Terra Cotta Facades: Assessment and Restoration – 2017

Erik Valentino, Masonry Preservation Services, Inc. (MPS)

This year, Erik Valentino continues his participation in the AE 537 (Building Performance Failures and Forensic Techniques) visiting practitioner lecture series with an encore  presentation titled “Terra Cotta Facades – Assessment & Restoration”  This topic is a part of the masonry module for the course and comes after a very interesting campus site visit to Old Main to see the restoration and rebuilding work MPS is doing in conjunction with the WJE led east stair restoration and Old Main assessment project.

Mr. Valentino’s has presented several masonry related topics to the class over the years.  You can view the summary, reference material and discussion of one of his previous historic masonry presentations by going to the Building Failures Forum post: Historic Mass Masonry Restoration. You can also find some good tips on all forms of masonry restoration including brick, stone and terra cotta (the subject of this post and discussion) by visiting the Masonry Restoration page on the MPS website.

As noted in the National Park Service Preservation Brief 7 summary (see below for link to full brief): “Today, many of this country’s buildings are constructed of glazed architectural terra-cotta. However, many of these are in a state of serious deterioration and decay. Glazed architectural terra-cotta was, in many ways, the “wonder” material of the American building industry in the late 19th century and during the first decades of the 20th century. New technology and methods of rehabilitation now hold promise for the restoration and rehabilitation of these invaluable and significant resources. Restoration/rehabilitation work on glazed architectural terra-cotta is demanding and will not tolerate halfway measures. Today’s preservation work should equal the spirit, attention to detail, pride in workmanship and care which characterized the craftsmanship associated with this widely used, historic masonry material.”

Unfortunately there are fewer craftsmen with the skills to repair and restore terra cotta than ever before. In addition, many architects and engineers are not familiar the performance and special techniques needed to investigate and execute terra cotta restoration projects. A good start in educating yourself on the topic (especially if you were not fortunate enough to have attended Mr. Valentino’s seminar) is to read and study Preservation Brief 7 (provided below) and enter into the discussion that follows at the bottom of this post.

For more detailed information and extensive references on architectural terra cotta:Download the Bibliography of Architectural Terra Cotta

Additional reading on the topic of Terra Cotta preservation and restoration can be found by using the link provided below to Preservation Brief 7

Preservation Brief 7

The Preservation of
Historic Glazed Architectural Terra-Cotta

National Park Service

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