Biggs Consulting Engineering PLLC, Troy, NY, USA


Glazed terra cotta was most popular in the United States from the late-nineteenth century to the1930s. It was used as an inexpensive, lighter-weight, architectural alternative to natural stone ornamentation. There are numerous buildings with terra cotta facades or elements such as cornices. In the last decade, terra cotta has been making a resurgence with such new systems as the rain screen. Unfortunately, this resurgence comes at the same time as when many original terra cotta clad buildings have deteriorated because of a lack of funding for maintenance.
The options for restoring facades with terra cotta include synthetic patching or replacement. Patching is a small-scale solution to repairing pieces. Replacement is a large-scale solution. However, because of the high costs related to the removal and reattachment of new terra cotta, replacement with terra cotta is often not financially an option. Alternative replacement materials are usually natural stone or synthetic materials.
This paper will highlight a case study of a five-story building constructed in 1916. The glazed terra cotta cornice with integral gutter deteriorated and required replacement. Synthetic replacement with glass-fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) was selected because of its lower cost, its ability to replicate terra cotta, and because it could be produced locally. The evaluation of the terra-cotta deterioration, the selection of GFRC, and the restoration will be discussed.

Key words
terra cotta, restoration, cornice, GFRC, synthetic repair