Seeing that Plastic Surgeon has had a lot of call outs over recent months to #repair glazed bricks and ceramic tiles on a variety of projects, we thought it appropriate that we gave these building materials a bit of air time; including looking at their origins.
As early as 24,000 BC, animal and human figurines were made from clay and other materials, then fired in kilns partially dug into the ground.
Almost 10,000 years later, as the ancient civilizations became established, tiles were manufactured in Mesopotamia and India. The first use of functional pottery vessels for storing water and food is thought to be around 9000 or 10,000 BC. Clay bricks were also made around the same time.
Glass is believed to be discovered in Egypt around 8000 BC, when overheating of kilns produced a colored glaze on the pottery – thus we see the birth of ceramic tiles and bricks.
In the UK, the biggest use of glazed brickwork must be the Victorian tenements in Scotland’s big cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, where stairwells and entrances were lavishly decorated. Meanwhile across England, Scotland and Wales, Victorian terraces feature decorative tiles in hallways, fireplaces and bathrooms.
Ceramic bricks and tiles are, though, easily damaged – which is where we come in – the following being typical of the types of repair we undertake:
At North Manchester 6th Form College, our expertise was called upon to restore damaged tiles and pillars during the refurbishment of the Grade II listed building – a former Victorian swimming baths.
Then at the Fitzroy Academy in Croydon, our Finishers’ challenge was to make good a variety of historic damage done to the old hand made glazed bricks, which are seen throughout large parts of the property’s internal spaces, including the staircase and corridors. The method they employed involved utilizing Plastic Surgeon’s specialist premium filler to rebuild any missing bricks back up to slightly proud of their original profile, then smoothing them back. The original Green or Brown colours of the bricks, as well as the pointing, were matched using our specialist System 20 pigments, protected with a layer of lacquer.
Most recently, repairing prominent glazed ceramic tile lettering of a landmark commercial property in the East End of London – branded by the developers as the ‘The Pillbox’ – required our team to adopt a variety of repair strategies depending on the nature of the damage: ranging from small chips and gouges to large chunks and even the letter ‘R’ being missing from the Allen & Hanburys sign.
These are just three of our more unusual repairs, but our most common interventions involve snagging and putting right accidental damage done in the home or hotels; affecting glazed bricks, kitchen and bathroom tiles. It has also included saving irreplaceable skirtings and architraves fashioned from ceramic materials in locations such as military messes and West End department stores. We have even been known to undertake such repair work at night in order to prevent disturbance to customers, though our Finishers don’t see it as a “night on the tiles”.