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Tile Terminology (A glossary of tiling & tiling terms)

We know some of the language used in the tiling world can be confusing so here we explain some of the popular terms that are used.

Glossary of tiling terms

Abrasion resistance
The ability of a surface to resist being worn down by rubbing and friction.

Accelerator
A substance which, when added to adhesive or grout will shorten the setting time. It may also increase the rate of hardening.

Acrylic
A class of resinous polymers derived from esters, amides or other acrylic acid derivatives.

Admixture
A term often used as a synonym for addition or admixture.

Aggregate
Granular material, such as sand, gravel, crushed stone. Used with a cementing medium to form a cement, concrete or mortar.

Alkali
The opposite of acid. A chemical substance which neutralizes acid material to form neutral salts. Examples are ammonia and caustic soda.

Backing
Any material used as a base over which a finished material is to be fitted.

Bullnose
A trim tile with a rounded edge. This tile can be used for finishing the top of tiles or on an external corner.

Ceramic tiles
Ceramic tiles consist of a glazed finish on the surface and a clay 'biscuit' back. They are made from clay and fired at high temperatures in kilns. A wide range of colours, sizes and finishes are available. Ceramic tiles are easier to cut and install than porcelain and natural stone tiles. Due to the way they are made ceramic tiles may vary in tone or size.

Curing
Curing is a process during which a chemical reaction (such as polymerization) or physical action (such as evaporation) takes place. This results in a harder, tougher or more stable linkage (such as an adhesive bond) or substance (such as concrete).

Curing Time
Time taken for the process of curing to take place. The time taken may vary depending on the thickness of the product or environment it is being used in.

Cushion edge tiles
Tile on which the edges have a distinct curve that results in a slightly recessed joint.

Decorative Tile
A tile with a decorative feature on the surface.

Distressed Edge
A marred or faded bordered stone conveying an antique or used look.

Efflorescence
The residue deposited on the surface of a material by the crystallization of soluble salts.

Encaustic
Tiles that are decorated with coloured clay inlays and then fired. Can also be used to describe tiles laid on a wall or floor that create a pattern.

Epoxy Grout
A two part grout that consists of an epoxy resin and an epoxy hardener. This type of grout is designed to be waterproof and be stain and chemical resistant. The grout hardens through a chemical reaction between the resin and the hardener.

Expansion Joint
A joint through tile and adhesive to allow for any expansion the tiles may undergo.

Extruded Tile
A tile or tile that is formed by forcing plastic or clay through a die which is specially designed to produce the extrusion. This results in a continuous ribbon of formed clay or plastic. A wire cutter or similar is then used to trim the ribbon to the correct length or width.

Field Tile
An area of tile covering a wall or floor.

Filled
An expression used to indicate the filling of natural voids in stone tiles with cements or synthetic resins or similar materials.

Fire, bisque
The process of kiln firing ceramic ware before being glazed. The glaze is then applied to the surface of the fired tile before being fired again.

Fire, single
The process of firing an unfired tile and its glaze in one process.

Floor tile
A ceramic, glazed or unglazed tile or mosaic tile that is resistant to abrasion and impact normal associated with being used on the floor. Floor tiles can be used on a wall too.

Frost proof tile
A tile that is produced for use where freezing and thawing may occur. The tiles are impervious to water penetration.

Glass Mosaic Tiles
Tiles made of glass, usually in small sizes not over 50mm. These are mounted on sheets of paper or meshing which hold the glass tiles in place. This allows the sheet to be embedded in the adhesive and fix the tiles in place.

Glaze
A ceramic coating that covers the surface of a ceramic tile. This is fired at high temperature to form a glassy state on the surface of the tile. The term glaze is also used to refer to the mixture or material from which the coating is made.

Glazed Tile
A tile with a fused impervious surface coating composed of ceramic material that is fired at high temperature to fused the surface coating to the body of the tile.

Grout
A strong cement or resin based mix used for filling the joints between tiles.

Grout Saw
A saw toothed steel blade mounted to a handle used for removing old grout from joints.

Honed
A term often used to describe a satin smooth finish with little or no gloss on natural stone.

Impervious
In the world of tiles this means the ability of the tile not to absorb water or liquids.

Impervious Tile
Has water absorption of 0.5% or less.

Latex
A water based emulsion of synthetic rubber or plastic obtained by polymerization and used especially in coating and adhesives.

Latex grout
A portland cement grout with a special latex additive which makes it less rigid, less permeable grout than regular cement based grout.

Lime
Specifically, calcium oxide however often used to describe the various chemical and physical forms of quicklime, hydrated lime and hydraulic hydrated lime.

Limestone
A sedimentary rock, made mainly from calcite or dolomite.

Marble
A metamorphic rock made mainly from metamorphosed limestone, which in turn is made up from calcite or dolomite.

Mosaic Tiles
The term mosaic essentially means a design that consists of many small pieces of tile. They come in a wide variety of patterns, finishes and colours. They mainly consist of small tiles adhered to a paper or mesh back to keep the tiles in the desired pattern.

Natural Stone
Naturally occurring stone can come in many forms. Some of the most popular are travertine, marble, limestone,granite and slate. As these are naturally occurring they will have variations in the pattern and colours throughout the stone. Each natural stone will need specific fitting procedures which should be followed closely.

Pavers
Unglazed porcelain or natural clay tile formed by dust pressing method. Pavers tend to be thicker than ceramic tiles.

Polished
A glossy surface. A term often used to describe a process where natura; stone is ‘polished’ using a polishing head to give the surface of the stone a glossy finish.

Porcelain
A higher firing temperature is used to ensure porcelain tiles are fully vitrified. This produces a tile which is harder wearing and has increased impact resistance. Through bodied or unglazed porcelain is the same colour all the way through the tile, so if a tile is chipped it will remain the same colour. Most porcelain tiles do require some form of sealing to help protect the surface of the tile and avoid staining whilst they are being fitted.

Potlife
The period of time during which a material maintains its workable properties after it has been mixed.

Rubber Trowel
A rubber trowel or float is used when grouting tiles. The rubber surface of the trowel is slightly flexible which allows it to force grout deep into the grout joint. The rubber trowel also is ideal for removing excess grout from the surface of tiles to produce the perfect finish.

Rubbing Stone
A very hard stone that is used to smooth the rough edges of tile, particularly after the tile has been cut.

Saw Cut
Finish produced by sawing the tile with diamond tooth saws. Produces a rustic effect on the surface and edge of the tiles. A finish often used on natural stone.

Sealers
Sealers are normally used to help stop porous surfaces from absorbing moisture or gases. Sealers can be used to help adhesion when fitting tiles, by sealing a porous surface such as plaster, which in turn allows the tile adhesive to adhere correctly. Sealers can also be used to seal the surface of porous or pitted tiles, such as porcelain, to help avoid things such as grout sticking to the surface of the tile when being grouted.

Semi- Vitreous
Has water absorption of 3% to 7%

Set
The condition reached by a cement paste, mortar or concrete when it has lost plasticity.

Shelf Life
Maximum period for which a material may be stored and remain in a usable state.

Spacers
T,Y and + shaped inserts used whilst installing tiles to keep them separate from each other. They come in various sizes measured in mm.

Split Face
Often used to describe a finish in natural stone. The face of the tile is left as is when it is ‘split’ from the rock face.

Substrate
The underlying support for tiles to be installed on.

Terracotta
Clay based tiles of varying sizes that are baked until hard. Often red or reddish yellow in colour.

Threshold
A term used to describe the piece of stone or wood under a door separating two rooms.

Tile Cutter
Tile cutters can be simple hand tools or elaborate water cooled diamond wheel cutters designed to score, break or cut tiles. Simple straight cuts are easily achieved with more intricate shapes or cuts needing better cutters.

Tile Nipper
Specially tipped pliers that nibble away small pieces of a tile. This means you are able to create irregular shapes or curved designs.

Tumbled
The tumbling process produces a softer, rounded edge on tiles for an aged or antique look. The process involves tiles being placed in a rotating drum with other stones that erode the edges of the tile away. A popular finish for natural stone tiles.

Unfilled
Term used to indicate there has been no filling of natural holes or voids in stone tiles, with cements or synthetic resins or similar materials.

Unglazed Tile
A hard dense tile made from the same material throughout. The tile gets its colour and texture from the material it is made from and the manufacturing process used to make it.

Vapour Barrier
A waterproof membrane used under concrete floor slabs to prevent moisture coming through the floor.

Vein Cut
A cut of natural stone that is cut across the natural way the rock formation is created.

Vitreous
0.5% to 3 % water absorption.

Wall Tile
A glazed tile with a body that is suitable for interior use and is not expected to withstand excessive impact.

Wet Area
An interior or exterior tiled area that is subject to periodic or constant wetting. For example showers, pools, exterior paving, exterior walls.