All About Tile - TYPES OF TILE

ANSI A137.1 (the industry-recognized resource when it comes to tile) defines tile as: “A ceramic surfacing unit, usually relatively thin in relation to facial area, having either a glazed or unglazed face and fired above red heat in the course of manufacture to a temperature sufficiently high to produce specific properties and characteristics.” 

The specific “properties and characteristics” that sets porcelain tile apart from other types of tile (ceramic tile and wall tile) include:

1)     Very low water absorption rate of < 0.50% makes it frost resistant

2)     High firing temperatures (2200° F as opposed to 2050° F for ceramic tile) and higher psi during pressing makes it compact and dense

3)     Highly refined, purified clays make it durable and an ideal palette for broadly ranging surface designs

The combination of these elements make porcelain tile an outstanding choice for residential and commercial applications, walls and floors, interior and exterior – there’s a porcelain product suitable for every installation.

Both products are porcelain that must meet the ANSI A137.1 requirement of < 0.50% water absorption and possess the density and durability associated with porcelain products.

Through body porcelain (sometimes referred to as unglazed porcelain) tiles are produced using colored raw materials that permeate the entire tile, incorporating uninterrupted color and pattern features seen on the surface all the way through the tile body.  The surface design is evident in a cross-section of the tile body, providing outstanding abrasion resistance and durability.

Color body porcelain tiles are created with continuous colored stains from the glaze surface throughout the body of the tile.  Synchronizing the color of both the glaze and body lessens the visibility of any impact chips which may occur.  The color remains consistent throughout the tile, but any surface design does not continue through the tile body.

Generally speaking, any tile designated by the manufacturer as floor tile can be installed on vertical surfaces and countertops.  The durability required for floors is necessarily greater than for walls (which receive no foot traffic), so floor tile with Abrasion Resistance values from I – V is sufficiently durable for a typical wall installation.  Exterior wall applications must use tile that is Frost Resistant.  (See What Tile Should I Use Outdoors? FAQ) 

The reverse is not true, however.  Wall tile (identified by Abrasion Resistance 0) is not suitable for use on floors.  It is usually non-vitreous, i.e. not manufactured to withstand excessive impact, abrasion or freeze/thaw cycling. 

One caveat when considering floor tile for wall or countertop installation is the abrasiveness of the tile.  A highly abrasive product would be more difficult to clean on a wall or countertop since commercial floor scrubbers could not realistically be used for maintenance. Otherwise, continuing the chosen floor tile on walls adds great cohesion to an installation and continuity of design flow.

A tile that has been “rectified” has had all its edges mechanically finished in order to achieve a more precise facial dimension.  The process involves cutting or grinding a tile to a specific size. 

Both large format tiles and narrower grout joints have recently gained in popularity.  A rectified tile is a great candidate for use in these circumstances; however, several installation guidelines must be followed to assure a pleasing result on tile larger than 15”:

  • As the size of the tile increases, the flatness of the substrate becomes even more critical.
  • Setting materials specifically designed to support large sizes must be used.
  • Running bond or brick joint patterns (square or rectangular) require a maximum offset of 33%; do not align on-center; always check lippage at T-joints before installing.
  • Grout joint widths must be at least 1/8” for rectified tile.
  • Use a contractor experienced in installing large-sized tile.

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