At Tiles of Italy, we sell pretty much every kind of tile you can imagine. The following list is a useful introduction to the main types of tiles that we stock, but be sure to check out Tiles on our Blog for the latest news and info on all kinds of tiles. Our DIY Guide and Tile Doctor are also indispensable dispensers of information when it comes to choosing tiles.
Ceramic tiles are made of clay that is baked (known as firing) in a kiln. The wet clay, usually quarried, is extruded into shape before firing. Ceramic tiles are always glazed as they are fired at a lower temperature than porcelain.
They can be either monocottura (single fired), where the glaze is applied before the initial firing; or bicottura (double firing), where the tile biscuit is fired, and possibly decorated, before the glaze is applied for a second firing.
Finger and Pencil Tiles
Finger and pencil tiles are decorative tiles similar to mosaics, the main difference being that pencil and finger tiles are long and thin as their names suggest. These can be used in the same way as mosaic tiles, or individually to create a thin strip.
Glass is a popular material for decorative tiles. Many small mosaics are made from glass for its reflective properties, but larger formatglass tiles are often used for splashbacks and feature walls.
Many tiles, such as ceramic and some porcelain tiles, have a glazed surface. The glaze is a layer of glass that protects the tile biscuit and makes it more slip resistant. The glaze is added to the tile biscuit by firing in a kiln at temperatures greater than 1000 degrees Celcius. Glaze is available in glossy, matt, and textured finishes.
Listello (or border) tiles are long, narrow decorative tiles mostly used to create a border around a room.
Metal tiles can either be made entirely of metal, or be made of a different material (such as a ceramic tile) that has a metal plating. Being a less common choice, metal tiles are bound to stand out and have visual impact: but beware that they may wear over time.
Mosaic tiles are one of the most popular choices for decorative tiles or a feature. Small tiles, often square, are laid together to create a larger effect. This is usually either a picture or a block colour for a high visual impact.
The surface of unglazed tiles (like that of porcelain tiles) can be polished and honed. While it is common, and quite popular, to polish tiles to a high shine (such as polished porcelain); tiles can also have a semi-polished finish.
Honed tiles are semi-polished, meaning that they are less shiny than fully polished tiles, but are also less slippery and less likely to show dirt. Honed tiles are a popular choice for commercial and high traffic installations.
Lappato is also a light polish finish.
Porcelain tiles are also known as ‘vitrified’ tiles, and are a high quality tile that is extremely strong and virtually nonporous. This makes them almost impervious to liquid.
Being strong and nonporous, porcelain is usually unglazed and can have a polished, natural, or textured finish; but is also available with a glaze which can have a gloss, matt, or textured finish.
Polished porcelain is one the most popular choices for floors, and often walls. We recommend anyone thinking of polished porcelain read through our Everything You Need to Know About Porcelain brochure.
Printing on Tiles
Some tiles are printed. This can either be done using traditional methods during the firing process (these tiles tend to be handmade), or by using modern digital printers. Digitally printed tiles are generally extremely high-resolution, resulting in a realistic print. The realism of our Better Than range is achieved through this kind of printing.
Rectified literally means corrected and refined, and rectified tiles are those that have been cut after firing (baking) to ensure their size and shape is perfect.
Tiles that have been rectified can be laid closer together with smaller grout joints, giving them a sleeker and more modern look. Rectifying tiles also removes any rounded or ‘cushion’ edges that may be on the tiles, further enhancing their contemporary look.
Normally, tiles are scored in preparation for cutting, but it can also be done in a way that doesn’t weaken the tile to create a special look. Scores, or straight grooves, in a tiles surface can create breaks and joins in the tile that are smaller and much cleaner looking than grout joints.
Tiles that are more porous, including those made from natural stones, often need to be coated with a protective sealer to prevent liquid from being absorbed into the tile biscuit. Some tiles requiring sealing will be presealed, but some will not. Always check with your tile retailer when buying unglazed tiles or natural materials.
Stones and Natural Materials
Natural materials like stone, slate, marble, sandstone, granite, and travertine are still popular choices for tiles; but some care needs to be taken selecting them. With the exception of granite, these are all porous and can easily be stained. Stone tiles can be sealed, but you may not get the same level of protection as glaze on a ceramic tile.
A tile is ‘structured’ if it has any kind of three-dimensional effect or structure on its surface. This could include waves, dimples or pimples, or any other 3-D shapes.
Terracotta, or cotto, is a type of ceramic tile popular in outdoor areas or where a rustic effect is wanted. When using terracotta for a wet area (especially a salt water pool), be sure to select a high quality low-porosity tile.
To have enough grip, and to be slip resistant enough for outdoor and wet areas (like around pools), some tiles need to have a ‘rougher’ textured surface.
Tile trims are used where a row of tiles finishes or where a tiled area meets another surface. The main kinds of trim tiles we sell are bullnose, capping (which features a small ledge or rail), and cove (usually used where walls and floors meet).
Tiles for Stairs
There are also special tiles for use on stairs and around pools. These allow you to continue you tiled look throughout your home or space while adding an extra bit of slip resistance where it is needed most, such as on stairs.
It sounds like this term would be misleading, but it actually isn’t. Tumbled tiles are literally ‘tumbled’ in a large drum (a bit like a clothes dryer) to wear down the face and edges of the tile, chip its corners and edges a little, and give it a rough aged look. Tumbled tiles retain all their strength, and are still just as strong and durable as any other tile.
When selecting ceramic tiles, you need to consider the job they are intended for to ensure they are suitable. Most tiles are rated – 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 for the following uses:
Floor coverings in areas that are walked on essentially with soft soled footwear or bare feet without scratching dirt (eg., domestic bathrooms and bedrooms without direct access from the outside).
Floor coverings in areas that are walked on with soft soled or normal footwear with, at the most, occasional small amount of scratching dirt (eg., rooms in the living areas of homes, but the exception of kitchens, entrance ways and other rooms which may have a lot of traffic).
Floor coverings in areas that are walked on quite often with normal footwear and small amounts of scratching dirt (eg., halls, kitchens, corridors, balconies, lobbies and terraces).
Floor coverings in areas that are subjected to considerable traffic with some scratching dirt so that the conditions are the most severe for which glazed floor tiles are suitable (eg., entrances, work rooms, restaurants and exhibition and sales rooms as well as other rooms in public and private buildings not mentioned in Classes 1, 2, 3).
The maximum resistance achieved for glazed tiles against footwear traffic and resistant to staining agents. Specifically designed for heavy traffic commercial applications and locations.
Notes for laying:
• Always check tiles for shade variation (tonality) before commencing to lay them.
• After checking the shade (tonality) on site, it is highly recommended to mix boxes as laying the tiles proceeds.
• It is the responsibility of the tiler not to lay tiles that are of suspect colour or shade.
• Never commence tiling an area until it has been confirmed that a sufficient quantity is on site to complete that area.
• Always leave some spare tiles on site. If there is a minor repair to be done, those spares will match to existing tiles.