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Spanish Clay Vent Installation Photos and How-To Information
See a terracotta clay vent installation on the exterior plaster wall of a Spanish-style home in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA! Pictures are worth a thousand words. This gallery of photos make it a fun and easy way to quickly learn the basics of how things are done.
Clay vents are an aesthetic and functional detail found in a wide range of classic Spanish-style architecture. You can add these iconic design elements to your own project at any time. Whether you are remodeling, or building new.
Clay vents are a decorative way to dress up your home- but there are surprising functional uses you may not have thought about before. On this project we used them to aesthetically hide the appearance of a bathroom fan vent. To do so, the General Contractor ran flex ducting from the ceiling fan to the backside of the far right clay vent, above.
The terracotta clay parts used to make these vents are actually old school clay drain pipe. Many of these clay drains still exist throughout historic neighborhoods of Santa Barbara. If you are local, you can still buy clay drain pipe at Santa Barbara Stone. They are located at 27 North Nopal Street Santa Barbara, CA. 93103. In this episode we utilized the round pipe. In Episode 27 we used the Hex design (left).
Spanish-style products on Amazon, and my project overviews where they were installed.
Clay Vent Installation Planning For Your Own SPanish Home
For a hundred years Home Designers and Architects in Santa Barbara have been specifying, planning and incorporating clay drain pipe into their projects. They can be used as attic vents, and other decorative elements such as patio walls and wine bottle storage.
Above: An informally marked up photo and easy to understand infographic. The Artisan carpenter is in the process installing supportive framing for the clay pipe vents. The blue lines indicate existing framing (as well as where other wood support will be installed).
A T-bevel (available on Amazon) is an important tool for clay vent installation. Professional builders use them to establish a consistent angle pitched across all clay vents. Also shown: the hole openings the clay pipe vents will nest in. These were made by first tracing the outside diameter of the clay pipe on the small section of 5/8″ thick structural plywood. To make these holes easier to cut, the plywood was brought down to ground level and jigsaw cut on a work table.
The slanted angle you will be creating is both aesthetic and functional. It will keep the rain from entering your home. It is best if you have a helper when you get to this point. Inside the attic space another carpenter was securing the clay vents to the wood framing using Pipe Strap (readily available at Amazon) and drywall screws.
This talented Artisan is good with his planning of the first vent, and will now install the other two. RE: Stucco Patching- notice the “roughly random” broken edge of the plaster around the window? This is intentional. It allows room for the new weatherproof paper to tuck behind the existing. This random in and out technique also enables an interlocking effect with new and old surfaces, which will help reduce the chances of cracking.
There are multiple steps in weatherproofing your clay vents. The first one is shown in the photo below. Caulking around the clay pipe seals the subtle gaps between the vents and the plywood supporting them.
The next step will be breaking out more of the surrounding plaster, as mentioned earlier. Then, 60 min. asphalt-saturated paper. Once that is in place, the 20 gauge plain stucco mesh will be installed. This is the familiar “chicken wire” that supports the first coat of plaster.
Stucco Tips When Installing Clay Vents
Scroll more photos to pick up additional tips and tricks for making your clay vent installation go as smooth as possible. First, start with wrapping the clay vents in plastic and orange tape. Terracotta clay is porous, so this easy step saves a lot of difficult and tedious clean up at the end of your project.
The photos above and below show a first “Scratch Coat” (to the right of the buckets). See how it is interlocking with the jigsaw shape of the original plaster? That’s what you want. In these pix, the stucco crew starts the brown coat process on top of the first scratch coat.
Above and Below: The second coat of stucco is applied “unusually sloppy”, and then left alone to set up for a bit. At just the right time, the pro plasterer begins using a Foam Float (available on Amazon) to begin the subtle texture in the plaster.
Here is a close up of the float process. The Artisan starts by knocking down the sharp trowel marks in the wet plaster. The foam float is dipped in water, which helps smooth out the roughly applied second coat.
Once the second coat of plaster is mostly worked out (and still wet), the plastic and tape is removed from the terracotta clay vents.
This enables the plasterer a chance to clean up the new stucco around the clay pipes as he continues creating the Santa Barbara mission finish.
Here you can see the team of three working their magic. The Artisan on the right is applying a heavy second coat of plaster over the first (scratch) coat. On custom jobs such as this, there is always support on the ground, mixing the next round of wet plaster.
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Crafting the Fine Details of a SPanish-style Home
As you can see in this series of photos- clay vent installation is an artistic process. To achieve the finest of details, the pros go back and forth between a multitude of tools. Foam floats, steel trowels and straight edges, etc.
Here, the pro plasterer uses a Kraft Tool to apply wet stucco to the inside opening of a window frame. Spanish-style homes typically do not have wood trim on windows and doors. The plaster is wrapped into them.
More detailing around the clay vents is achieved with the sharp edge of the steel trowel.
I wandered around to other jobsite projects in between photographing the various steps in clay vent installation. Above: a hardworking roofer does repair work on a section of the roof nearby.
This Modern Master in Plaster is clearly in “flow”. Time flies as he works his craft. It really makes me happy to see these guys working on high quality projects- all over town. We live in a wonderful place for the artistic trades!
A parting shot to leave you with. Once the plaster cures for a couple of weeks, this facade elevation will be repainted. *Also, be sure to protect the openings of your vents with rigid mesh (available on Amazon). A subtle barrier for birds nesting, and a mice “no can do” declaration. Another work of art completed by an amazing team!
Well friend, this wraps another site visit episode in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA. I hope you enjoyed learning how to infuse more Santa Barbara Style into your own Spanish home design project. Scroll to explore more helpful links and resources for designing and building your own Spanish-style home and landscape.
* Important Note: I post favorite project photos and design/build information for their Entertainment Value Only. Please consult with your licensed architect, general contractor and local building department for anything related to designing and/or building your own project. Full Disclaimer HERE
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