Terra Cotta Cornices

January 27, 2014


A building with a decorative cornice.

Decorative cornice by Stromberg

Replacing and Replicating Terra Cotta Cornices

As a favorite architectural feature, the cornice has been used for centuries as a decorative finish to pillars of the Classical age. Even today, they are still utilized both indoors and outdoors to enhance the architectural design.

Purpose of Cornices

More than just adding beauty to a building’s structural elements, the cornice also has another purpose.
Generally defined as the uppermost section of the molding found at the top of a wall or just below a roof, cornices help to protect a building from the effects of weather. They can also be found on windows.

There are three types of cornices that are used on buildings. The box cornice is a long, narrow box that runs along buildings that typically have gentle slopes. These types of cornices help move the rain away from the building to prevent leaks and water damage. Box cornices are large and require additional support to keep them in place.

An open cornice is similar in shape to the box cornice except that it is missing the soffit. These cornices also move water away from a building. Open cornices provide a contemporary look and are often less expensive than the box cornice.

A close, or snub, cornice is most often used in warmer climates, and its purpose is to add a decorative touch rather than protecting a building from environmental elements. These are less expensive than the other types of cornices because they do not require as many materials or as much labor.

The Effects of Deterioration on Terra Cotta Cornices

Since the cornice serves to protect buildings from water, it means that is takes the brunt of the water. The cornices then become vulnerable to the effects of deterioration as water continues to penetrate them over time. Then, the steel structures that often support the heavy terra cotta cornices become corroded from the water.

This leads to structural failure while the terra cotta design details disintegrate or become covered in rust from the corroded steel support elements. Not only do the cracks and damage tarnish the beauty of these cornices, but they also lead to serious safety issues as they could come loose and fall from the building. This means that the terra cotta cornices must be replaced.

Replacing Terra Cotta Cornices with TerraGlas

An excellent solution for terra cotta cornice replacement is to use TerraGlas terra cotta, a molded architectural terra cotta composite that contains fiberglass reinforcement. With the appearance and feel of traditional terra cotta, TerraGlas can be molded into any shape and can replicate historical terra cotta cornices down to the minutest detail.

However, the real advantage to using TerraGlas is that it weighs significantly less than traditional terra cotta and does not become brittle. The reduced weight load means lower installation costs. The material also saves money by offering shorter lead times and enhanced durability, including the ability to withstand hurricanes and seismic loads. It is also resistant to water, weather, fire and frost.

Your Partner for Terra Cotta Cornices

Stromberg Architectural Products and TerraGlas can help you add or restore terra cotta cornices for your building project. Our experienced team of terra cotta specialists, who have worked on numerous projects, including The Capitol Building, The White House, The Smithsonian, and more, can answer your questions, provide recommendations on architectural restoration, and take your cornice order. Get a free estimate by calling 903.454.0904 or sending an email to: [email protected]

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