/ Ceramic Tile Care and Maintenance

Tile GLossary of Terms


ASTM

American Society for Testing & Materials. Most ceramic tile manufacturers use a rating system based on or supported by this group. Ratings are typically found on the tile sample or in the product catalog. The most common system rates ceramic tile abrasion resistance or its overall durability. Other ratings may include: scratch resistance, moisture absorption, chemical resistance and breaking strength.


Biocuttura Tile

Ceramic tiles are fired in a kiln at temperatures of around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. These tiles are first fired after the green tile dries and then again after glaze is applied. Also call Double Fired.


Bisque

The larger of a tile's two layers. The top layer is called the glaze.


Bullnose

A ceramic floor tile trim that features a single rounded finished edge. Sometimes used as a substitute for a cove base.


Ceramic

A natural product extracted from the earth that is shaped into tiles and then fired in kilns at extremely high temperatures.


CBU

Cement Backer Unit Provides a supportive and water resistant layer between the porous substrate and the mortar and tile applied on top of it.


Classes of Ceramic Tile

 


Class 1: No foot traffic. Suggested for interior wall applications only.

 


Class 2: Light Traffic. Suggested for interior wall applications and residential bathroom flooring only.

 


Class 3: Light to Moderate Traffic. Can be used for residential floor and wall applications, including bathrooms, kitchens, foyers, dining rooms and family rooms.

 


Class 4: Moderate to Heavy Traffic. Recommended for residential, medium commercial and light industrial floor and wall applications, including shopping malls, offices, restaurants and showrooms.

 


Class 5: Heavy/Extra heavy Traffic. Can be installed anywhere. Will hold up in floor and wall applications at airports, supermarkets and subways.

 


COF Coefficient of Friction
The higher the COF, the more slip resistant the tile is. Important when selecting a ceramic tile for wet areas, such as a shower or bathroom floor. Other ratings listed by the manufacturer might include scratch resistance, moisture absorption, chemical resistance and breaking strength.

 


Extrusion

A process in which clay material is forced through a mold for the desired shape versus pressing the tile.


Field Tile

In a pattern, the tile that is most prominent across the largest area.


Firing

The fifth step in the process of manufacturing ceramic tile. Tiles are fired in a kiln at temperatures of around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.


Frit

A glass derivative that is applied to ceramic tile as part of a glaze liquid, along with colored dyes, by a high pressure spray or is poured directly onto the tile.


Glazed

Glass-forming minerals and ceramic stains that are applied to the body or bisque of a ceramic tile in a matte, semi-gloss or high-gloss finish. Offers better stain and moisture resistance than unglazed tile, as well as a hard non-porous, impermeable surface after firing.


Glazing

The process of applying a liquid prepared from frit and colored dyes to ceramic tile either by high-pressure spray or direct pouring. The fourth step in the process of manufacturing ceramic tiles.


Green Tiles

Clay pressed or formed into a tile shape. The third step in the process manufacturing of ceramic tile.


Grout

A type of cement used to fill the space between and provide support for ceramic tile. Comes in two types: Portland cement based and epoxy based. Both compounds may have sand added to provide additional strength. Pigment is added to the cement at the job site during the mixing process.


Impervious Tiles

Have less than .5% moisture absorption. Frost proof and can be used in outside or on building facades.


Moisture Absorption

As the weight or the density of a tile increases, it becomes a stronger tile and absorbs less moisture.


Monocuttura Tile

Single fired ceramic tile.


Mosaics

Intricate patterns of ceramic tile, often created with 2"x 2" tiles or smaller.


Nominal Size

A reference to an idealized tile size vs. its actual size, which is typically about 10% smaller due to shrinkage during the firing process.


Non-Vitreous Tiles

Absorb 7% or more moisture.


Porcelain

Tile comprised of 50% feldspar and fired at a much higher temperature than standard ceramic tile, resulting in a much harder and more dense product that is resistant to scratches and can withstand temperature extremes. Also, stain resistant with very low water absorption.


Pressing

The process of forming clay into a tile shape, called green tiles. The third and most common step in the process of manufacturing ceramic tile.


Sanded Grout

Grout with sand added to provide additional strength to the tile joint. Recommended for tile joints 1/8" and larger.


Sanitary Cove Base
A ceramic floor tile trim with a rounded finished top like a bullnose, used to cover up the body of the tile.

 


Semi-Vitreous Tiles
Absorb from 3% to 7% moisture.

 


Shade Variation
Inherent in all fired ceramic products. Certain tiles will show greater variation within their dye lots. Typically listed on the back label of each sample with a low, moderate, high or random rating. Low: Consistent shade and texture; Moderate: Average shade and texture variation; High: Extreme shade and texture variation; Random: Severe shade and texture variation

 


Substrate

The tile foundation, which may include concrete, plywood and/or drywall.


Thickset/Mud Set
A classic method of tile installation in which a thick layer of mortar is applied to a waterproofed and steel reinforced substrate. This provides a strong, flat base onto which the tile can be installed. Effective, but a more labor-intensive process.

 


Thinset
An industry accepted and more efficient method of tile installation in which tile is adhered directly onto a backer board that is nailed to a plywood or concrete substrate using a much thinner layer of mortar.

 


Through Body

Unglazed tiles that are a solid color all the way through and do not have a top layer of glaze.


Tile Density The weight of a tile. As it increases, the amount of moisture that tile can absorb becomes less.

 


Unglazed

Solid color tile without a top layer of glaze, often referred to as through-body construction. Typically more dense and durable than glazed tile, thus more suitable for interior and exterior applications. Have a good slip resistance, but require sealing to help prevent staining. Come in various surface treatments and textures.


Un-sanded Grout

Portland cement based or epoxy based grout without sand as an ingredient. Typically used in joints that are smaller than 1/8th of an inch.


Vitreous Tiles

Absorb less than 3% moisture. Referred to as frost-resistant tiles, but cannot be used in exterior areas where freeze-thaw conditions may cause tile cracking.