CoorItalia Blog

Terracotta Celing Tiles

Posted on Thu, May 17, 2012

When it comes to ceiling the vast majority just go safe and paint it white, or might add a medallion to the lone overhead chandelier. However if you are looking for a Mediterranean look the solution is often "terracotta". Traditionally a "poor man's" building material it has now become the poster-boy of the Mediterranean rustic look. It has a lot to like, terracotta is both strong but light, it is a thermal insulator, it is much cheaper than stone, it is very resistant to wear and tear.


The traditional terracotta ceiling looks like this:


They are composed of rectangular tiles (can be any size - 6"x12" and 9"x18" are common) that are rested on the wood beams and then, on top of these are placed the roof tiles. Nowadays the processed is almost reversed. The tiles have lost their structural element to take on a purely decorative one and so they are now fixed with adhesive onto backer board first

Installing Ceiling Tiles

The wooden rafters are then fixed later:


Reclaimed Ceiling tiles

One word of warning if you are looking for original antique reclaimed terracotta tiles, be they for your floor (which is very popular) or for a ceiling. Always ask your supplier if the tiles originally were floor or ceiling tiles when they were reclaimed. Floor tiles will be smooth from centuries of feet, but ceiling tiles will usually have a brushed finish because they have been untouched. Also ceiling tiles might have been painted or plastered over by the generations of families that lived in the house, so many will have flecks of paint on them if not properly cleaned. There is no right or wrong - you can use ceiling tiles as floor tiles but you should be aware of what finish you want when you talk to your supplier.

An alternative to give your house (or cellar) that Mediterranean look is to use bricks which, for structural reasons, were always installed "sideways" offering up their short side to view:


Wheeler Marks 131Low Res


It looks expensive but it does not have to be. Since we no longer need to use the whole brick for its structural characteristics we can "slice off" and just use the "end!" Most manufacturers will make what the Italians call "listelli", which are a form of terracotta veneers.


Listelli terracotta veneer

As you can imagine both the materials and the installation on backer board is simplified by the fact that these tend to be much lighter than the full brick.

If you want a twist of the above we had a Designer approach us for a project in Park City where he wanted to do a ceiling using reclaimed roof tiles. Although we proposed using both real reclaimed bricks and listelli he was insistent on wanting to use reclaimed barrel roof tiles that had spent their whole life on the outside. They cut the tiles into strips and used them, making sure to keep the lichen and all the character of the antique roof tile.


Roof tiles used as ceilings resized 600

 Another client had a charming idea for also using the reclaimed roof tiles as your ceiling tiles. They simply left them visible

relaime roof tiles as ceiling tiles

Of course you cannot use this for inside the house - this was for a porch overhang where code does not require a fire barrier between the inside and outside,  but it was a very nice idea and it recalls its original use, In Italy, as a cheaper way to put a roof over non living areas like barns, stables or outhouses.

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