HISTORY-OF-TILE - Tile and stone by Villagio

Tile History

Part 1: From the beginning of recorded history

The story of ceramics first began in Anatolia, a land which has been home to countless civilizations over the millennia; and where modern Turkey comes into being; in whose fertile soil different cultures have flourished; and which has witnessed the most important turning points in human history.

Part 2: Early uses of clay

Ceramic tile is made from similar clays found in pottery, statues and objects of art and religion. Clay objects have been found in many archaeological discoveries. The earliest pottery was primarily functional in character, in the form of vessels to hold the grain and other foodstuffs, which they produced, but clay was also used to make objects of religious significance. In time people learned to control the firing process better, and so produce ceramics of finer quality.

Invention of the potter’s wheel

While potters experimented with new forms, a new style of decoration consisting of the basic geometric motifs that were to be used for hundreds of years evolved. The discovery of the potter’s wheel in Mesopotamia and its introduction into Anatolia around 3000 BC opened a new era in ceramics production.

Early uses of tile

The use of tiles for wall and floor coverings existed in Egypt as long ago as 4000 BC and by 900 AD decorative tiles had become widely used in Persia, Syria and Turkey. As transport and communication developed, the use and manufacture of tiles spread across Italy and Spain and exports were made into the rest of Europe by the end of the 12th century.

Modern processes

Gradually the industry developed into a modem, highly mechanized process, becoming more concentrated in the Staffordshire Potteries (England) area where the established skills and processes of the traditional potters greatly fostered the development of the present ceramic tile. Tunnel kiln firing cycles were measured in days.

The turn round time of a tile bottle oven was at least ten days. In the latter half of the 19th century the forerunners of the present tile manufacturers began to patent a number of different processes for producing ceramic tiles. By the end of the century it was said that no home, public building, hotel or institution was complete without ceramic tiles.

During World War ll many companies were closed and a very different industry emerged. The market- place in the 50’s and 60’s demanded near- perfect quality, sizing and shading.

Tile manufacturing today

A technology known as “roller hearth” now provides the latest generation of kilns. Tiles are conveyed through the kiln as a single layer on a bed of rotating rollers. Only the tiles need to be heated, there are no kiln cars and no supports. Clean natural gas enables burning to take place immediately adjacent to the ware, both above and below, with very precise temperature control. This precise control, together with powerful hydraulic presses, has made possible the manufacture of a new product: the “homogeneous” or “porcelain” fully vitrified tile. Homogeneous tile is impervious, very strong and suitable for very heavy-duty purposes. Roller hearth single layer technology necessitates much shorter firing cycles to achieve required output. One hour, or less, is now typical. Today’s products are mostly mass-produced, to extremely high standards of design and quality.

Types of Tile - Tile and Stone by Villagio

Types of Tile

Glaze is “liquid glass” that has been sprayed or poured onto the surface of the tile. Extreme heat causes the tile to be fused together and harden. Glazed tile must meet the same criteria as unglazed tiles, with two additional tests: thermal shock and crazing.

Common sizes
1″x 1″, 12″x 12″ and larger.

First quality tiles are manufactured with up to 5% visible facial defects. However, the installer is allowed 0% defects. It’s important for the installer to discard the defective product or use the tile for cuts.

– Standards: Glazed tiles have ANSI standards for determining facial defects, sizing, warping, wedging, etc.
– Function: The following factors may affect the hardness, strength and wear resistance of glazed ceramic tile:
– Temperature: Higher kiln (oven) temperatures typically produce a harder glaze.
– Color: Dark colors (such as blacks or blues) are typically more prone to scratch than lighter colors.
– Gloss levels: Shiny glazes are not usually as abrasive resistant as matte finish glazes.

When specifying or installing glazed floor tile, consider these characteristics
– Slip resistance
– Wear resistance
– Maintenance requirements
– Chemical and stain resistance

Be sure to determine the function, limitations, and suitability of the product. Do not make your selection based solely on color, style or appearance.

Shade Variations - Tile and Stone by Villagio

Shade Variations

1. Environmental variation

Color IS light. The color that you “perceive” consists of both the surface of the tile, and the reflection off the tile of its environment (lighting, furniture, large fixtures, cabinets, wall color or furniture). This is why it is so important for the customer to either see the tile in their environment or for them to understand that their tile will look different than it did in your showroom. If they paint their wall dark blue, their tile will look different. If they have incandescent or natural light, the tile will look different than under those cool blue fluorescents in your showroom.

2. Variation from shade to shade (die-lot)

This is the toughest shade variation to anticipate. This variation is the “die-lot” or “shade” variation is inherent in producing a “unique” product. The best way to handle this type of variation is to keep a range of “acceptable” shades of tile in a bin. As each new shipment is received, the new tile is compared against these “key” tiles. If it is distinctly similar, the tile goes into stock. If new colors have been added or deleted or if the tile is questionable at all – it goes to the sales manager for approval. If the difference is significant – the sales manager should have all showroom samples changed out, including all customer samples on display.

3. Variation from tile to tile

“Ceramic tile bodies and glazes are created from elements of the earth – clay, water, sand, minerals. Just as these materials vary in the natural world, the end result of their combination will also produce variations in the surface color and texture of ceramic tile. These natural color variations and markings enhance the individuality of each tile and result in a sophisticated but understated design sensibility that characterizes each tile and is designed to provide maximum performance and classic good looks.”

Porcelain Revealed - Tile and Stone by Villagio

Porcelain Revealed

There isn’t really any secret as to what a porcelain tile is: it’s a ceramic tile with an absorption rate of .5% or less. Incidentally, a .5% rating is also classified as “impervious”. This means impervious= porcelain, porcelain=impervious, impervious=< .5% absorption. However, all porcelains are not created equal. There are three general categories of porcelain tiles.

Natural porcelain tile
A.k.a. “technical porcelain”, “unglazed porcelain”, “unpolished porcelain”, or “through-body porcelain”. Natural porcelain is, as the name implies, porcelain that has not been glazed nor polished. These tiles are made of porcelain through and through. They can have surface treatments (soluble salts), have a different face and body (double loaded), or the face of the tile simply be a different color or texture than the body of the tile, yet it’s still classified as through-body “natural” porcelain. Most natural porcelain tiles have absorption ratings of less than .1%. Keep in mind that absorption has nothing to do with the facial surface being stain resistant. Unless the tile manufacturer has treated the porcelain to close up the surface (micro) porosity, you’ll need to seal natural porcelain tile before grouting.

Polished porcelain tile
Polished porcelains are natural porcelains with a polished surface. The polished surface isn’t a glaze, but actually comes from within the stone and it’s polished in a fashion similar to granite. It’s important to note that the polishing process on a porcelain tile actually opens up the pores of the tile. This means polished porcelain tiles must have a penetrating or impregnating sealer applied before grouting in order to increase resistance against staining and make them easier to keep clean.

Glazed porcelain tile
Many glazed porcelains are right at .5% absorption. However, if the bisque (clay body) of the tile is used as part of the visual design on the face of the tile the absorption should be under .1%. Glazed porcelains can be partially glazed, they can use glaze elements used in the manufacturing process or they can be completely glazed. There are even some glazes that can be polished!

Any type of porcelain tile has the following benefits when used residentially:

Design capabilities
When the manufacturer allows the bisque to show through the face of the tile, they can get a deeper, more realistic dimensions than ever before. To be honest, I would challenge any industry “expert” to correctly identify some porcelain tiles when compared to their natural stone counterparts once they’ve been properly installed.

Chip resistance
Through-body color porcelain tiles offer chip resistance in two ways. First, porcelain tiles have high mechanical strength and are extremely chip resistant. Second, if a through-body color porcelain tile does chip, the chip is the same color as the tile, so it doesn’t have to be replaced (unless the homeowner insists.)

Stain resistance
In the case of manufacturers who use glazes or use a process to close up the micro-porosity, the finished product will be extremely stain resistant, especially when compared to their natural stone counterparts.

Moisture resistance
If a tile has greater than .5% absorption it ISN’T porcelain. This means that all true porcelains are very dense and are ideally suited for use in high moisture settings. Whether you’re concerned about tile able to withstand freeze-thaw cycles or for use in swimming pools and spas, porcelain tile is a great choice.

Wear resistant
Natural porcelain is simply the hardest, most durable surface for high foot traffic installations. In floor areas in malls, grocery stores or banks, you just can’t beat the durability and beauty of natural porcelain.

Chemical resistant
All porcelain tiles are going to be much more resistant against citric acid, wine, mustard and other household chemicals than virtually any type of natural stone, including granite. This makes porcelain an ideal choice for kitchen counters and floors.

You can buy porcelain for less than natural stone; however, there are many porcelain tiles that will cost more than natural stone. However, keep in mind, that most porcelain tiles are technically superior overall to granite (the hardest of all natural stones) and many are virtually identical in appearance to natural stone.

Over the past 25 years porcelain tiles have a well-earned reputation as having the highest overall durability of all ceramic tiles or natural stones. The more you understand the features of this outstanding product, the more you can relay the benefits of owning porcelain to your customers.

Natural Stone vs. Ceramic Tile

Natural Characteristics
Understand that many natural stones may contain small naturally-occurring cracks (fissures), granite countertops may have some pitting and each stone has it’s own unique characteristics. Cracking and pitting are common complaints heard from consumers who were unaware of these characteristics when they selected natural stone. A common saying in the stone business: “If you want consistency and uniformity, then select porcelain tile”.

Installation Materials
The most common way to install ceramic (or porcelain) tiles is using the thin-set method with a 3/16″ or greater grout joint. Stones are commonly installed using a medium-bed or mud-bed installation with a grout joint 1/16″-3/16″. A thicker setting bed allows the installer to level the product and create a more level installation.

Installation Costs
Natural stone tiles and slabs are generally more expensive to install. This cost is primarily due to the overall difficulty of the installation combined with a tighter grout joint and buyers higher expectation of a flat floor.

If you own a large quantity of stone flooring, you will want to have it deep-cleaned on occasion. Also, most stones require a grout release before installation and a penetrating sealer after installation. A penetrating (or impregnating) sealer needs to be re-applied periodically per manufacturers instructions. Go to manufacturers websites for detailed maintenance instructions (i.e. crossville-ceramics.com, aquamix.com, miraclesealants.com, stonetechpro.com, etc.)

Vapor transmission
All stones breathe. This means they breathe up moisture from the slab and setting materials and they tend to breathe in moisture from external sources as well. This means all stones should be sealed using a penetrating sealer that allows vapor transmission, but inhibits staining. Vapor transmission also means that if you’re using a light stone over a large area, you may want to check the moisture in the slab (hydrostatic pressure) before installation begins. Keep in mind that as moisture passed from the slab to the stone, it’s possible to discolor some lighter stones from within the stone itself.

Frost resistance
Some slates are very frost resistant, which is why slate roofing is used in cold regions. However, other slates are simply not as condensed and will explode like a soda can in a freezer. Most stones are not suitable for outdoor installation in freeze-thaw conditions. Ceramic tiles with an absorption rating of over 3% are not generally suited for outdoor use as well. All porcelains (.5% absorption) have low absorption to be used outdoors, but the COF (Coefficient of Friction) must be suitable as well.

Wear resistance
Granites are the hardest of all natural stones, and there are some stone types that approach the hardness of granite. All polished stones scratch dull, yet some honed stones may be more difficult to clean than polished. A natural (through-body) porcelain tile can be up to 30% harder than granite.

Acid and Stain Resistance
Granites typically have superior resistance against staining. However, many common household products will stain or etch stone, yet most will have little or no effect on ceramic tile. For instance, an ice cold glass of water can etch ring on White Carrara marble. Vinegar, ketchup, mustard, fruit juice or wine will etch many stones. Again, look at sealant manufacturers websites for info on how to minimize (not eliminate) staining and etching.