Ceramic Tile Flooring Glossary: Vocabularies Explained

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Ceramic Tile Flooring Glossary

Find answers to all the jargon in the ceramic tile world. For definitions of other terms not listed here, please go to these sections: Ceramic Tile Construction, Ceramic Tile Choices, Before Buying Ceramic Tile and Before Your Ceramic Tile Arrives.

ASTM

Most manufacturers will have a rating system based on the American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM). Many times you can find these ratings on the tile sample or in the product description. The most common system rates ceramic tile abrasion resistance or the overall durability of the tile. Other ratings might include scratch resistance, moisture absorption, chemical resistance, and breaking strength.

Biocuttura Tile

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Ceramic tiles are fired in a kiln at high temperatures around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Biocuttura Tiles are first fired after the green tile is dried and then fired again after the glaze. Also, call Double Fired.

Bisque

When you observe a glazed tile from the side, you can see two layers. The most significant layer is called bisque. The top layer is called the glaze.

Bullnose

A ceramic tile trim piece has one smooth round edge to give a nice finishing touch. Sometimes it is also used as a substitute for cove base.

Ceramic

Ceramic tiles are produced from natural products extracted from the earth shaped into tiles and then fired in kilns at extremely high temperatures.

CBU

Today, many ceramic tile installers have chosen the industry accepted and more efficient thin set method. The tile adheres directly onto a backer board that is nailed to a plywood or concrete substrate using a much smaller layer of mortar. This backer board is called a cement backer unit (CBU), which provides a supportive and water-resistant layer between the porous substrate and the mortar and tile applied on top of it.

Classes 1-5

An industry rating system that shows ceramic tile abrasion resistance or the overall durability of the tile. There are five classes you should be aware of.

Class 1: no foot traffic. These tiles are suggested for interior wall applications only and not for the floor.

Class 2: light traffic. These tiles are suggested for interior wall applications and residential bathroom floors only.

Class 3: light to moderate traffic. These tiles can be used for residential flooring and wall applications, including bathrooms, foyers, dining rooms, and family rooms. They’re an excellent all-around performer.

Class 4: moderate to heavy traffic. These tiles are recommended for medium commercial and light industrial floor, residential, and wall applications, including shopping malls, offices, restaurant dining rooms, showrooms, and hallways.

Class 5: heavy/extra heavy traffic. These tiles can be installed in all places. They will hold up in floor and wall applications at airports, supermarkets, and subways.

COF

One rating system refers to slip resistance, which is measured by its Coefficient of Friction (COF). The higher the COF, the more slip resistant the tile. This is important when selecting a floor tile for wet areas such as your shower or bathroom. Other ratings listed by the manufacturer might include scratch resistance, moisture absorption, chemical resistance, and breaking strength.

Corner Bullnose

A ceramic tile trim with two rounded finished edges on the tile is used to complete a corner.

Extrusion

Extruded tiles are formed by forcing the clay material through a mold for the desired shape versus pressing the tile.

Field Tile

When creating a pattern with different ceramic tiles, the most prominent tile throughout the most significant area is called the “field tile.”

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    Firing

    Ceramic Tiles Terms and Vocabulary

    Ceramic Tile Installation in an Elegant Bathroom

    The fifth step in the manufacturing of ceramic tile. The tiles are fired in the kiln at temperatures around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Frit

    Part of the fourth step (glazing) in the manufacturing of ceramic tile. The glaze liquid is prepared from a glass derivative called frit and colored dyes. The glaze is applied by either a high-pressure spray or is poured directly onto the tile.

    Glazed

    Glazed ceramic tiles are coated with glass-forming minerals and ceramic stains. Typically, they have a matte, semi-gloss, or high-gloss finish. They can offer better stain and moisture resistance than unglazed tile. When you look at a glazed tile from the side, you can see two layers. The body of the tile, or most substantial layer, is called the bisque. The top layer is called the glaze. Glazed tiles have a hard non-porous, impermeable surface after firing.

    Glazing

    The fourth step in the manufacturing of ceramic tiles. Glazing liquid is prepared from a glass derivative called frit and colored dyes. The glaze is applied by either a high-pressure spray or is poured directly onto the tile.

    Green Tiles

    The third step in the manufacturing of ceramic tile. Here, clay is pressed or formed into a tile shape. These pressed tiles are called green tiles at this stage.

    Grout

    Grout is a type of cement used to fill the space and provide support in tile joints. There are two types of grout commonly used in home installations; Portland adhesive-based and epoxy-based. Both of these grout compounds may have sand added to provide additional strength to the tile joint.

    Impervious Tiles

    Tiles that have less than .5% moisture absorption. These tiles are frost proof and can be used in exterior areas or on the outside of building facades. You can use these where winters are severe.

    Moisture Absorption

    As the density of the tile increases, the amount of moisture that tiles can absorb becomes less. Tile density means that, as the weight or the thickness of the tile increases, it becomes a more durable tile. Tile density and moisture absorption have an indirect relationship to each other. This means that as the thickness of the tile increases, the moisture absorption rate becomes less. Tile density and moisture absorption are essential for you to understand when selecting tile for different applications.

    Monocuttura Tile

    Ceramic tiles are fired in a kiln at temperatures around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Tiles that are fired once after the glaze is applied are called Monocuttura Tile or single fired.

    Mosaics

    In addition to ceramic tile styles, manufacturers also offer decorative inserts, medallions, and mosaics to create intricate patterns and beautiful borders. Tile size 2″x2″ and smaller are usually referred to as mosaics and are often used with different colors to create a profile or decorative inset. Some of these smaller tiles also come in different shapes, such as hexagon.

    Nominal Size

    Tile is usually referred to by its nominal size, not its actual size. During the firing process, ceramic tile will shrink, on average, by about 10% in format. For example, a 12″ by 12″ floor tile may measure 11-1/2 inches square. Currently, the most popular ceramic floor tiles are the larger sized tiles such as 12″ x 24″, 16″ by 16″ and 18″ by 18″ sizes.

    Non-Vitreous Tiles

    Tiles that absorb 7% or more moisture. They are suited for indoor use only.

    Porcelain

    Porcelain tile is made up of 50% feldspar and is fired at a much higher temperature than regular ceramic tile. This makes porcelain tile much harder and denser than other tile products. Because of its highly durable make-up, porcelain is more resistant to scratches and can withstand temperature extremes. Also, because porcelain is non-porous, it’s very stain resistant, has minimal water absorption ratings (less than 0.5%), and can be used for interior and exterior applications and heavy-use and commercial areas. Finally, because porcelain’s color goes all the way through, small scratches or chips are less noticeable.

    Pressing

    The third and most common step in the manufacturing of ceramic tile. The clay is pressed or formed into a tile shape. These pressed tiles are called green tiles at this stage.

    Sanded Grout

    There are two types of grout commonly used in home installations; Portland cement based, and epoxy based. Both of these grout compounds may have sand added to provide additional strength to the tile joint. Sanded grout is recommended for tile joints 1/8th of an inch or more.

    Sanitary Cove Base

    A ceramic floor tile trim with a rounded finished top like a bullnose to cover up the tile’s body.

    Semi-Vitreous Tiles

    Tiles that absorb from 3% to 7% moisture. They are applicable for indoor use only.

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