Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Terra cotta

I have real terracotta pots on my deck that hold my plants. My landlord lent them to me, she was not using them. I love terracotta. Ever since I went to Italy the first time and stayed in a real castle! I fell in love with this type of material for roofing. This Old House guys says of ceramic roofing:

"Ceramic tile roofs are found throughout the Mediterranean and Levant — and of course in the Mediterranean-Revival-influenced architecture of Florida and California. Barrel tiles, the most common type of ceramic tile, resemble half cylinders about 16 inches long. In the old days they were individually made by hand, their tapered shape achieved by forming the clay over the top of the thigh."

"Tile roofs are quite heavy, so the roof framing must be stout enough to support the load. Waterproofing is achieved via a waterproof membrane laid directly on the roof sheathing. Then the clay tiles are laid one by one in a pad of mortar. Tiles turned upside down form a trough, which is then covered by tiles laid right side up. The whole process is quite labor intensive, which makes an authentic tile roof quite expensive -- about $1,000 per 10x10-foot square, or about three times the cost of a standard three-tab shingle job."

"In addition to barrel tiles there are a number of variations of clay roof tiles. Some are shaped like thick shingles, some like slates. A high-quality tile will be hard-fired and will not absorb moisture that could fracture the tile when frozen. Thus such tiles are suitable for northern climates. All high-quality tile roofs are expensive, both in terms of the material and the installation, and so clay tile roofs are fairly rare."

"Yet in the long run the most expensive might be the most cost effective, since you can expect to get 60 to 80 years or even more out of a well installed tile roof."

Below, Spannochia, the castle I stayed in while on an Earthwatch archaeological dig. I had never seen terracotta tiles before.

Though my wide-ranging travels are over, I still think about Italy a lot. Looking at these terracotta pots on my deck remind me just a little of the gentle Tuscan hills dotted with farmhouses and castles built in another time.

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