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What are “rectified” tiles?
All natural tiles vary slightly between production runs. Sizes change between “batches” and this means that mixing & matching different production batches is seldom possible. “Rectified” tiles are deliberately made over-size, and are then cut on a diamond saw at the factory to a common caliber. The square, saw-cut edges allow for finer (narrower) grout joints between tiles and result in a beautiful and contemporary finished look. Rectified calibration also means that rectified tiles will still work together when modular sizes are mixed. Rectified products have increased in popularity over recent times. Note that rectified tiles need to be installed on a good surface (square & level), and your tile setter should be experienced with the requirements for laying this kind of product.

What is the difference between ceramic & porcelain tiles?
Ceramic tiles have been around for over 2000 years. They typically have a white or red clay “biscuit” with some form of glaze on top. Porcelain tile cost more than ordinary ceramic tile because you are getting a superior product. Porcelain tile requires the finest natural ingredients and a rigidly controlled manufacturing process that utilizes the most advanced processes and technology. Porcelain tiles are made from an extremely finely-powdered “clay” tablet that is pressed under enormous pressure and heat – several hundred degrees hotter than ceramics. Porcelain tiles are much harder and more dense than ceramic tiles. This allows porcelain tiles to be made in very large formats that would be impossible to achieve in a ceramic tile. Porcelain tiles will also often have a colored “biscuit” that matches the surface glaze, or have a color and pattern that extends all the way through the tile. This avoids the common problem with ceramics where the glaze gets chipped and exposes the ugly clay biscuit underneath.

What is the difference between glazed and unglazed tiles?
Glazed tiles are made the same as unglazed except that a glass wear layer called a glaze is fused to its’ surface by means of tremendous heat. The glaze provides an unlimited array of colors and designs. The glaze also protects the tile from staining. Unglazed tiles are true inlays. Unglazed tiles are very similar to glazed tile, except that their surface is not coated. Unglazed ceramic tiles do not show wear because their color extends throughout the tile, making them ideal for commercial applications.

What is the difference between wall and floor tiles?
Wall tiles (because they are not intended to be load bearing) are typically thinner, lighter and softer than floor tiles. Wall tile glazes are not designed to handle the abrasive forces from foot traffic. Increasingly, floor tiles are being applied to walls and this is no problem so long as the walls are strong enough to support their weight and proper ceramic tile installation methods are used. However, it is not usual to recommend using wall tiles in floor applications.

What is the difference between interior & exterior tiles?
Don’t limit yourself to thinking that tile can just be used indoors. It is an ideal patio covering and for decorative front-porch stoops. You can permanently adhere tile to pre-cast concrete walking pads to create stunning garden stepping stones. But if you decide to use ceramic tile outdoors, be sure these tiles meet slip-resistance minimum requirements. Exterior tiles have a surface texture that helps make them slip resistant. Top-quality tile manufacturers make special outdoor tile that has a slightly gritty surface, even though the tile is glazed. The invisible grit provides superb traction when tiles become wet. To be used outdoors,the tile must be frost proof and unglazed for floor use. Make sure the absorption rate is 0.5% or less. We recommends that slip-resistant tiles be used outside in areas exposed to weather and rain, or around swimming pools etc. Exterior tiles are usually graded to indicate their particular slip-resistance. Note that there is always a trade-off between slip resistance and maintenance and cleaning. Slip-resistant tiles will accumulate more dirt and will naturally require more regular attention.

Do ceramic & porcelain tiles vary in quality?
Tile manufacturers grade their products as they come out of the factory. Defective products are clearly labeled “2nd Quality” by Italian manufacturers and are sold at a lesser price. The ASTM standard C-1027 describes test method for determining visible abrasion resistance of glazed ceramic tile. Classification for durability is based upon both the results of this test. All unglazed tile should meet Class IV+ standards when installed in either commercial or residential installations.

  • Class 0: Generally not recommended for use on floors
  • Class 1: Light traffic, for residential bathroom floors
  • Class II: Medium-Light Traffic, residential interiors with the exceptions of kitchens, stairs, landings and areas near external entries.
  • Class III: Medium-Heavy Traffic, all residential applications. Commercial applications which are similar in traffic to residential applications. Specifically excepted are areas of prevalent circulation or turning points.
  • Class IV: Heavy Traffic, all residential and most commercial applications such as the public areas of exhibition halls, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, shops and schools.
  • Class IV+: Extra Heavy Traffic, all residential and commercial applications similar to Class IV where extra durability may be required.

How many tiles do I need?
Tiles are usually sold by the square feet, so the area to be tiled needs to be carefully measured to establish how many square feet are involved. This can be done by your architect, builder or preferably your tile setter. Note that there is always a degree of “wastage” resulting from the cuts required to achieve your tile layout. The contingency allowance for wastage is best estimated by your tile setter, but is typically between +5% and +15%, depending on the tiles being used and the complexity of the particular design and layout. Also, consider that it is always wise to keep several spare tiles just in case replacements are required at a later date.

What type of tile can be used around my fireplace?
Any tile can be used on the face of a fireplace. Putting the tile directly in the firebox is not recommended, but high-fired ceramic tile is often used directly on top of and surrounding the firebox. For instance, the Wittus wood stove is fully ceramic clad with a choice of high-fired ceramic tile in a choice of 19 colors.

Can I use high gloss tile on my kitchen counter tops?
It is not recommended. Structurally it will work, but the high gloss will eventually show scratching.

If I drop something, is it going to crack the ceramic tile?
It depends. With proper installation, ceramic tile is very durable. If you drop a glass or dish, the glass or dish will most likely break, while the tile may chip or crack.

How can I drill a hole through ceramic tile?
Use a carbide-tipped masonry bit or diamond drill bit; Regular twist-drill bits can’t cut through the fire-hardened glaze.

I’d like to install ceramic tile in my home, but won’t it be cold?
Not necessarily. Porcelain tile is no different in temperature than anything else in the room except that it holds its temperature better because of its mass. Of course, cool is good in warm weather climates and it’s easy to warm things up with an area rug or two.

What’s your opinion about sealing grout. Should it be done?
Not necessarily. There are a lot of contractors who will tell you yes, and still others who will tell you no. The reason for sealer is to make cleaning and maintenance easier. There has been a trend in recent years to use light colored grouts in the main floors of the home in order to match lighter colored tiles, and a sealer is used to prevent “wear paths”– darkening of the grout joints in areas of main traffic in the home. Unfortunately, in my experience, sealers will not prevent this. They’ll only delay the inevitable. You’re much better off to use either a medium or darker colored grout. As for using sealer in the bathroom, sealer will help, but again, over time, grout will discolor somewhat, or “age”, and cleaners will be, for the most part, just as effective, with or without sealer.

Nothing is going to help keep grout looking fresher then choosing a medium colored grout that hides the inevitable dirt that will end up on a grouted floor. In showers and tubs areas, you usually have the opposite effect with lighter colored soap scum and hard water.

What should I know about kitchen and bathroom floor installations?
When you’re thinking of tiling your kitchen or bathroom floor, take into consideration the disruption in your daily life. Some preparation can be done well in advance of the tiling project. You will have to remove cabinets and doors if a new sub flooring will be applied. For the kitchen floor project, set aside a long weekend so the kitchen can be back in operation as quickly as possible. How long does it take?

Tiling the average Kitchen floor takes usually 3 to 4 days and involves the following:

If you want to install kitchen floor tile where it will be covered by cabinet bases or other permanent fixtures.

  • Remove Cabinets If Needed.
    • In some cases cabinets must be removed to take out the old flooring or to replace the sub floor.
  • Consider The Appliances
    • Free standing appliances, such as dishwashers, ranges and refrigerators should be removed from the kitchen to install tile underneath the appliance location.
  • Drawing Layouts
    • Good layouts start with accurate measurements and detailed scale drawings. Use these drawings to experiment with potential layouts until you’re satisfied. Try to:
      • Center the tile within the room and keep the final tiles at opposite side equal in size.
      • Minimize the number of cuts required.
      • Disguise disparities in rooms that are not square.
      • Laying out borders, diagonal sets, or running bonds in that stage are also important.
  • Tiling the floor
    • If you are working with a complex layout tiling around a series of obstacles, or setting tiles on the diagonal. You may find out that you need to shift the layout slightly to keep from cutting very small tile for edges or corners.

What exactly is a tile setter?
Tile-setters install the tile floors and walls that we use in bathrooms, kitchens, hallways or patios, or that we see in hospitals, swimming pools, or in other places where it is useful to have a durable, water-resistant, easy-to-clean surface. They work with ceramic tile, or with other materials, like porcelain, slate, granite, limestone, glass and marble. Whether it’s palatial estates featured in Architectural Digest or the Capital building, the work of tile setters is all around us.

Tile-setting is not just a trade, but a craft. Many people in the business take great pride in what they do. Getting a job right takes skill, and professionals and laymen alike, can instantly recognize perfection or sloppy work when they see it.

Tile-setters use cement or “mastic”, a very sticky paste, to install tile, first nailing a support of metal mesh to the floor, wall or ceiling to be tiled. They then use a trowel to apply a cement mortar called a “scratch coat” onto the metal screen. After this dries, they apply another coat of mortar to level the surface and then apply mortar to the back to the tile and place it onto the surface. They separate tile evenly with plastic joints, and line them up with a straight edge before tapping them into place. After this cement dries, tile setters fill the spaces between tiles with a fine cement called grout.

The hardest part of the job is getting tiles into uneven, small corners. In order to do this properly, tile-setters cut and shape tiles so they fit around corners, cabinets, sinks, and windows. This calls for patience, good measuring skills, and some physical stamina.

Because tiles vary in color, shape, and size, tile-setters need an eye for design rather than just simple technical know-how. Many create intricate and very beautiful mosaic designs in the course of their work and they must be able to visualize patterns and be able to center a design so it meets properly at points like doorways. This calls for a good eye for symmetry and is definitely a tricky business. That explains why most people call in professionals to do such work rather than opting to do it themselves.

How Tile Setters Spend Their Time:

  • Measuring and marking surfaces to be tiled
  • Using tile-cutters and biters to cut and shape tile
  • Spreading first layer of concrete or mastic over surface
  • Cutting wire mesh to required size and tacking to surface
  • Applying a cement onto the mesh and leveling to the right thickness
  • Applying another layer of mastic or other adhesive base on surface to form base for tile
  • Applying cement adhesive to the back of the tile and positioning tile
  • Tapping with trowel handle to attach tile to adhesive base
  • Filling in spaces between tiles with grout
  • Applying a sealer