General Info & Tile Care

General Info

To begin, it is critical to note that technically, all tiles are Ceramic tiles. In the industry and retail sector, names such as Glazed Ceramic, Glazed Porcelain, Technical Porcelain, and so on are used to distinguish distinct types of Ceramic tiles.

The best way to explain the differences between the different types of tiles is to refer to the analogy of baking a cake. A cake's basic components are flour, caster sugar, and eggs. Mix the right quantity of ingredients together and place it in a tin tray. Cook it in the oven for the right amount of time at the correct temperature and lastly, take it out and let it set. By eliminating the bulk of the water content, the cake begins to rise. 

Let's suppose we desire a cake that isn't as moist but has a denser texture. To remove additional water, we may add baking soda, more eggs, and butter, and cook it for a longer period of time at a higher temperature. The essential components show that it is still a cake, but due to the additional ingredients and the cooking procedure, we now have a new sort of sponge cake - the same holds true for Ceramic tiles.

Ceramic tiles come in a variety of shapes and sizes due to the mix of clays and the addition of silicas and minerals, the pressing or moulding of the materials, and the time and temperature at which they are burned.

It is crucial to note that all tiles, whether ceramic, glazed porcelain, vitrified porcelain, or otherwise, are ceramic tiles. The difference lies in the manufacturing process, such as how polished and compacted the base is, or the temperature at which the tile is burned. These manufacturing differences subsequently determine the tile's capacity to be glazed (colour applied to the surface) or mechanically treated to give a textured, honed, or polished finish.

Different types of Tiles 

It is crucial to note that all tiles, whether ceramic, glazed porcelain, vitrified porcelain, or otherwise, are ceramic tiles. The difference lies in the manufacturing process, such as how polished and compacted the base is, or the temperature at which the tile is burned. These manufacturing differences subsequently determine the tile's capacity to be glazed (colour applied to the surface) or mechanically treated to give a textured, honed, or polished finish.

  • Ceramic Monocottura/monoporosa
    • Monocottura/monporosa tiles have been used for thousands of years and can be used in any residential bathroom, kitchen, or main floor space. Both are single fired glazed tiles, however monoporosa are typically used as wall tiles due to their softer glazing and greater water absorption levels, whilst monocottura are floor tiles with a tougher glaze and lower water absorption levels.
  • Glazed Porcelain
    • Glazed porcelain tiles are fired at higher temperatures than their ceramic counterpart; making them more dense, less water absorbent and much stronger. This makes them suitable for both internal and external areas, which are commonly used today. 
  • Colour Body porcelain 
    • Colour body porcelain is much the same as glazed porcelain, however, the only difference is the biscuit of the tile is coloured to reflect the same colour that is seen on the digitally printed top layer.
  • Vitrified Porcelain
    • Vitrified porcelain tiles are those that do not have a glaze added to the surface. Instead it is the natural state of the clays and additives that make up the colour of the tile. One of the benefits of a vitrified porcelain tile is that if it does get chipped the colour continues through the body of the tile. Vitrified porcelain has a water absorption rate of less than 0.5%
  • Double Loaded Porcelain
    • These are an economical form of mechanically surfaced porcelain tiles. Generally, the surface is textured, matt, honed, semi-polished or polished. This tile is made by fusing two layers of varying clays together during the firing process. The decorative top layer is around 25% of the tile.

Let’s talk water

Both the cakes and the ceramic tiles have the presence of water in common. The more water there is in the cake, the more moist and tender it will be and the opposite is true: the less water there is, the harder and more dry the cake is. The same is true for ceramic tiles, and it is this degree of water content (or capacity to absorb water) that distinguishes different varieties of ceramic tile.

A Glazed Ceramic tile will absorb more water (3-6%), making it a softer product, but a Porcelain tile must absorb less than 1% to be considered a real Porcelain tile, making it a tougher and denser product.

Another way of looking at this is If you were to place both tiles in a bucket of water over a period of 24 hours, the Ceramic glaze tile will weigh 3-6 percent more than its original dry weight, while the Porcelain tile would weigh less than 1 percent more.

Why is water important ?

The greater the water content a tile can absorb means the greater the chance the tile will expand. If there is excessive expansion, tiles can crack or pop from where they are installed, causing major headaches for the owner. Another important reason why water is important, is because it can also determine what surface finish the tile can have. A ceramic tile is a soft biscuit that can only have a glaze added to its surface. Whereas a porcelain tile, on the other hand, can be glazed just like a basic Ceramic, but it is most typically physically treated with diamond cutters to create a matt, honed, semi-polish, or full polish surface.

A Glazed Ceramic Tile

A typical glazed ceramic tile is fired at approximately 1000 degrees celsius and is made up of 3 layers; a biscuit (structural body of the tile), a safeguarding layer of engobe and a protective and decorative glaze layer. The biscuit/body of the tile is made up of sand and clay, this makes up most of the tile, The engobe layer is a protectant from any moisture that is absorbed from the biscuit travelling up to the top surface layer. Lastly we have the glaze layer, this is what provides for its strong surface wearing abilities and inhabitants any dirt and water causing stains. Fortunately for us there are countless glaze options available, all in different colours designs and textures

Rounded Edges (Cushion Edge)

Glazed Ceramic tiles are the most cost-effective tiles to lay in terms of construction since the softer biscuit cuts readily with manual tile cutters and basic equipment. Sizes are typically on the smaller side as well which is easy for the tiler to handle (typically 400mmx400mm), this also eliminates the need to straighten walls or level floors because the glues tend to catch these variances. 

Another advantage of glazed ceramic tiles is that they have rounded edges, which reduces the cost of installation. This allows the tiler to get the levels between tiles as near as flawless as possible without needing to be 100% perfect. The rounded edges are softer underfoot when paired with the grout lines, allowing the tiler to work with more ease and give when laying tiles.

The typical grout joint for a cushion edge tile is 3mm, this is due to inconsistencies in sizes of each tile from a particular batch. As tiles are pressed into their individual mould, they are then left to be fired and begin to set. When this process takes place there is a small percentage of tiles that taper and thin out on corners creating inconsistencies from tile to tile. To accommodate these slight differences a marginally larger grout join is used.

Porcelain Tiles

Over the past 20 years, porcelain tiles have become more affordable and accessible to customers due to technological advancements lowering production costs. This increased availability has created greater demand for porcelain, which ultimately means customers are able to opt out for a much higher quality tile at an economical price point. Porcelain tiles are essentially denser, stronger ceramic tiles. We get a ceramic tile that is considerably superior to a monocottura product by using a blend of various clays, silicas, and additives, extruded under great pressures, and then burned at high temperatures (approximately 1200 degrees celsius). It has a low water content and absorption qualities, therefore it cannot only be glazed, but it can be mechanically treated to give us an honed, matt, semi-polished, or high polished surface.

Porcelain tiles are also much more consistent in their finished outcome and this is due to their improved and smarter manufacturing processes compared to ceramic tiles. 

Rectified edges

Since porcelain tiles are more advanced than their counterpart, they commonly come with what is referred to as a rectified edge. rectified edges are sharp with micro bevels (essentially a 90 degree cut). This is a result of the tile being cut to size after manufacturing and being fixed or ‘rectified’ to a specific size, as opposed to the cookie cutter production processes used for entry-level glaze goods, such as ceramic leaving them with a cushion/rounded edge. The way in which porcelain is cut allows for greater consistency in size and thickness of each tile that is made in batch and therefore allows for minimal grout usage between tiles (usually no smaller than 1.5mm)

When it comes to installing tiles with rectified edges, tilers must exercise with extra caution to ensure that the level between tiles is accurate, or else 'tile lippage' can occur, which may be felt under foot when walking. If lippage occurs dirt and residue tend to accumulate in these areas and can become quite visible in natural lighting conditions  

Slip resistance

Slip resistance can be highly complex, but in basic words, you must select a tile that is appropriate for the specific area. Slip resistance is important when it comes to selecting tiles for external areas such as balconies, patios, and alfresco areas. Domestic applications are only governed when it comes to external tiles, any slip resistant tile can be installed throughout the rest of the home (e.g. polished porcelain in a shower base). Tiles that are governed by a slip rating follow one of two methods; the R rating (ramp) or P test (pendulum).

Ramp ‘R” Rating

two methods to test tiles using the ramp test method:

  1. Wet barefoot inclining platform test
  2. Oil-wet inclining platform test

The Oil-Wet Ramp Test (R9 – R13) involves laying tiles on a ramp and applying oil or water to the surface of the tiles. The tester walks on the inclined tiles to determine the angle at which they become unsafe for testing. The angle used determines the degree of slip resistance.

The ‘P’ Pendulum Test

The friction between a rubber slider placed on a pendulum swing and a wet tile is measured in the Pendulum Test. This simulates a shoe heel striking a wet tile, a rating is then assigned to the slip resistance value starting from P0 no slip resistance to P5 high slip resistance. 

Batch and shade variation

Batch or shade variation is an intrinsic feature of tiles. Returning to our cake analogy, you will never receive identical-looking cakes from a single cooking session. Because of the variety of clays used and the fire technique used in tile manufacture, we may end up with several batches or tints within a single run. Fortunately, we have progressed beyond visual analysis of tiles to determine shade constancy. Advanced technology can readily distinguish one from another, and our stock management systems ensure that we will only send only one batch/shade per home lot, so there is no need to worry.

Batching and shade variances are unavoidable in all tile products, and the tile you've chosen is merely an example of what you may receive. There may be no problem, or it may differ somewhat to the display tile, but it will still work well with your selection.

To that end, certain tiles are 'designed' with batch or shade variance to accentuate the inherent features of the tile. This design variant is governed by a rating chart which can be seen below.

Tile Care

Below cleaning recommendation is extracted from Appendix C AS 3958.1-2007 Ceramic Tiles – Guide to the Installation of Ceramic Tiles.

It is well known that all things require care, and ceramic floor finishes are no exception to that. Recent global advancements have transformed the nature of ceramic flooring. Maintenance of these surfaces is fairly easy to achieve where appropriate processes are used. The most basic procedure remains daily sweeping and cleaning to eliminate soiling. 

Daily sweeping or vacuuming is essential for removing loose dirt, sand, mud, or other types of waste that accumulate on a floor. Loose soil acts as an abrasive load on glazed surfaces, causing them to look hazy or tarnished in heavy usage areas. These regions quickly begin to look different from areas that have not been damaged by abrasion, detracting from the brilliant polished surface that is desired. Aside from the worn appearance, cleaning this region will become more difficult as the surface changes.

The majority of loose dirt and sand may be gathered by constructing soil traps at the entry before stepping onto the flooring. Prior to entry, an entry matt should allow for sufficient contact of both feet to remove the majority of any debris. If animal entrance points are used, the same measures should be followed as family pets are also large sources of loose soil and dirt.

When the correct amount of cleaning solution is utilized, washing the flooring should eliminate any apparent soiling. Excessive cleaning chemical usage might result in residual streaks, detergent stains, and films, which can detract from the natural finish of the tile. A thorough washing of the floor area or the use of a no-rinse detergent can resolve the issue.

Normal washing or scrubbing with warm water and a pH neutral sulfate-free cleaning solution is typically sufficient for cleaning tiles. Greasy deposits can be removed using an organic solvent-based detergent or a high alkaline detergent (pH >9), although these should only be used for occasional cleaning. Excessive use of acidic cleaning chemicals may cause grout damage and haze of glazed tiles.

The use of abrasive cleaning chemicals on occasion can be useful, but should be limited to unglazed floor surfaces. Abrasive cleaning procedures should be avoided in general since they might contribute to excessive wear. Appropriate cleaning products, such as unique abrasive cleaning solutions that will not wear or scratch, are available. To remove stubborn stains from polished and profiled glazed tiles, use appropriate abrasive methods. It should be noted that using scrub and rinse cleaning machines equipped with abrasive pads, other than the finest grades on a regular basis, is likely to damage the surface of some tiles and result in gradual loss of thickness in the wear layer.

The cleaning method may change when a tile has a profiled surface since soil and cleaning chemicals tend to accumulate on the surface. When cleaning such contoured surfaces, enough dwell time and agitation are necessary to loosen the soiling before full removal. Cleaning pads or brushes that are suitable for agitation can be used, these include mild bristle brushes. Steam and high pressure cleaning methods may occasionally be appropriate in some installations.Once the area has been cleaned, it is critical to ensure that the any cleaning agent is thoroughly rinsed by washing with clean water. Household soaps are not suggested since they leave a slick scum, especially in hard-water locations.

Apart from normal usage or obvious misuse, surface contamination can arise from the following:

(a) Efflorescence.

(b) Residual cement film.

(c) Surface sealing materials.

(d) The reaction of cleaning agents with hard water.

(e) Unsuitable cleaning agents.

(f) Overuse of high alkaline detergents.

(g) Flexible additives left on surface areas.

(h) Coloured oxides deposited through grouting.

(i) Moss, algae, leaves stains, bark stains, wood stains, rust marks, pot plant marks and leaching.