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A look into clay tile history

It is said that the first historically known clay roofing tiles have been used in Neolithic China as early as 10.000 B.C.!
5000 years ago, clay roofing tiles have been used in Babylon. 

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Babylonian construction site

From there they made their way via Egypt and Greece to Rome. Rome was called the city of tiled roofs. The Romans introduced Middle Europe to their excellent characteristics and long lasting durability. Even today, buildings that have been "tiled" by the Romans exist. 
In the 8th century, the Hiersar Monastery in Calw and later the monastery in Lorch, Southern Germany.

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Hiersar Monastery

Clay roof tiles characteristic as "fire proof roofing" were recognized 1212 AD by King John of England as he issued building by-laws for London to eliminate combustible roof coverings. The devastating fires from 1679 in Boston prompted the establishment of building and fire codes in New York and Boston. By the 18th century, tiled roofs had become the standard in Europe, wherever there was an abundant local supply of suitable raw materials. Back then, the "craft" of tile making was hard labor and required excellent knowledge of the materials and processes involved. Tile burning was done in piles, in which clay tiles and burning material, like coal or wood, was layered into stacks and covered by earth.

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hand made tiles

The first attempts in industrial production of clay roofing tiles were started in the 19th century. Improvements to the transportation infra structure and the availability of steam engines helped. 

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clay tile press

Advances in material knowledge and the introduction of the so called "ring kiln" by Hoffman in 1858 allow the further advance of the quality. With this kiln, continues burning was achieved. It allowed the gradually rising of the temperature and was fired by coal, thrown in from above.

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raw clay preparation

New forms of clay roofing tiles were introduced and the development took a leap forward to the design and characteristics we know today. Interlocking, strong and durable clay roofing tiles with consistent quality are available to be used as long lasting roofing material. As the popularity of clay roofing tiles grew, transport and production were expanded. 

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Wertingen 1884

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Holsen 1900 

Due to the increase in demand the method of delivery was changed. The use of clay roofing tile used to be limited to areas were horse drawn wagons could deliver them. This limited their distribution. This all changed with the introduction of motor vehicles.

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tile loading by hand

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clay tile factory in Ulm

Further easing of the work load was achieved with the introduction of early loading and crating systems.

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In the early 1960s the mining of the raw clay was switched over to machinery. This was in part to the rise in demand for clay roofing tiles.

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Europe has a long lasting clay roof tile history, that is highly visible if one looks at the roofs of major European cities. Now in the 21st century, the quality and durability of building materials is becoming increasingly important for the value minded home owner that can appreciate the superiority of clay roofing products. 

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This short outlook back into the clay roof tile history has been made possible by support of the following manufacturers: Creaton, Nelskamp and Meyer-Holsen. Thank you for the use of materials.


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Copyright 2011 Team Fritz Clay Roof Tiles, Inc.
Last modified: November 09, 2005