Turrets the Easy Way
Clay Tile Turrets are Beautiful, Impressive, and Now are Easier than Ever to Install
by Marc Dodson, editor

There’s no doubt about it, roof turrets catch the eye. Tile turrets in particular stand out because of their intricate nature, row patterns, and the craftsmanship required. They can add distinction to any building and turn an otherwise average project into a source of pride and future recommendations for the architect and contractor alike.

But there’s a down side: they’re labor intensive, can be extremely expensive and can be a constant source of leaks and problems if not properly designed and installed. There’s usually a lot of cutting and a lot of waste, as the process normally involves trial and error installation practices. And those perfectly straight tile rows that look so clean? Well, you can forget it unless you choose exactly the right material and the installing crews are craftsmen that are exceptionally well versed at cutting, arranging and installing tile turrets.

How about a clay tile turret? How about a true round fan clay tile turret? Obviously, the costs go up accordingly. Because of this, many building owners will settle for an octagon rather than a true round turret, if they want any sort of turret at all. The expense, limitations of the roofing material, and too few contractors willing to attempt tile turrets have limited them in the market for a number of years until recently.

Three years ago we published an article on clay tile turrets (January/February 1994) and a new system that was devised by MCA to design clay turret tiles for specific roofs.Since then, the system has been refined to the point that custom tile turret design and manufacture has become a significant market niche for MCA. Since the article was published, we have been receiving almost daily requests for information on turrets or conical roof designs. The popularity of turret roofs has grown significantly in the past three years, states Yoshi Suzuki of MCA.

The turret tiles are custom made at MCA for each job to specification, with larger tiles at the bottom, medium sizes in the center and small, tapered tiles at the top. Using computer design, the exact number of each size is calculated and made to fit that particular turret, in the color specified.

The new 20,000 sq. ft. addition to the South Shores Baptist Church in Laguna Niguel, Calif., was designed by the architectural firm of Wimberly, Allison, Tong & Goo of Newport Beach, Calif. Robert Dollar, project managing architect for the firm stated that the 25 foot diameter turret evolved out of the design concept. It was a pretty clean installation with no problems, states Dollar. He went on to note that the MCA turret tile design made the installation go smoothly and they were very pleased with the job and the finished turret.

The Warner Bros. Studio Headquarters roof in Burbank, Calif., was installed by Eberhard Roofing, Van Nuys, Calif. The entire project covered 292 squares of MCA Sunrise Blend clay tile, including the turret.  Don Stout, CEO of Eberhard stated that they had been installing tile turrets for 50 years and had become quite proficient at the labor intensive task of cutting the tile accurately and piecing them together.  They had planned to use this method to install the turret on the Warner Bros. project but the MCA custom turret method had been specified.  This was their first experience with the MCA turrets.  The turret system worked fine.  It’s easier to use their system, Stout commented.

The Torrance Memorial Family Medicine Center in Torrance, Calif., sports a 50 foot diameter turret and was designed by the architectural firm of Caruana & Associates, Long Beach, Calif. The project architect, Rick Hammond, stated that, it’s a great system and the roof turned out wonderfully. We sent MCA the specifications and they custom made the tile to lay out perfectly for the turret. They also supervised the installation. The turret is a perfect cone, and turned out much better than segmenting the pieces to fit. We looked all over and couldn’t find anyone else to custom make the turret tiles. We’re very happy with the finished project. Hammond also noted that the roofing contractor did a great job as well as the framing contractor, who bent the sheeting plywood to form a perfect deck.

The roofing contractor on the Torrance Memorial Family Medicine Center project was San Marino Roofing, Orange, Calif. Greg Pebbles of San Marino states that the installation went smoothly with no problems. It was easy to estimate. We just sent MCA the specifications and they sent us back the correct number of tiles for each course along with a course-by-course layout. It was all very concise and easy to install. This is the first tile turret we’ve ever done without a tile saw. It came out right the first time and was no different than ordering the tile for the rest of the roof. It was unbelievably smooth, Pebbles noted.

But what about breakage, always a fact of life in a tile application. Breakage was not really a factor and was as low as 3% or 4%. We just ordered exactly what they recommended. MCA had allowed enough for breakage and everything came out fine. We saved quite a bit on labor and the owner ended up with a better, more watertight roof. There was no cutting or piecing together. MCA’s method is much more precise. It has a good, solid sound or ring to it when you clank them together. MCA makes a good tile, Pebbles added.

The roof and turret on the Hotel La Francesca, Yamaguchi City, Japan, was installed by the Oshima Roofing Company. The tile was made at MCA’s plant and exported to Japan. Toshiyuki Oshima of Oshima Roofing states, We never installed turret tiles before but we had a little experience with two-piece mission tile. At first, we were concerned about possible leakage and wind damage, and this put more pressure on us for this project. The manufacturer recommended the use of a modified bitumen type of underlayment and provided step-by-step installation instructions. Frankly, the job was much easier than we thought and best of all, the finished project looks fantastic! The owner of the hotel was extremely happy with the roof. Every time our customers go to the Yamaguchi area, we always recommend they take a look at the project.

Suzuki adds, Almost any size and slope of turret can be roofed with two-piece mission tiles. With our turret system, the roofing contractor no longer has to use the trial and error method of cutting the tiles to fit the shape of the conical roof. With the pitch, radius and shape of the roof, MCA can custom make the tiles to fit. MCA can quote the number of pieces easily with our computer take-off. With each shipment we provide step-by-step installation instructions.