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How do porcelain tiles differ from other types of ceramic tiles?

Porcelain tiles are prepared from a clay mixture that provides a very dense body tile. It is considered to be impervious which means its absorption is less than 0.5% of moisture. However, each porcelain tile is made differently and therefore there will naturally be higher quality porcelains and lower quality porcelains.

Porcelain tiles can be found in red or white bodied form. The white bodied from is more prevalent. The quality of red or brown body tiles varies immensely. Most Spanish red body tiles are very dense and considered vitreous (glass like) and therefore their absorption of moisture is less than 3%, which ensures that they are frost proof and chip resistant. Some red body tiles absorb high quantities of moisture. These tiles come in either glazed or unglazed surfaces. The glaze is a glass like material that gives it an impervious surface. This ensures that the tiles are more stain resistant and can be maintained easily, but it also makes them more susceptible to slipping, chipping, and wear and tear. However, the tiles’ hardiness will vary with the glaze that has been used.

Unglazed tiles are consistent in colour so chips are less noticeable. If the glaze colour is in contrast to the tile the tile body chips will be easily visible. Unglazed tiles, even the impervious porcelains, are more susceptible to staining due to micro-pores that can trap stains. A hybrid tile that incorporates both glazed and unglazed finishes has been created to minimize the problem of wear and tear. Porcelain tiles can also be polished like stone.

In terms of functionality, porcelain or any vitreous tiles will work just as well for most residential applications and many commercial applications. Remember that the more slip resistance a tile is the more maintenance it requires.

White body talc wall tile is very absorbing and considered non-vitreous, which means their absorption rate will be greater than 7% but should be no more than 20%. This type of tile only comes with a glazed impervious surface and should only be used for wall applications and countertop applications.



Does bleach attack porcelain tiles?

Bleach is a diluted solution of sodium hypochlorite. It has an alkaline pH which does not attack the surface of porcelain or glazed tiles.



Can ceramic tiles be laid over wood?

Although it is possible to fix tiles to exterior grade plywood, and ceramic tiles are installed over wood occasionally, laying tiles directly on wood is not recommended. Tiles are never installed over plywood on an exterior application or in any area which gets wet frequently as the wood expands and warps when it gets wet causing tiles to fracture.

Concrete is the best surface to bond ceramic tile or stone. The best method of concrete bonding is to use the mortar bed method but if this can’t be done then install the tiles over a cement backer board. If there is no other choice tiles can be bonded to wood but it is imperative that it is done correctly. When installing on wood make sure the deflection of the floor is no more than L/360 for ceramic tiles. Two layers of 5/8" plywood is recommended on joints spaced at 16" on centre. You can use a modified epoxy to bond the tile to the wood or a latex or polymer modified thin-set.



Can ceramic tiles be laid over wood?

Ceramic tiles normally do have a colour variation. Some ceramic tiles have intentional colour variations while others are monochromatic. Prior to selection look through many tiles to obtain an accurate representation of the full colour range. Ceramic tiles vary with each manufacturing run as well as within the same run. Manufacturers who wish to offer a limited range of colour will sort the manufacturing runs out in shade lots. DO NOT mix different shades unless you wish to do so intentionally and if you do so mix them randomly.

Be aware that tile size also varies with each batch and that it can be almost impossible to match an existing tile. The natural raw material used to make ceramic tiles changes as the location of the source in the quarry changes, causing the end product to change to some degree



What is an acceptable variance in colour for a ceramic tile?

Ceramic tiles normally do have a colour variation. Some ceramic tiles have intentional colour variations while others are monochromatic. Prior to selection look through many tiles to obtain an accurate representation of the full colour range. Ceramic tiles vary with each manufacturing run as well as within the same run. Manufacturers who wish to offer a limited range of colour will sort the manufacturing runs out in shade lots. DO NOT mix different shades unless you wish to do so intentionally and if you do so mix them randomly.

Be aware that tile size also varies with each batch and that it can be almost impossible to match an existing tile. The natural raw material used to make ceramic tiles changes as the location of the source in the quarry changes, causing the end product to change to some degree



How do I calculate the correct quantities of tiles to order for the area to be tiled?

When calculating the quantum of tiles you require find out the area of the surface that is to be tiled. Also establish the tiling technique and pattern such as closed joints (where the edges of the tiles touch), joints from 1/16 to 1/8 between tiles, continuous or non-continuous joints, parallel or diagonal arrangements and so on.

Also remember that even a delivery of top quality tiles may contain some defective tiles. Tiles must also be cut or drilled so that a certain number will be discarded. The number that is discarded will depend on the tiling surface, especially if there are irregularities, and on the tiling techniques ( e.g. diagonal tiling creates more discarded tiles than parallel tiling). Also buy some extra tiles to save for future repairs.

You should order approximately 10% more tiles than you actually need. The quantity required should be calculated carefully before the order is placed, as tiles sent in a subsequent delivery may not be identical to those of the original delivery.



What are the effects of sudden ambient temperature and humidity changes (as in cold climates) on interior ceramic tiles?

Ceramic tiles are very tolerant to temperature extremes as they are capable of expanding and contracting to some degree. The more absorbent the ceramic tile, the more it will be affected by temperature and humidity changes. Extreme changes in temperature and moisture can cause tiles to crack. However, in general if the tiles have been laid well and have proper movement (expansion joints) they should be able to withstand normal changes in climatic conditions.



How do I choose the right colour for my grout?

As a general rule the colour of the grout should be darker than the colour of the tile. However, there is no “wrong� grout colour but avoid very white grouts such as "Glacier" or "Snow".



What causes scratches, dull areas and other kinds of damage to tiled floors?

Assuming that the tiles were not defective at the time of delivery, the signs of damage (abrasion, stains, scratches) that appear following installation may have arisen during installation. Tapping-in and cleaning of the tiles during laying generally subject the tiled surface to the greatest chemical and mechanical stress. To ascertain the cause of the damage first check if the tile used is suitable for its surroundings. Tile suppliers and fixers must have a perfect knowledge of the technical characteristics of the various types of tiles and the place of installation in order to limit the risk of damage, such as abrasion, following installation. The surface may be further damaged, chemically or mechanically, by workmen walking over it following installation. To eliminate this risk, it is advisable to protect the tiled surface immediately after installation using strips of wood, polythene sheets or a covering of sawdust.



When tiles are marketed, and therefore displayed in showrooms, are they recommended for a specific application or area of use?

Although certain types of decorations appear to suggest certain settings (such as for bathrooms, balconies or kitchen floors) it is not true that tiles are designed and specified (either explicitly or implicitly) for any given application. Most tiles can be used in a variety of different areas with satisfactory results. For the vast majority of tiles, specifying just one application would be not only restrictive but also quite unjustified. On the other hand, it is false to assume that "any tile can be used in any area and for any application�.

Each tile may be properly used only in areas where its technical characteristics are suitable for the relevant conditions of use and chemical, physical and mechanical stresses that the tile may have to endure. Thus, great care must be taken to choose the "right tile in the right place" to correctly match the technical characteristics of tiles with the expected stresses in the area of use.



Which tiles are most suitable and reliable for use in exterior areas? Is it sufficient to choose frost-resistant tiles to be sure that frost damage will not occur in an external floor installation?

The most important characteristic to take into consideration when deciding whether or not a material is suitable for use in exterior areas is frost resistance. Given that frost resistance is a necessary characteristic to prevent frost damage, it is natural to ask whether it is in itself sufficient. The answer is NO. Frost resistance is essential in tile installation, but the use of frost resistant tiles is not the only necessary condition. The installation design is just as important, particularly the slope of the floor which enables water to flow away easily, grout joints (open joint installation), expansion joints and finally the tile installation.



What tools should be used to cut porcelain tiles?

Porcelain tiles are characterized by their very low water absorption. This is a result of the very high compression rate of the tile body during the firing stage or gressification, which provides maximum hardness and resistance to bending. Thus, when cutting porcelain, one should follow these guidelines:

Use an electric cutter equipped with a diamond disk for porcelain tiles that have been previously cold.

In water, use a manual cutter equipped with a suitable screwing wheel.



How do I find an old ceramic tile?

Ceramic tile designs tend not to last long as style trends change. If you are searching for a particular tile, first check with the manufacturer or last known supplier. If it is not available then it is likely that you will have a hard job finding a matching tile. The best option is to find something similar or select a completely different ceramic tile that will accent the tile you are trying to match



Can porcelain tiles be laid on a metal staircase?

Metal substrates are incompatible with conventional cement base adhesives and they tend to have very low dimensional stability. Nevertheless, it is possible to lay porcelain tiles on a metal stair case if the guidelines given below are followed.

Use reactive resin adhesive, such as adhesive of the polyurethane type, which provides high adherence and deformability.

Use small sized tiles.



Are special tiles required for kitchen floors? What characteristics should tiles have if they are to be used on a kitchen floor in a private home?

Of all residential tile applications, the kitchen is the area where tiles are exposed to the highest level of stress. Foodstuffs may contain various aggressive substances such as the acids found in milk, vinegar and lemon juice.

Food, some of which can be very hot, is liable to come into contact with the tiled surfaces. In the kitchen the requirements of cleanliness and hygiene are more important than in other areas of the home and the difficulties deriving from the tough conditions of use described above make it necessary to use particularly aggressive detergents and cleaning systems. This exposes the tiles to further chemical and mechanical stresses. In the kitchen of a normal family, foot traffic between cooker, fridge and sink can amount to several tens of kilometres each year, exposing the floor to a high degree of stress.

Therefore tiles used in the kitchen must be thoroughly appraised, with particular attention to the chemical and mechanical characteristics of surfaces. These tiles should be high stain resistant, chemical resistant and high abrasion resistant. However, it is important to realise that special tiles are not designed, developed and produced specifically for use in kitchens. Instead, normal tiles with superior characteristics which are suitable for use both in kitchens and in other areas subject to the same or lower levels of stress are used.



Can I use any kind of tile for interior floors?

Interior floors certainly do not require characteristics such as frost resistance. Such characteristics are essential considerations for exterior surfaces, so specifying frost resistance for interior tiles (unless inside a cold storage room) would be unjustified.

However it is important to remember that frost resistant tiles need not be applied only to exterior surfaces. Frost resistance is a characteristic related to the composition and structure of ceramic materials, in particular the porous structure. This in turn affects other characteristics such as load resistance and resistance to mechanical stress. A product with a highly compact structure such as a porcelain tile (which has virtually zero porosity) has both a high mechanical resistance and a high frost resistance. High mechanical resistance is required for floors in many interior areas, and this requirement is met by products such as porcelain tiles that also have a high frost resistance.

Also don’t assume that any tile will be appropriate for interior floors. Interior floors may be subjected to extremely varied degrees of mechanical or chemical stress so they may require tiles with different characteristics. A tile with suitable characteristics for the conditions of use on a bedroom floor will not necessarily be able to withstand the stresses that are likely to occur in a kitchen or an entrance hall with direct access to a gravelled outdoor area. Therefore when choosing a tile for an interior floor it is essential that you choose "the right tile for the right place�.

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