Saturday, June 12, 2010

Roof tiles

I have always loved the look of terra cotta roof tiles. I've always lived in a climate where they are impractical, so I suppose some of the appeal is they are a bit foreign and exotic, but the color and pattern they make is very appealing. In the warmer regions of the United States you see them pretty frequently and they are usually quite tidy-looking—uniform in size and color. The first time we visited Ecuador I was taken by the richness of the tile roofs. The variety in color and shape and the effects of time and weather had created a material that was both the product of human hands and equally of the earth and nature. My photos were taken from the rooftop patio at the school where Emily taught in Cuenca, where you could see tile roofs stretching for miles.

The tile roofs in the photo of the Baños house look very dirty and dull. I decided to attempt a roof more like the ones I really think of when I think of the tile roofs of Ecuador.


  1. What is is about your climate that makes terra-cotta tiles impractical? Forgive me asking, but I'm from a part of the world where most houses have tiled rooves, so it's hard for me to think of them as exotic!

  2. Anonymous6:18 AM

    I have the same question as Vireya too. I live in a climate where ALL houses have roof tiles. You might find buildings without tiles but those are usually supermarkets etc.
    I am in a temperate climate.

    We are now seeing roof tiles which are treated with a coat of *something* I suspect, to protect them from the elements. These have an unusually high sheen like they were coated with translucent sealant.

    They sometimes get blown off the roofs during a storm, but that is why it is important to have insurance. They don't go far because they are so heavy. When an especially bad storm is over, one usually goes out to survey the damage and the tiles can be found strewed around the yard, next to the house.

  3. Anonymous6:21 AM

    Oh, forgot to mention that your quilt idea is brilliant. I am eager to see the finished quilt!

  4. I really love the way your tile roof is looking. Its very interesting to hear your thought process as you develop this quilt.

  5. I have been told that clay tile roofs are not practical in areas where there is snow, ice and freezing temperatures during part of the year. The tiles absorb a certain amount of moisture, then crack or break if they freeze. Same reason we don't leave terra cotta pots outdoors in the winter here—or if we do, they break. I think there are more durable materials that they make roof tiles from nowadays. You see a few tile roofs in our area, but they look very "manufactured".

  6. The roof tiles look curved. Is that a result of the wonder under on the back or something even more clever?

  7. Thanks for the explanation, Terry. I didn't know terra-cotta couldn't handle freezing - we never get freezing here!

  8. Terra cotta roof tiles are just breath-taking to look at from a distance. Up close, you'll probably only notice that the tiles differ from one another, but once you look at the roof as a whole, you'll appreciate the aesthetic value of terra cotta. They're unevenly colored! LOL