The beauty of terra cotta finishes should not be underestimated. Though restoring terra cotta has a reputation for being difficult to do, we have worked on many terra cotta systems with outstanding success using a mix of historical and modern patching methods.
Recognizing Terra Cotta Flaws
Terra cotta is an extremely versatile building material, used for everything from fireproofing and waterproofing to decorative veneers and exterior cladding. This versatility, combined with the vast variety of glazing that can be applied to terra cotta, means you can often find it in places you wouldn’t expect. At a quick glance, terra cotta can appear to be stone or brick when it has a glaze designed to mimic these materials. A great example of this is brownstones; many people think every brownstone is made of sandstone. In actuality, some brownstones are clad in terra cotta that has been glazed to give it that rich brown hue.
Beyond initial identification, it’s important to assess whether a terra cotta structure was applied correctly when it was first built. Many historic buildings have problems with moisture in terra cotta systems, as the material was thought to be fully waterproof. As a result, terra cotta was often installed with no flashing or weep holes, leading to moisture buildup that destroys the structure over time.
Combine this with the “domino effect” deteriorated terra cotta is known for, and restoration and repair becomes a seriously complex process. As stated by the US National Parks Service’s Technical Preservation Service, “In no other masonry system is material failure potentially so complicated.” This is why it’s especially important to work with a contractor who has experience in restoring terra cotta. Coastal Exteriors has a record of successful terra cotta restorations, repairs, and sourcing replacements when necessary, making us a great choice for any building that may need terra cotta restoration.
Patching, Filling, or Replacing
Mortars and fillers for repairing and restoring terra cotta have come a long way in recent years. It is now possible to repair and restore terra cotta damage that was previously thought impossible, even on historic structures. We’re able to make these repairs without making the structure more brittle.
When working with terra cotta, assessing the existing damage is the most crucial step. If the damage is too extensive, it may be better to replace a structure’s existing terra cotta with period-appropriate replicas instead of patching it. We work to pinpoint the exact source of the damage and assess how the damage has impacted both the terra cotta fixture and the structure as a whole before making a recommendation on whether restoration, repair, or replacement is the best call for your situation.
Contact Us Today to Talk Terra Cotta
If you’re looking for a partner in restoring, repairing, or accurately replacing terra cotta, Coastal Exteriors is perfect for the job. Our 20+ years of experience restoring buildings in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area have let us build up a robust portfolio of successful restoration projects and a track record you can rely on. If you need terra cotta on your building cared for, call us. We’ll start the process with a thorough inspection to give you a better idea of your building’s condition and process for your restoration.