Terracotta has been appreciated as a design element on classical buildings for centuries because of its beauty and its durability as a construction material. It is also load bearing, versatile, and fire-resistant. As a testament to these characteristics we still see it used today on modern buildings.
The beauty of glazed terracotta, with its rich palette of earth tones and glassy surface, was exploited by architects to enliven building façades since very early times. In addition to the tonal variations inherent in fired-clay bodies, colour was introduced for decorative uses with a number of surface treatments. Resilient exterior designs have been developed through the use of glazes and from the application of different clays, known as slip or engobe (if applied as coatings), or encaustic (if inlaid). Although ancient inventions, these techniques became widespread in exterior architectural installations in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Architectural terracotta is generally a fired clay product from a prepared blend of clay. The clay body is slip cast or hand pressed into moulds forming hollow blocks ranging from simple ashlar to highly decorative units. The through-body terracotta colours are typically earthy such as red, buff, tawny and grey.
The application of a glaze to a terracotta block forms a hardwearing, colour fast surface of either gloss, eggshell or matt finish. This product is known as Architectural Faience.
However, problems do occur with terracotta and Faience which develop from water penetration, stresses from expansion and contraction, difficulties in firing during fabrication as well as differences in the behaviour between the supporting clay bodies and glazes.
Terracotta repair can present a wide array of challenges for the restoration contractor, especially when the project calls for historical preservation. These projects require a restoration contractor with the ability to carefully remove existing historically significant elements, catalog their position within the facade, rebuild the unit if distressed, and work closely with a recognized terracotta manufacturer to fabricate a replica of same dimensional size and glazing finish which may include speckles, molting of color, age distress, and multiple colors.
CRL Restoration has the experience, expertise, and architectural knowledge to fulfill these requirements.