Navigating through the display shop in search for the perfect tile can be exhausting. You see a selection you like then the salesperson informs you that it’s not available for that particular area in your home because of its insufficient resistance ratings, surface quality characteristics and degree of porosity blah blah…. Jargon that does not make sense.
In this article we will breakdown “tile terms” which will hopefully lead you to an understanding of what criteria and the type of tile finish required for the various rooms of your new house. This will allow you to make more confident decisions, leaving you only to decide on colour and pattern for your tiles.
There are many types of tiles on the market. Below are the most common to begin your journey of choice:
The most cost efficient and “all rounder” tile is the ceramic tile as it is made at extremely high temperatures – making it more versatile in its finishing and durability. Ceramic can be matte, high gloss or gloss glazed and can have abrasion resistance properties added to ensure minimal slippage. It’s low maintenance, easily installed and practical.
Porcelain is an extremely dense tile and has a high resistance to water. It is made from fine clay – similar to terracotta tiles but require higher temperatures to set and are dry pressed into shape. Because of this, porcelains finished look can range from matte, high gloss and textured. It has the advantage to be ‘rectified’ (smooth sharp edge), which means the tile has been precisely ground and machined to give them near perfect straight edges and dimensions. This tile allows the opportunity to use minimal grout joins giving a sharp modern look.
Natural Stone (Marble, Granite, Travertine)
Generally natural stone tiles are the most expensive option in tiling. Natural stone is often used in feature areas for the budget conscious otherwise applied for a timeless sophisticated finish for those without budget limitations. As a quarried natural stone, each tile has its own unique pattern, colour and tone. It can be finished in its natural porous state, glossed/high glossed options or in a honed smooth finish. Natural stone tiles will need to be sealed to protect them from staining. Due to natural stones having unique properties it is advised to visit the showroom of your chosen supplier and visually pick out your stone tile personally.
An understanding of tiling terminology will assist your decision making. Below is a brief of the common tile key words:
• Glazed or unglazed – The difference between glazed and unglazed is the finish of the tile. Glazed finishes come in a range of patterns, colour, size, thickness and design whereas unglazed generally are left in its natural state and are uniformed in their finish and thickness.
• Pressed or extruded – Extruded tiles begin as raw materials in the form of a paste, passed through a tube forming a strip of clay then cut into tiles. Pressed tiles also begin as paste but placed into a high pressure pressing machine and cut into size.
• Vitrified or porous – Vitrified tiles are one of the best options for wet areas as they have less than 1% water absorption. This is due to its manufacturing of the clay into a ‘glass like’ finish. Porous tiles on the other hand, can be measured by the degree of water absorption. This is summarised into percentages. Generally, the higher the degree rating of water absorption (also referred to as impact resistance) the less resistant to water absorption, chipping, staining and chemical exposure the tile (porous elements). The lower the degree, the more resistant is the tile (vitrified) to these elements. Keep in mind that highly vitrified tiles are more difficult to cut due to their strength and will require a diamond cutter and special adhesives to lay correctly.
• Degree of abrasion resistance, slip resistance, scratch hardness – Respectively, these terms relate to the degree the tile can take wear of foot traffic, the degree of “slipperiness” of the tile underfoot and if the tile can withstand scratching i.e. dragging of chairs along the surface. As a rule, the higher the number rating of the tile, the higher its resistance in each of these categories.
Knowing how a tile is made is invaluable to understanding the type of tile best suited for your home. Furthermore, how it’s finished will affect whether or not your chosen tile meets appropriate measures for its given purpose.