are Easier than Ever to Install
There’s no doubt about it, roof turrets catch the eye. Tile turrets in particular stand out because of their intricate nature, row patterns, and the craftsmanship required.
They can add distinction to any building and turn an otherwise average project into a source of pride and future recommendations for the architect and contractor alike. But there’s a down side: they’re labor intensive, can be extremely expensive and can be a constant source of leaks and problems if not properly designed and installed. There’s usually a lot of cutting and a lot of waste, as the process normally involves trial and error installation practices. And those perfectly straight tile rows that look so clean? Well, you can forget it unless you choose exactly the right material and the installing crews are craftsmen that are exceptionally well versed at cutting, arranging and installing tile turrets.
How about a clay tile turret? How about a true round fan clay tile turret? Obviously,the costs go up accordingly. Because of this, many building owners will settle for an octagon rather than a true round turret, if they want any sort of turret at all. The expense, limitations of the roofing material and too few contractors willing to attempt tile turrets have limited them in the market for a number of years until recently.
The popularity of turret roofs has grown significantly in the past three years, The turret tiles are custom made for each job to specification, with larger tiles at the bottom, medium sizes in the center and small, tapered tiles at the top. Using computer design, the exact number of each size is calculated and made to fit that particular turret, in the color specified. But what about breakage, always a fact of life in a tile application. Breakage was not really a factor and was as low as 3% or 4%. We just ordered exactly what they recommended. MCA had allowed enough for breakage and everything came out fine. We saved quite a bit on labor and the owner ended up with a better, more watertight roof. There was no cutting or piecing together. At first, we were concerned about possible leakage and wind damage, and this put more pressure on us for this project. The manufacturer recommended the use of a modified bitumen type of underlayment and provided step-by-step installation instructions. Frankly, the job was much easier than we thought and best of all, the finished project looks fantastic!