Tile Flooring

September 22, 2012

Tiles are durable but may be cold, noisy and tiring underfoot. They can be laid in a variety of patterns including diagonal, herringbone, offset, and tumbleblock, basketweave, although anything other than a standard brick or grid format will cost more to lay. Tiles also come in a vast array of shapes and sizes including rectangular, square, circular, hexagonal, octagonal and in gloss, satin or matt finishes. Different finishes has different slip resistant rating so make sure to make sure that they tile you choose matches the slip-resistance rating of the area to receive it. Tiles of different sizes, different shapes and different colour  can be laid together to achieve pleasing patterns or you can use inset tiles or borders to create interest.

Tip: The size of a tile affects its price with 300x300mm being the most economical floor tile and size to buy and lay.

Ceramic Tiles are the most popular form of tile bought today. They are made from refined clay fired at extremely high temperatures. Less expensive ceramic tiles are normally glazed but fully vitrified (glass–like) tiles, which are heated to the highest temperature (1180°C) are more durable. Fully vitrified tiles are water and frost proof but they may be slippy when wet. Some ceramic tiles come inslip-resistant versions for areas that need extra grip, like shower rooms. Ceramic tiles are extremely resistant to stains although dirt can gather in damaged glaze.

Porcelain Tiles have become very popular in the past few years, particularly the ones that simulate natural stone. Porcelain tiles are made from clay with a high kaolin content fired at the temperatures higher than that used in making ceramic tiles. Porcelain tiles typically emulate stone or terrazzo and their sharp edges give them an austere, formal quality. They are extremely durable and stain resistant and can have a texture, satin or polished finish. They do not require sealing

Tip: Porcelain tiles are very dense making them difficult to cut and so they typically cost more to lay than ceramic tiles.

Terracotta Tiles, also known as pammetts, are made from medium fired (>900°C) clay. If unglazed they are warm to the foot, but if unglazed they will need to be sealed. They can be damaged by frost.

Quarry Tiles are made from unrefined high-silica clay fired at 1180°C. Being fired at such a high heat makes quarry tiles extremely durable and impervious to water, staining and frost damage. This is why they are typically used in high-traffic areas. They can also have a top layer of carborundum added to increase slip resistance. The surface of untreated quarry tiles can become pocketed over time but for some this just adds to the charm of the tile.

Traditionally Encaustic Tiles were made from clay or stoneware fired at 1180°C but modern encaustic tiles are powdered stone and marble mixtures which are then coloured. They are impervious to water and frost damage but they require sealing to prevent staining. Encaustic tiles typically have distinctive patterns that run through the body of the tile.

Mosaics are composed of small cubes (tesserae) of marble, stone, terracotta, stainless steel, unglazed ceramic or smalti of glass. Mosaic floors are naturally non-slip and have become much more affordable thanks to the introduction of premade panels in recent years. Mosaic tiles can be square, rectangular, hexagonal, round or pebble shaped.

Laying tiles
Modern wall tiles are fixed to a wall using a synthetic bonding agent called tile adhesive for dry areas, or a cement-based mortar for areas prone to moisture, such as bath or shower walls.

The spaces between the tiles are typically filled with a fine cement called grout. Grouts typically are cement-based products and are available as sanded or unsanded. Sanded grout is specified for joint sizes of 12.5mm or more, while non-sanded grout is best for joints of less than 12.5mm.  Sand is there to provide additional body to the grout in a large joint to prevent shrinking, sagging and cracking. Latex additives can be mixed in with the grout to reduce absorbency, thereby increasing stain resistance and improving color retention. Some manufacturers also add anti-fungal and mildew-resistance additives. Epoxy grout is an alternative to cement. Made with epoxy resins and a hardener mixed just prior to installation, this waterless grout is extremely stain and mildew resistant and does not require additional sealers. Epoxy grouts can be more difficult to work with, harsh when contacting the skin and harder to clean up. They also are unsuitable for use with glass tile, as they restrict movement to a large degree. 

Grout comes in a range of colors to coordinate with tile designs.  Contrasting grout and tile colors accent a pattern, while matching grout and tile colours give a monolithic appearance and potentially make joints less visible. Grout color selection is also important in terms of its longevity.  A white-colored grout in a high-traffic area is ultimately going to get stained even if cleaned regularly. Therefore it might be best to choose a darker cementitious grout, or an epoxy or urethane grout, that will stay truer to its color over time

Grouts require a specific ratio of wet to dry. Overhydrating will lead to shrinking and cracking as the grout cures and underhydrating causes powdering and reduces the strength of the grout. Before grout is applied joints should be vacuumed to remove sawdust, staples and dirt. The tile joints should be packed, not just filled, with grout.  Grouting should be hard work.  The installer should be forcing it in. If he’s talking on the phone while doing it, he’s not working hard enough.  Properly packing the joints will reduce voids, which can lead to cracking under heavy loads, such as wheeled cart traffic of high-heeled show point loads. Excess grout is scraped off with a hard rubber block called a float immediately after applying, and then the grout is wiped again with a moist sponge before it completely hardens. The sponging provides added moisture to strengthen the grout as it cures. Finally, a cloth is rubbed over the wall tile to remove any haze which may remain from residual grout. After installation, silicone sealers also can be applied to grout to prevent staining.

Tip: The right temperature to apply grout is typically between 10 to 32 degrees celsius. Too hot or cold can lead to problems.

Tip: If the joint size requires sanded grout, pay attention to the possibility of scratching glass or polished stones. 

Tip: A special kind of adhesive has to be used if the tiles are being laid on top of a floor with underfloor heating pipes inside.

Tip: For floors with a bit of flexibility grout should be mixed with a latex-based grout additive instead of water. This makes the grout stronger and more flexible.

Tip:Tiled floors need a level subfloor or they will crack.

The term field tile refers to the main tile used on a floor or wall.

A frieze tile has a border along the top edge.

A decorative tile has a motif in the centre of the tile.

An inset tile sits between larger tiles and typically contrasts with the main tile either by size, shape, texture, colour or in material.

A border tile sits around the edge of the field tile and typically contrasts with the main tile either by size, shape, texture, colour or in material.

Specifying Tiles
When specifying stone remember to indicate the following

  • supplier
  • reference number
  • lead-in time
  • size
  • laying pattern
  • setting out point, i.e. where in the room the tiler is to start laying from
  • grout line width
  • type of grout/adhesive to be used

Tip: Including the manufacturer, range and name of a tile along with its reference code helps to minimise any errors in writing up the reference code.

This post was written by me and edited by Luke at Italian Tiles and Stone, Terenure


One comment

  1. […] Also ….. Technical Information on Tile Flooring […]

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