This article appeared in Western Roofing January/February 2010.

Challenge of the Dome
Contractor & Manufacturer Rise to the Challenge of the Clay Roof Tile Dome
by Lyla Lawry, marketing coordinator, MCA, & Marc Dodson, editor & publisher

The Resort at Pelican Hill in Southern California, perched on 504 acres of sundrenched hillsides, is set at one of the finest areas for a perfect wedding. Offering views of the Pacific Ocean from nearly every vantage point, a perfect location would call for something magnificent… a perfect Wedding Rotunda. Only the elegance of clay tile for the dome would do. Great in concept but difficult in application, the clay tile dome roof on the Wesdding Rotunda would require innovation, invention, determination, and skilled workmanship.

Until recently, choices of roofing materials for domes were very limited. Most often, only metal domes were available. The elegance and Old World appeal of a clay tile roof seemed out of reach for the rounded curves of a large dome roof. Not many manufacturers of such dome tile exist. Andrew Skurman Architects, San Francisco, Calif., and Brad Engelland, vice president Residential Architecture, Commercial Property Development, The Irvine Company, made inquiries to MCA Clay Roof Tile, based in Corona, California. MCA responded immediately with enthusiasm about the venture and were eager to take on the challenge. Cuesta Construction, located in Costa Mesa, Calif., chose Mesa Roofing, Anaheim, Calif., because of its experience and master workmanship. “The talents and skills of Dirk Cannizzaro and Dick Townsend of Mesa Roofing were instrumental in the execution of this prestigious project. Their cooperation and feedback on the project were crucial in developing a product that was not only consistently high in quality, but also straightforward in installation,” notes Bob Hale, sales manager, MCA. “MCA has developed a clay dome tile that is custommade for each job and comes with job-specific instructions. And, with over 50 colors of clay dome tile available, the appeal of clay tile domes is rapidly expanding.”

The actual construction of the dome was rather unique. The dome has a wood deck covered with Grace Ice & Water Shield. After TriFlex 30 was applied for the final underlayment, the project was ready for the clay tile… or so it would seem. It turned out that the deck wasn’t without its flaws, and the Mesa Roofing crew had to make a few corrections to make sure the deck imperfections didn’t telegraph through to the finished roof.

MCA had never made a tile for installation on a dome roof, yet its people expressed confidence that it could be done and were anxious to get started. Dome tile is difficult to measure for the exposure of each course. Every inch the courses go up, the circumference changes, so the exposure changes. So, without cutting any tile, fitting the tile to the dome shape was very challenging. Eight different sizes of tile were ultimately used in the construction of the dome.

Cannizzaro said that, “MCA figured it all out. Since they knew the radius and height of the dome, and working their way from the bottom to the top, they calculated how many rows of each size tile to use before switching to the next smaller size. When they reached the peak of the dome, MCA had figured we needed eight different sizes and they knew the quantity of each size.” In all, there were seven squares of clay tile manufactured for the project.

The tile color specified by designer Celia Conover of Conover, a design studio located in San Diego, Calif., also presented a challenge: a semigloss in several shades of brown, each tone slightly different from the next. In a location that averages 340 days of sunshine every year, the Wedding Rotunda needed a special gloss that would do justice to the sunny skies and panoramic view. MCA created a custom semi-gloss finish in several shades of brown to produce a romantic, awe-inspiring clay tile dome that catches the light.

Roofing Supply Group, Santa Ana, Calif, delivered the clay tiles. Once the material was on the jobsite, it was just a matter of making sure the correct tile was in the proper position. The tiles were fastened in place with stainless steel screws.

The safety of the Mesa Roofing crew was of paramount concern. Scaffolding was used extensively and when working on the peak of the dome, safety harnesses were mandatory. The peak of the dome was about 30 feet high.

“This project went very smoothly, and a good portion of the credit for this goes to MCA Clay Tile,” stated Cannizzaro. “We worked hand-inhand with MCA through the duration of the dome construction. MCA figured out what we needed and delivered it to us along with their technical expertise. They’re a great company to work with, very helpful and knowledgeable.”