Architectural Terracotta: A Beautiful Reminder of Bygone Years


Architectural Terracotta: A Beautiful Reminder of Bygone Years

Architectural terracotta refers to a fired mixture of clay and water that can be used in a non-structural, semi-structural, or structural capacity on the exterior, or interior, of a building.  Meaning “baked Earth” in Italian, terracotta, combined with brick, will create not only a sound structure, but one of great beauty.  With the assistance of experts in masonry restoration, you can maintain your structure for decades to come.


Rich History

Although its history is far deeper, terracotta made its way to the United States in the year 1849 when the first manufacturer opened in Worcester, MA.  However, it was not until the Chicago fires of 1871 and the Boston fires of 1872, that people began to take an interest in the material.  During the years of the skyscraper, terracotta was an inexpensive and architecturally pleasing cladding alternative to stone masonry.  Further, it proved to be an excellent fire-resistant material protecting metal structures from melting in extreme heat.  


Terracotta Restoration

Although the request for terracotta has declined, there are still many structures standing today that require masonry restoration to preserve the features of the original material. 

Over the years, architectural terracotta can deteriorate for a number of reasons.  The most common of these are poor manufacturing, improper installation, weathering, freeze/thaw cycles, air pollution, and salt formations. As terracotta deteriorates, it will begin to crack, flake, and eventually pull away from the structure.

Although terracotta is very strong in compression, it is relatively weak in tensile strength.  For example, in a brick and terracotta structure, if the mortar used to bind the bricks is too hard, the resulting stress can cause the terracotta to crack over time.  Similarly, improper loading of hollow terracotta blocks can create stress cracks.

However, natural elements can also play a significant role in the deterioration of terracotta masonry.  For example, moisture penetration due to a series of freeze/thaw cycles can cause internal stress cracking to occur.

masonry restoration


Abbot Restoration has the insight and experience to offer effective solutions for your masonry restoration.  Committed to providing our customers with quality workmanship and service, we take the time to understand the unique needs of your building.  We will work with you to develop a cost-effective solution for remedial action.  For more information, email us at or give our team of experts a call at 617.445.0274.

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