structural clay tiles

Old 07-07-05, 04:21 PM
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structural clay tiles

I am restoring a l926 bungalow. The exterior walls are made with structural clay tiles that are plastered on the interior (keyed into the grooves of the tiles = no metal or wood lathe) and faced with brick on the exterior.

Can you direct me to information sources as to how these houses were constructed? I need to determine how the light switch wires were put in the walls and how I might be able to add recepticles--and how the floor joists are attached to the exterior walls-- I need to level the floors. And, many other things to restore this house.

( There are light switches on these perimeter walls but no recepticles. Pier/beam with about 2 ft. crawl space. The interior/partition walls = wood studs/wood lathe/plaster.)

I have looked at ARCHITECTURAL GRAPHIC STANDARDS 5th Ed., searched the web--called the museum, the brick companies, and a clay tile manufacturer in San Antonio. Surely, there was a masonry manual that gave instructions on how to build with clay tiles etc. or someone's restoration of such a building. (The veteran's hospitals, downtown stores of the 20's were constructed with these tiles.)

I surely would appreciate your helping me to find informational resources.

Old 07-07-05, 08:27 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA
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I lived in and did some major remodeling in a 1917 one story, flat roofed home built with clay tile exterior walls. This was a up-scale home in its day with a double roof and interior roof drains. My home was built on a concrete block foundation with 16" thick walls. The joists sat on the foundation plate (untreated and perfect after 70 years then). The clay tile sat on the concrete foundation. In those days, there were not too many manuals or how-to-do-it books and many builders were part architect.

For my home - The exterior above grade walls were 10" clay tile with full 2x4 inside firring, lath and plaster, and finally a 1/16" to 1/8" "china coat" plaster. Almost all of the exterior walls had conventional electrical boxes, but in the back entry there was on box set in the tile. It was set in mortar in an opening that was chipped out. The wires ran in a channel that was routed out of the thin clay walls with a hammer. Since the total wall was 10" thick there were several layers of channels between the electrical wire and the exterior. The exterior of the wall was stuccoed. The wiring was sightly held in place by small dabs of mortar every few feet.

Internationally, especially in Europe, clay tile is used for many homes. The walls of each cell are not too thick and the wall is routed out after it is built. Then the wire is placed. In Spain it is common to build a 2.5" thick clay tile interior wall and then beat on it with a mason's hammer to route out a channel. It sounds crude, but it sure seems to work ($2,000,000 home).

Do some investigating on a concealed part of the wall to determine the construction and thickness of the wall and the configuration and orientation of the clay tile itself. This will tell you if it possible to route out a channel and what directions you can go. Your clay tile are probably multi celled with thin walls (1/4" to 1/2"), not 80% solid like clay brick. Some style tiles are laid with the cores or chases horizontal, while others are laid vertical.

Because of the weight, clay tiles are not shipped too far. Because of this, there probably other similar structures very near you. Look around - I am sure you will be able to find some with similar construction. They will stand forever in your climate.

There probably are many clay tile buildings near you, but they may have been redone. Just at hint - There is a very fine elegant hotel on Riverwalk in San Antonio that was a school in the early 1900's. I think that portions of this may be built from clay tile, but you would be hard pressed to get them to allow out to take the walls apart. You might also try the German/Swiss? restaurant on the bend of the river. That is probably one also.

Good luck!!


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