The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
Christopher Caskey is a scientist by trade. So it’s little surprise that his flagship business, Delta Brick & Climate Company, was born of a passion for environmental sustainability and energy conservation. The Montrose-based company makes patio pavers, bricks, and decorative ceramic tiles—it recently rebranded the tile-manufacturing arm as Particular Tile—from excess clay sediment that clogs the Paonia Reservoir in western Colorado.
Since the reservoir was constructed in 1962, its storage capacity has shrunk by more than a quarter, thanks to the settling mud, which drastically restricts critical water supply to farms, ranches, and orchards in the North Fork Valley. The reservoir also happens to sit near abandoned coal mines that leak methane, a greenhouse gas that traps 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Caskey, a former Colorado School of Mines professor and National Renewable Energy Lab scientist, realized that he could “basically point these two problems at each other,” he says. In other words: Excavate the problematic yet high-quality clay from the reservoir to create hand-cut tiles (currently occurring) and fire them in kilns powered by methane captured from the mines (a goal Caskey expects to achieve in the next two years).
Featuring a rich terra-cotta base color from the clay’s iron content, the tiles start at $30 per square foot and are available in a variety of shapes and more than 50 glaze hues, plus customization options. Their lustrous look and feel give showers, backsplashes, and floors a high-end aesthetic rendered that much more appealing by the material’s positive effect on the local environment.
“I don’t want to pretend like we’re solving the whole problem, because we’re not,” Caskey says, noting that the amount of mud they remove from the reservoir is a proverbial drop in the climate-crisis bucket. “But there are abandoned mines all over Colorado. The mentality was always, ‘What can we take, how can we profit, and how can we leave?’ We need to think about new ways to relate to these sites now that the original purpose has passed.”
Here’s how Particular Tile turns reservoir sediment into your gorgeous new backsplash.
Annual reservoir-draining exposes mud flats, from which an excavator and dump truck can extract sediment and transport it to the factory.
2. Mix & Prep
Adding water and grog—a type of coarse sand—and processing the mixture in specialized machines forms the material while adding texture and increasing its durability.
3. Cut and Dry
Shapes are hand-punched (think: cookie cutters) into the clay, which is then hand-trimmed and stacked to dry for at least a week to avoid cracking and warping.
4. Bisque Fire & Glaze
Kilns* fired to nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit fuse clay particles into water-resistant ceramic, which is then sprayed with glaze.
5. Glaze Fire
The final kiln* heating melts the glaze into a colored glass adhered to the front of the tile.
6. Sell in Shop
Look for Particular Tile products in Decorative Materials showrooms, or order directly from particulartile.com.