For some, it is a feature that they walk past each and every day without giving it a second thought. For others (ourselves included), it is a beautiful addition to some of Glasgow’s very best architecture.
We are of course talking about Wally Close Tiling in Tenement Flats across cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle. For so many residents, this style of tiling is one that they grew up with and for those that moved to cities like Glasgow across Scotland and England, it was an amazing decorative feature that they had never experienced before.
Beautiful tiling designs with decorative patterns and finishes that usually go up to about half way along the wall. Wally Close Tiling features have become one of Glasgow’s Tenement Flats most loved features. Yet sadly, throughout the city, so many of these once beautiful tiled features are being neglected, left broken, cracked and missing.
What can cause these Wally Close Tiling Features to become damaged?
As with all historic tiling projects, problems arise from structural movement of a building, called settlement. Settlement in a structure refers to the distortion or disruption of parts of a building due to unequal compression of its foundations; shrinkage, such as that which occurs in timber-framed buildings as the frame adjusts its moisture content; or due loads being applied to the building after its initial construction. This is movement of downward pressure and stress in the walls and creates brick mortar damage, which leads to crack lines in the walls plaster, that then travels through the close tiles, leading to popping and cracking of the tiles. Sometimes the cracks go through the tiles and grout lines; or this leads to large sections separating from the wall completely.
All substrates from this era were horsehair lime plaster, a three coat plastering technique, of an initial bonding coat, where it is standard to apply a second layer in the same fashion, leaving about a half inch of rough, sandy plaster (called a brown coat or browning). With a smooth, white finish coat that goes on last. This is when the tiles would be set into the drying plasterwork, by the plasters themselves. Much in the same way the geometric floor tiles were tapped into a setting mortar bed.
At this point in time when tiles were becoming prominent in the construction and architectural design of British Buildings. Tiles had never been in domestic properties, mainly religious building and large public spaces, so tiling itself was not a well known trade or craft in Britain. So often the task of tiling was left to the plasters who were experts in creating flat walls and ceilings, to use their skills of mixing renders and application to create flat surfaces and substrates, they were the best choice to then apply tiles to their ready substrates.
The traditional lime based mortar plaster, which often incorporates horsehair, which reinforces the plasterwork, thereby helping to prevent the keys from breaking away. The Lime plaster is composed of sand, water and lime, usually non-hydraulic hydrated lime. Copying the same techniques as Ancient lime plaster that often contained horsehair for reinforcement. Roman lime plaster incorporated pozzolanic volcanic ash; in modern times, fly ash is preferred. Non-hydraulic lime plaster can also be made to set faster by adding modern gypsum.
How can we repair Wally Close Tiling?
With any conservation project, we start by removing the tiles from the damaged area so we can analyse the substrate. Sometimes only the setting bet is damaged, which requires much less work. The layer is removed to the point that the substrate is solid and stable. From this point, the original render bed needs to be moisturised, with a mix of water and SBR, so a new setting bed can be bond and bind to the original render.
In other buildings the movement may have cracked right down through to the Brick. In this case, the damaged area must be removed and either bonded with new render or it can be over boarded with flexible render or adhesive. This will allow slightly more flexibility if more movement occurs. Putting another layer of protection between the structure and the tile. Although it is every unlikely the same amount of structural movement will occur again, as with any new building most of the settlement occurs during the first few years after the building is finished.
Once a new render is installed the area can be re-tiled, using the original wall tiles, if these are too damaged or broken, replica replacement tiles can be matched and reproduced. A sample tile must be taken from the close and sent to Craven Dunnills who can match the colour or recreate any of the bespoke motif tile designs you might find.
How can Were Tiling help?
As one of the few quality Victorian Tiling Restoration Specialists in Scotland, we can restore your tenement flats hallway wally close tiling back to its former glory. Using as much of the original tiling as possible and always pattern matched for consistency, our quality of work has seen our business grow through recommendations, referrals and testimonials from customers across not just Glasgow but across all of Scotland and the North of England. Customer who have used Were Tiling for a variety of tiling services including Victorian Mosaic Hallways, downstairs toilets, Victorian Bathrooms and so much more.
While it can be difficult to get an entire collection of residents living in a tenement flat together and agree to refurbish and restore their buildings wally close, the results are undeniable.
If you would like to know more about Wall Close Tiling and to request photographic examples of our restoration work, please contact Andrew on 07932 716 716
We were replacing a carpet in our hall and discovered the original Victorian tiling was still there. Andrew came to our home, looked at the tiling and gave us a quote with no hassle. His attention to detail and careful and methodical approach are clear in the end results. We are so delighted with the work that he has done. We never thought about having a tiled hallway but we are more than delighted with the results and it has increased the value of our home considerably.
We were looking for our Storm Door area and hallway to have a matching contemporary geometric tile design to them. We want a modern take that worked with our period Victorian home. Andrew was one of three tilers we call. He was the only one who took any measurements and really looked at the set up that we wanted. We went Were because they seemed to know what they were talking about and we were impressed with their detailed quote breakdown. It meant we knew exactly what to expect. And the end result - we could not be more happy with the end results. Our hallway looks better than ever.
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