Structural clay tile sometimes called “speed-tile”, “partition block” or “back-up clay block” were extensively used as a backup material in schools, government buildings, airports and even high-end residential properties at the turn of the last century up until the 1940s. Designed to eliminate the labor cost of laying standard size brick units, structural clay tile could be set quickly by a mason as they were light weight, while at the same time being fireproof. In addition, the electricians could run their conduit pipes inside the web spacing of the units offering the plasterer a nice substrate to work with in applying his materials later in the project. The units used for interior partition walls were generally 4 to 6 inches wide by 12 inches in height by 12 inches in length and vertically scored with 1/4 to 3/8 inch grooves on the face to receive the plaster scratch coat.
The material fell out of use after the invention of CMU’s (Concrete Masonry Units), concrete block. In the restoration business we always strive to match the original materials in our efforts to deliver a project. Whether it is filling in a door opening, or rebuilding an interior wall section it is important to locate the companies that still manufacture structural clay tile.
In a recent project we were glad that our social network paid off in LinkedIn. A group called “Brick and Mortar – for real” which currently has approximately 750 members came to the rescue. I posted the question as to where I could locate a manufacture of this material and a few days later had several to choose from.
The contractor at the site was not in any mood to do any research himself and was ready to just install concrete block into an existing structural clay tile wall and plaster over it – and be done. I was not comfortable with this approach as I remember from my workshop classes that concrete shrinks and clay masonry expands – so I knew we were just asking for cracks to eventually mirror through the new plaster wall surfaces at the transition points.
I wanted to share this project and success we had in locating the original structural clay tile in this blog – just in case you happen to run into a project where someone says…..”You can’t get that anymore”.
Here are your sources: Superior Clay Tile Corporation, Uhrichsville, Ohio 800-848-6166. This company even has the old fashioned double slant wall coping with the flange for your parapet wall projects. Sandhuhl Clay Works, Inc., Spencerville, Ohio 419-657-2905 and Elgin Butler, Austin, Texas 512-453-7366.