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Useful Definitions for the Tile Industry


Abrasion resistance: the degree to which the surface of a floor tile can tolerate foot traffic

Body/biscuit: the structural portion of a ceramic tile (to which the glaze is applied on top)

Breaking strength: the ability of a tile to resist rupture from a tension force

Bullnose tiles: tiles with a rounded edge usually used on stairs

Chemical resistance: the ability of a tile’s surface to withstand damage from chemicals, acids, alkalis, and swimming pool salts, according to the standard for which it is being tested

Cove/coving tiles: tiles with a curved edge to tile inside corners (such as skirting)

Decorated/Decor tiles: tiles that have been painted with additional patterns or pictures as a feature piece. For example, these can be for the use in a kitchen splashback or a bathroom wall.

Double fired tiles: glazed ceramic tiles fired once to shape the tile body and a second time to fuse the glaze. These were traditionally made as wall tiles.

Dry pressed / dust pressed tiles: the process in which finely crushed raw materials are shaped into their moulds before being fired at high pressure. It is the process which is used for porcelain tiles.

Finishes: the characteristic/s of a tile’s surface

Fire resistance: the ability of a tile to resist burning from fire (or flame)

Firing: the final process in manufacturing tiles, hardening the tile body and glaze (if it has a glaze)

Floor tiles: tiles that can withstand foot traffic, weight, and impact and abrasion resistance. They can be glazed or unglazed.

Frost resistance: the ability of a tile to endure freezing conditions with minimal effect. A tile’s frost resistance is relative to its water absorption.

Fully vitrified tiles: dust pressed tiles with a water absorption level equal to, or less than, 5%, and possessing high technical characteristics. They can be either glazed or unglazed.

Glass mosaics: mosaic tiles made from glass, rather than ceramic materials. The glass can be coated with a layer of transparent or coloured glass.

Glaze: the coating applied to the body/biscuit of a tile

Glazed tiles: ceramic tiles with a coating applied to the body/biscuit of the tile and then fired

Grout: substance used to fill the spaces between tiles during fixing

Grout joint: spaces in between the tiles filled with grout

Lippage: once laid, where one side of the tile is higher than the tile adjacent to it. Note: this is sometimes unavoidable even when tiles are within tolerance. This can at times occur when large format tiles are laid in a brick or fishbone pattern.

Listello: wall border tile, usually with an additional decoration

Mesh / mounted tiles: tiles which are glued onto a paper or plastic sheet, usually occurs with smaller format tiles so they are easier (and quicker) to lay

MOHS scale: the scale used to determine the hardness of a tile

Monocottura tiles: glazed ceramic tiles fired once, with a water absorption rate of less than or equal to 3%

Monoporosa tiles: glazed ceramic tiles fired once, but with a higher water absorption and porosity level

Mosaic tiles: smaller ceramic tiles, usually on paper or mesh backing

Nominal size: the exact size of the tile’s surface or thickness (without considering calibration)

PEI: Porcelain Enamel Institute, which conducts research, testing and analysis for ceramic materials. These days it also the term that refers to the Grade of a glaze. This is the scale from 1-5 which determines the suitability of a tile’s glaze, once fired, for foot traffic.

Polished tiles: the mechanical polishing of a tile which removes 1/10th of a millimetre from the surface in the final step of production, resulting in a flat, glossy surface. Not to be confused with a glossy glaze applied to a glazed tile.

Porcelain tiles: dust pressed ceramic tiles which can either be unglazed (full body vitrified tiles), glazed with a neutral body (glazed porcelain tiles) glazed with a coloured body (coloured-body glazed porcelain tiles). All porcelain tiles have a water absorption rate of less than or equal to 0.5%.

Rectified: where tile edges have been machine cut in order to achieve a minimalist look

Sealers: a clear coating applied to the surface of a tile to protect it from grease and spillages, or to add sheen

Skirting tiles: rectangular tiles used as a trim

Step-tread tiles: either rectangular or square tiles with a rounded edge and grooves to prevent slipping

Thermal shock resistance: the ability of a tile to resist fluctuating temperatures and not alter in any way (such as size, flatness, or glaze)

Unglazed tiles: tiles which do not have a glaze applied to their surface, but rather derive their colour from the raw materials or oxides added to the body prior to firing

Wall tiles: glazed ceramic tiles, whereby technical aspects of foot traffic are of no importance

Water absorption: the percentage of water the tile will absorb in comparison to its dry tile weight. The higher the water absorption, the more porous the tile.

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