Because of the inherent thermal properties and durability of clay, people have been using this natural material for more than 5,000 years. Clay tiles have been traced back as far as 3,000 B.C. in China and the Middle East. Clay roofing was also used in Greece, Egypt, and Rome and made its way to America with the first English settlers. Spanish padres used clay tile roofing in the constructions of the missions of California and Texas, now so famous for their beauty. However, clay roofing tiles are not just about the past; modern manufacturing techniques developed by today's architects are used by both contemporary and traditional tile designs.
Structural clay tile describes a category of burned-clay building materials used to construct the walls of buildings and in structural fireproofing. Also called building tile, structural terra cotta, hollow tile, and clay block, the material is an extruded clay shape with substantial depth that allows it to be laid in the same manner as other clay or concrete masonry. In North America it was chiefly used during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and continues to be used in Europe to build fire-resistant walls and partitions.