Tile cladding (clay/ceramic/terracotta) – a study in symmetry

Tile cladding (clay/ceramic/terracotta) – a study in symmetry

Tiles are an often-overlooked material for building facades but can produce truly stand-out effects and add something extra special to exterior surfaces.

In some cultures, tiles are a traditional facade feature. Anyone who has visited Lisbon in Portugal will be familiar with the blue painted tiles adorning many a building – these are known as the Azulejo and date back to a period of strong Arabic influence (hence the popularity of geometric and symmetrical patterns).

Today, tiles often represent modernity – clean, crisp and polished. They are used on residential building and extensions, and also commercial and even high-rise buildings.

They come in a bewildering array of colours and styles; from stone-effect (see more on stone in the next section) through to floral mosaic, oxidised-metallic effect through to traditional or even hyper-modern polished terracotta used on high-rise buildings.

Aside from variety, versatility and vogue, many types of contemporary tiles can be applied to a metal-frame as part of a ventilated facade system to improve  energy efficiency and reduce condensation. They’re also pretty durable against the elements.

Considerations include; the type of tiles and the system you intend to use. Two distinct system options are hanging tile and metal-frame systems.

The hanging tile system has its roots in an old English practice of using roof tiles to cover parts of the external face of the building and add protection against the elements. The clay tiles are hung from wooden rails going horizontally across the wall. The more contemporary approach is the metal-frame system (often part of a rain-screen system), whereby aluminium or steel frames set away from the wall or insulated boards have the ceramic/terracotta tiles fit onto them.

One of the disadvantages of tile cladding is that it can be one of the more expensive options. Hanging clay tiles are generally cheaper to install but can still add-up depending on the style you choose.

In summary, tile cladding can add a distinctive and even bespoke aesthetic with countless styles and colours to choose from, work well with insulation systems.