Our clay tiles have square holes, is this normal?

John Conlin / 23 July 2018

A reader is concerned the tiles he ordered for his summerhouse are rejects.



Question

I am building a summerhouse and bought 400 clay roof tiles similar to those on our cottage. On delivery, I found the tiles are all plain rectangles with no moulded hooks along the top edges, just two square holes and even these are not equally spaced. They seem like rejects but the supplier says they are genuine. Is that possible?

Answer

Modern tiles have moulded projections (called ‘nibs’) on their undersides at the top so that they can be hung on the timber tile battens. Old style clay tiles (and modern reproductions) do not have ‘nibs’ because the then-battens were irregular, and the round holes to accommodate the ‘hanger’ (large headed nail) were intentionally staggered to give a choice as to which hole to use. The square holes that you mention are unique to ‘Kent Peg’ tiles, that used short, tapered pieces of oak as ‘pegs’ in place of large-headed nails as ‘hangers’.

Incidentally this is thought to be the origin of the adage “square peg in a round hole.”



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