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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about tiling? We’ve got the answers

If you’ve got a question about tiles, tiling or anything related to the tiling industry – we’ve probably got the answer. Take a look at our ever-growing list of frequently asked questions below to see if we’ve already answered your question.

What is a tile?

The word “tile” comes from the Latin word “tegula”, which is derived from “tegere” meaning “to cover”.

In old English the word was “tigele”, which eventually turned into the word “tile”. Out of interest the word “tegula” also mutated over the years into “thecca”, which we now know as “thatch”.

Ceramic tiles are made from mixtures of clays, sands and other natural substances. The body of the tile is moulded into shape and then fired at extremely high temperatures in a kiln.

The most common tile shapes are square and rectangular, but there are others such as hexagonal, Provencal, and octagonal. Tile sizes range from 1 cm x 1cm to over 100cm x 100cm. Current trends are heading towards larger and larger sized tiles.

 

What types of tiles are there?

Ceramic tiles can be glazed or unglazed. Glazed tiles are available plain or decorated and can be used on walls and floors.

Unglazed ceramic floor tiles are more suited to commercial and industrial settings, but can be used in laundries and utility rooms. They are available with a non-slip profile.

Quarry tiles are a traditional product made in the UK for hundreds of years. They are made from natural clay, squeezed through an extruding machine, and then fired. They are mostly available in terracotta, black and white colours.

Terracotta tiles are also made from local clays. Terracotta means “cooked earth” and these products tend to be very absorbent, so need sealing when used on the floor.

Porcelain tiles are ceramic tiles, but with a very low absorbency. They are usually made from kaolin clays, feldspar, silica and colouring oxides and are fired at about 1200oC. Porcelain tiles are hard wearing and can be used on walls or floors.

Mosaics are very small tiles, usually less than 35cm2. Mosaics can be glazed or unglazed and made from porcelain, ceramic, glass or natural stone.

Natural stone products such as limestone, marble, granite and slate are quarried from the earth. Some are extremely hard, and some quite soft. Some may need sealing.

 

What is glaze?

To give tiles colour and design, a coating known as a glaze, consisting of ground glass and colour pigments is fused onto the clay surface through intense heat in a kiln.

 

Where can I buy tiles?

Most towns have their own specialist tile shop and sometimes more than one, thus making it easier for you to select your tiles

These specialist shops have experienced staff available to offer the advice you need. The specialist shop can also fall back on the experience and knowledge of the distributor who works closely with manufacturers, thus creating a source of reliable information.

For your own peace of mind, you should consider purchasing tile products from a member of The Tile Association as they are able to offer the full support of the Association.

 

How many tiles will I need?

You will need to work out the area to be tiled. TTA stockists will be able to help you to calculate the number of tiles you will need for your project. You can also use our handy conversion chart below.

Tiles are produced in batches, and it is important to make sure you have enough tiles from the same batch for your project, so order slightly more than you need. Any extras can be stored for future repairs.

TILE SIZE
METRIC
(mm)
TILES
PER
SQ. METRE
TILE SIZE
METRIC
(mm)
TILES
PER
SQ. METRE
100×100 100 225×150 29
150×50 134 250×150 27
150×150 44 250×250 16
150×200 33 250×330 12
200×100 50 300×150 22
200×200 25 300×200 17
200×250 20 300×300 11
200×285 18 333×333 9
400×400 7

Note: exact tile sizes can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and some can include the joint width in their calculation of tiles/metre2. Therefore the above table must only be used as a guide and is not a definitive statement of fact.

 

Where can I buy discontinued tiles?

There are new ranges of tiles coming onto the market all the time reflecting current trends. As a consequence tile ranges also disappear from the market place as designs change.

It is important to buy enough tiles when you begin your tiling project, keeping some tiles set aside for repairs if necessary.

Why not consider replacing your existing tiling with some of the wonderful ranges that are now available at your TTA suppliers?

 

What is the history of tiles?

Tiles have been used by man as a paving or cladding material for thousands of years. There are examples of glazed tiles, such as the Ishtar Gate at Babylon, which survive from the 6th century B.C.

But who invented tiles, is a little difficult to pin down. Archaeologists have found bits of tiles along the River Nile dating back between 12,000 and 18,000 years.

As early as 5,000 B.C. the Egyptians were making brightly coloured tiles to decorate the interior of their pyramids.Tiles used by Arab and Moorish civilisations can still be seen today.

Before the Industrial Revolution glazed ceramic tiles were seen as a rich man’s product and were reserved for palaces and sacred buildings such as churches and cathedrals. Production was labour intensive and expensive. Today that has all changed. Advances in technology in ceramic tile production have made ceramic tiles affordable for everyone.

 

Are tiles eco-friendly?

Tiles are completely natural products. They are made from natural clay that has been baked in a kiln, even the glazes and decoration are made from naturally occurring minerals.

In 2008 The Tile Association introduced an annual award for “Best Environmental Initiative”. The award recognises the importance of sustainability and care for the environment and has attracted nominations from many companies taking environmental initiatives right across the supply chain from manufacture to installation.

Durability
Because high quality tiles are one of the hardest wearing and long-lasting surface finishes available, they are a very environmentally sustainable resource. With careful craftsmanship, they maintain their appearance for decades. The fact that they need to be replaced less often also offsets the energy used to produce package and deliver them in a way that does not apply to less durable materials. In addition, a longer product lifespan means less waste in landfill sites.

Energy Efficiency
Tiles have a high thermal capacity, and can thus store heat for a long period, this makes them highly energy efficient.

Hypo-allergenic, Odourless & Hygiene-friendly
Tiled finishes provide a hygienic environment for many years allowing thorough cleaning without deteriortion of appearance and preventing the build-up of allergenic material.

Because tiles can be easily and efficiently cleaned, it is easy and efficient to maintain cleanliness and hygiene standards, thus preventing the build-up of allergenic materials. Futhermore, their quality and appearance are not affected by the use of cleaning products.

 

What are the advantages of Tiled Floors?

Tiled Floors are practical and attractive.

In typically wet British weather it is the floors in the house that take the most punishment. With people going in and out of your house with dirty feet why not tile the floors?

Kitchen floors that are tiled are hygienic and trouble free, and a hall or porch with a tiled floor won’t be damaged by dripping brollies, dribbling wellies and muddy dogs.

If your home is at risk of flood damage, then tiling floors will enable you to get your home back to normal much more quickly. When your home is at risk just roll up the rugs and if any water does get in, it can be mopped away. Some house insurers insist on replacing existing floor coverings with tile when compensating for flood damage.

You can actually make your floor completely waterproof so the water doesn’t seep into cellars or foundations. Waterproofing systems can be used in areas that may suffer water ingress such as hallways or for the whole of your ground floor.

You can put floor tiles, with a waterproofing system, on most suspended wooden floors. Choose the latest hard-wearing porcelain, natural stone look-a-like floor tiles for a really robust floor. Tiles with a textured or riven surface will also add slip resistance even when wet.

Visit your local tile retailer to see the vast selection available and be inspired. Just be sure that it is a TTA member tile showroom and that you use a TTA registered fixer. Members of The Tile Association are the best in their industry so the TTA logo is your assurance of quality products, excellent service and professional workmanship.

 

What are the different classes of floor tile for heavy traffic areas?

Below is the Ceramic Floor Tile Classification to help you choose a tile to suit your needs.

class-1CLASS 1 – Soft soled footwear or bare feet areas,bathrooms and bedrooms without direct access from the outside

class-2CLASS 2 – Living areas of homes but with the exception of kitchens, entrances, and other rooms which may have a lot of traffic

class-3CLASS 3 – Residential kitchens, halls, corridors, balconies and terraces

class-4CLASS 4 – Regularly used areas, entrances, commercial kitchens, hotel bathrooms

class-5CLASS 5 – Heavy pedestrian traffic over sustained periods (for example public areas such as shopping centres and hotel foyers)

frost-resistantThis symbol indicates that a tile is frost resistant.
This classification is valid for the given applications in normal conditions. Consideration should be given to the footwear, type of traffic and cleaning methods expected and the floors should be adequately protected against scratching dirt at the entrances to buildings by interposing footwear cleaning devices.

 

How do you test the slip resistance of floor tiles?

When planning a tiling project it is important to ensure that you chose a tile that is suitable for its intended use, safe and easy to maintain.

British Standard BS5385-3 Floor Tiling, Design and installation of internal and external ceramic and mosaic floor tiling in normal conditions, explains “the interaction of feet, shod or bare, with flooring materials governs slipping. The slip resistance of a floor in service is dependent upon the nature of its surface. It is important to recognize that this can change significantly over time and often merely during the process of installation and finishing. Generally, dry floors are not slippery but the combination of very smooth floors and hard smooth heel or sole material can be slippery even when dry. Similarly, dry contaminants such as dust, fibres, lint and paper can make dry floors slippery”.

There are four different ways of testing the slip resistance of floor tiles as set out in CEN-TS 16165. The UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) preferred test method is the “Pendulum”, and your TTA tile supplier should be able to advise regarding the slip resistance of tiles that they supply. It is important to choose the right floor tile for your project, for instance areas such as a swimming pool surround or shower area require a higher degree of wet resistance than areas that will remain predominantly dry.

Once the tiles have been fixed, it is important to regularly clean a tiled floor, rather than allow a build-up of dirt.

Any loose dirt or grit should be removed by vacuuming or sweeping with a dry brush followed by cleaning with warm water to which a neutral low sulphate detergent has been added. (Aggressive detergents should not be used) This should be followed by a final rinsing with clean water to remove any residual dirt. The floor should be allowed to dry completely before walking on it.

 

What is the CE Mark on a box of tiles?

The Construction Products Directive, which became law in the UK on 1 July 2013, states that on all ceramic and natural stone tiles, tile adhesives and other related products where there is a an EC Directive and British and European Harmonised Standard, will have to carry the CE Mark.

The CE Mark confirms the verification by a manufacturer that these products meet required EU performance, or safety, health or environmental requirements. CE marking is a key indicator of a product’s compliance with EU legislation and enables the free movement of products within the European market.

CE marking does not indicate that a product was made in the EU, but merely states that the product is assessed before being placed on the market and thus satisfies the necessary legislative requirements and harmonised standard requirements.

Ceramic tiles, natural stone tiles and tile adhesive should now carry a CE Mark. The Standard for tile grout is not yet in that format.

This is what a CE mark may look like:

CE Mark

 

 

 

The first line contains the CE mark, the second the name of the manufacturer and the year of manufacture e.g., “13”, and the third line the reference number of the Standard and description of the product.

Some CE marks may also contain details of technical tests undertaken on the product as well as the country of first firing. You may also see a reference to the category of tile, for example Group BIa. This is a definition of the method of manufacture and the water absorption level of the tile. Ceramic tiles can be made by either pressing a mix of materials or by extrusion.

The table below shows the different categories under current British and European Standard.

Water Absorption A Extrusion B Dust Pressed
0 to 0.5% AIa BIa
0.5% to 3% AIb BIb
3% to 6% AIIa BIIa
6% to 10% AIIb BIIb
Greater than 10% AIII BIII

More detailed information about individual ranges of ceramic tiles will be available from your TTA retailer.

 

Are tiles made to a category?

Ceramic tiles are classified by their production method, which can either be dust pressed or extruded, and the level of water absorption measured as a percentage.

The table below shows the classifications take from current British, European and International Standards for ceramic tiles.

Water Absorption A Extrusion B Dust Pressed
0 to 0.5% AIa BIa
0.5% to 3% AIb BIb
3% to 6% AIIa BIIa
6% to 10% AIIb BIIb
Greater than 10% AIII BIII

Ceramic tiles in the classifications can be glazed or unglazed and conform to the physical, dimensional and chemical resistance properties detailed in British Standard BS EN 14411.

Ask your TTA specialist tile outlet to help you choose the right tile for your tiling project.

 

What is the British standard for tile adhesive?

BS EN 12004 is the standard which sets out the minimum performance requirements for ceramic tile adhesives in Europe.

The document sets out the designation and classification system for the different types of adhesives e.g. cementitious, dispersion, reaction resign, based on performance in the various test.

For any manufacturer to claim conformance to the Standard, the product must possess the fundamental characteristics (mandatory) outlined for each type of adhesive. Where a manufacturer classifies his product to a category within the Standard, e.g. CIT, this automatically confirms conformance.

However, where a product is CE marked, this does not necessarily mean that its performance complies to all of the mandatory requirements in BS EN 12004. Instead, it implies that the adhesive satisfies the mandated part of the Standard.

In practical terms this means that a cementitious adhesive failing to meet the performance requirements in the heat ageing and freeze/thaw tests (which are fundamental characteristics) can still be allowed to carry the CE mark because neither of these two conditioning requirements form part of the Construction Products Directive Mandate (Annex ZA to BS EN 12004) for Durability.

Before purchasing a product, therefore, a user must check the label on the container. This applies particularly to cementitious adhesives. The label may make reference to BS EN 12004 and may carry a CE Mark but it is important to examine the rest of the text. If the adhesive fails to meet the requirements for heat ageing and freeze/thaw the label should say either NPD (no performance determined) or should state a value in N/mm2, which will inevitably be less than 0.5N/mm2.

In conclusion, good quality products will carry a classification rating (e.g. C1TE), a CE Mark and a reference to BS EN 12004, with substantiated data on the label. Low performance adhesives will have omissions to this data, especially for classification rating.

 

Tiling a shower or wetroom

Looking for the perfect shower or wetroom? There are many things you need to consider before beginning to tile your shower or wetroom – make sure you get the results you want by taking tiling advice from experts at The Tile Association.

British Standard BS5385 is the Code of Practice for fixing wall and floor tiles. Part 4 of the Standard offers advice on fixing tiles in particular situations including wet areas such as in showers.

First check with your tile supplier that the tile is suitable for use in a shower and/or bathroom. It is essential to tile onto an already water resistant background. Sand/cement render, dense concrete or water resistant tilebacker board are ideal backgrounds. Plaster, plasterboard, timber and timber-based products such as MDF or plywood are absorbent and should be made waterproof by the use of a waterproofing or tanking system.

Waterproofing systems can be painted on to the background. Most tile adhesive producers have a range of waterproofing systems that coordinate with the tile adhesives and grouts in their product ranges.

The tile adhesive should be a water resistant polymer enhanced adhesive meeting the requirements of BS EN 12004 for a D2 dispersion adhesive or C1 or C2 for a cementitious adhesives and the tile grout should be water resistant, meeting the requirements of BS EN 13888.

Tiles in showers should be fixed using the solid bed method, i.e. ensuring that there are no voids beneath the tiles. The joints between the tiles should be filled using a water resistant grout. Special attention should be paid to sealing the gaps between the base of the tiling and where the tiling joins the base of shower units or bath and penetrations in the tiling (e.g. shower fittings), using a good quality antifungicidal silicon sealant or a proprietary manufactured sealing strip specially designed for the purpose.

The shower should not be put into use until it has cured and is adequately dry

 

Is there a weight limit when tiling a wall?

The maximum weight of tiling which can be supported by a dry, well-adhered plaster background is 20kg/m². This is equivalent to ceramic tiles with a maximum thickness of 8mm plus tile adhesive or natural stone tiles with a maximum thickness of 7mm plus tile adhesive

The weight of tiling to a plasterboard background direct (without plaster skim) should not exceed 32kg/m². This is equivalent to a ceramic tile and adhesive with a maximum thickness of 12.5mm and natural stone and adhesive with a maximum thickness of 10mm.

It is important to emphasise that the weights quoted includes both the tile and adhesive.

Further advice should be sought either from the manufacturer, regarding the suitability of the adhesives and grouts and also guidance must be sought from board manufacturer regarding additional information on recommended methods for the installation of boards.

The following table offers general guidance to some common types of building board and the maximum recommended weights for tiling.

Wall Substrates Maximum Weight of Tiling per m²
Gypsum Plaster 20Kg/m²
Gypsum Plasterboard Direct (without a plaster skim) 32Kg/m²
Wood-based sheets Up to 30Kg/m²
Foam-cored tile-backing boards Up to 60Kg/m²
Fibre-cement boards Up to 60Kg/m²
Gypsum Fibre boards Approximately 35- 40Kg/m²

*In this context tiling is defined as a tile plus its bedding and grouting material.

Tiling to Timber

Modern construction is increasingly based on prefabricated modules, this means that tiles need increasingly to be bonded to a range of dry lining partition wall systems, proprietary composite joist and board overlay products for floors.

Older properties floors that are often constructed of timber joists and floor boards create a similar challenge.

For many years it has been considered that such floors cannot be tiled. However, The Tile Association have produced a technical document explaining that the majority of timber floors can be tiled and outlining the products and methods to use. In addition many adhesive manufacturers produce specific groups of products for this particular application.

In general the floor needs to be stable with normal humidity levels and needs to be physically capable of bearing the extra weight. The floor is then overlaid with a proprietary intermediate substrate to separate the tiles from the floor, eliminating cracking and crazing caused by movement and differential rates of expansion and contraction due to temperature changes. Specific types of product used for the overlay are relevant to different situations and are outlined in depth in the publication.

The overlay is then followed by the application of a sealant where necessary and adhesives and grout that is designed to be suitable for this purpose.

A beautiful tiled bathroom floor adds value to a home, not only is it hygienic and far easier to care for than other products, but will last a lifetime. Your nearest TTA tile supplier or fixer will be able to provide advice on specific projects. The Tile Association want everyone from merchants, retailers, fitters and installers to house builders, property developers, interior designers and architects to be aware that the answer to the question “Can a suspended wooden floor be tiled?” is almost always “Yes”.

 

Choosing Bathroom Tiles

Choose your tiles carefully taking advice from a good tile supplier. It is also very important to get the correct adhesives, profiles, mattings and waterproofing systems to ensure the tiling lasts a life time. A TTA tile fixer or retailer will be able to provide all the necessary information.

For wet areas such as in showers and wet rooms it is essential to tile onto an already water resistant background. Sand/cement render, dense concrete or water resistant tile backer board are ideal backgrounds. Plaster, plasterboard, timber and timber-based products such as MDF or plywood are absorbent and should be made waterproof by the use of a waterproofing or tanking system.

Failure to do this is currently the most common cause of tiling failures in domestic bathrooms. The latest trend is for very large tiles and they are particularly suitable for large bathrooms or en-suites where you can carry the tiling through into the bedroom. Large tiles are heavy so do check that your walls are suitable.

Tiles can add value to your home so be prepared to spend money and time. Pay a little more and get something that really makes your bathroom special. For luxury at a modest price tag choose inexpensive plain white wall tiles and add stunning borders or mosaics. These vibrant tiles can be expensive but you will only be using a small amount.

Make sure floor tiles are suitably slip resistant for bare feet in wet areas such as walk-in showers.

If you are tiling yourself buy or hire the best equipment, it will save time and money and before you start download Tile it Right from the help section of this website. It is a free DIY tiling guide which includes tips on tile selection and calculating the number of tiles needed.

The best tip of all. Before you start; work out how long it will take you (about three times as long as a professional), how much per hour you earn and how much your house is worth then consider employing a professional. To find a professional, reliable, experienced tile fixer use a Tile Association member.

 

Undertile Heating

With underfloor heating you can have the heat just where you want it even in bathrooms and kitchens where wall space for radiators is limited.

The most important rooms in the home at that time in the morning are the bathroom and kitchen. Why turn the heating on all over the house just to heat two rooms. With underfloor heating on timers you can make sure these rooms are ready for you every morning. The layout of most kitchens, the classic U shape being acknowledged as the best for functionality, means that whoever is working in the kitchen is at the opposite end of the room to the radiator.

With underfloor heating you can have the heat just where you want it even in bathrooms and kitchens where wall space for radiators is limited. Underfloor heating is particularly good in hallways where the linear nature of the space can mean that the heat source is at one end of the hall and the cold comes in at the other.

And, of course, tiling is ideal for hallways as all the effects of muddy kid’s boots, dripping dogs, and leaking carrier bags can be removed with just a quick mop. You can even install it undertile heating outside. Our members tell us that they are increasingly being asked to provide underfloor heating systems beneath tiles outside, on patios etc. to keep them free of ice and snow.

This is common in commercial premises, and is starting to be popular in residential situations. For exterior tiling do ensure that the tiles are both slip-resistant and frostresistant. Your TTA supplier will advise.

Undertile heating is an energy efficient solution to heating as it spreads the heat evenly across the room. It is quick and easy to install. Underfloor heating is particularly good with tiled floors as it is simple to install at the same time as the tiles are laid and only adds a few millimetres to the floor height. Tiles are a great at storing and conducting heat. Early storage heaters were just metal boxes full of bricks and like bricks tiles are made of clay which stores heat and gives it off gradually.

 

Choosing kitchen wall tiles

Choose your tiles carefully taking advice from a good tile supplier, preferably a TTA member retailer.

Prepare carefully. A detailed plan of how the tiles are to be set out can save a lot of cutting and result in a more professional looking finished project. Very large tiles may not suit your kitchen particularly if there are a lot of electrical sockets to cut around. Large tiles are heavy and cannot be fixed to some backgrounds.

Mosaics can be very useful in kitchens which tend to have a lot of switches and sockets to cut round. Mosaics come on a mesh which can be cut with scissors. Tiling an entire kitchen in mosaic could prove expensive. Instead, use mosaics between the worktop and wall units and choose a complimentary tile for the other wall areas.

Don’t try and match the colour of the worktop, a contrast or a similar colour to the floor, co-ordinating with the units, will always look more effective. Don’t be afraid to mix matt finish tiles with gloss units or worktop and vice versa.

Buy or hire the best equipment, it will save time and money. Drilling holes in tiles is a routine part of any installation and that includes kitchen tiles. To avoid chipping or breaking them when drilling you will need a specialist tile drill.

Before you start; work out how long it will take you (about three times as long as a professional), how much per hour you earn and how much your house is worth then consider employing a professional.

 

Choosing shower or wetroom tiles

British Standard BS5385 is the Code of Practice for fixing wall and floor tiles. Part 4 of the Standard offers advice on fixing tiles in particular situations including wet areas such as in showers.

First check with your tile supplier that the tile is suitable for use in a shower and/or bathroom. Part 4 of British Standard BS5385, the Code of Practice for fixing wall and floor tiles offers advice on fixing tiles in particular situations including wet areas such as in showers. BS5385 states It is essential to tile onto an already water resistant background. Sand/cement render, dense concrete or water resistant tile backer board are ideal backgrounds. Plaster, plasterboard, timber and timber-based products such as MDF or plywood are absorbent and should be made waterproof by the use of a waterproofing or tanking system.

Note the word “essential” in the above paragraph. Failure to do this is the most common cause of tiling failures in domestic bathrooms. Tiling onto non water-resistant backgrounds is therefore in breach of the British Standard BS5385

An alternative to plasterboard or timber based products is tile backerboard which is an inert water resistant product.

Waterproofing systems can be painted on to or applied to an absorbent background. Most tile adhesive producers have a range of waterproofing systems that coordinate with the tile adhesives and grouts in their product ranges.

The tile adhesive should be a water resistant polymer enhanced adhesive meeting the requirements of BS EN 12004 for a D2 dispersion adhesive or C1 or C2 for a cementitious adhesives and the tile grout should be water resistant, meeting the requirements of BS EN 13888.

Tiles should be fixed using the solid bed method, i.e. ensuring that there are no voids beneath the tiles. The joints between the tiles should be filled using a water resistant grout.

Special attention should be paid to sealing the gaps between the base of the tiling and where the tiling joins the base of shower units or bath and penetrations in the tiling (e.g. shower fittings), using a good quality antifungicidal silicon sealant or a proprietary manufactured sealing strip specially designed for the purpose.

The shower should not be put into use until it has cured and is adequately dry.

 

GSI not DIY

However good you are at DIY you will be doing a job for the first time that someone else has spent a lifetime learning how to do properly.

You can always tell an amateur job from a professional one; and that’s the key; if you are going to Get Someone In, make sure that someone is a professional.

When you want a professional tradesman check out their trade organisation; with tiling it’s The Tile Association. The Tile Association has over 1000 member business units across the UK. TTA checks out any tile retailer, fixer or tile fixing company wishing to join their ranks. It checks their experience, abilities, track record and financial health. Fixers have to provide customer references, and have their work checked out or be recommended by an existing fixer member.

 

Tiles in the sales

Always buy more tiles than you need. You should slightly over estimate anyway for breakages and cuts but think to the future. Tiles can last a lifetime and in 5 years a new bath, a new shower screen or new radiators can leave small gaps. Tiles bought in the sales are unlikely be available again.

Mix and match. You can buy small quantities of different tiles and create panels, stripes or a chequerboard effect. Buy heavily patterned tiles and create an accent panel or feature wall using cheaper plain tiles as the background. Choose vibrant metallic or glass borders that aren’t in the sale and team with plain coloured tiles from the bargain section. Work your scheme out carefully before you buy and do make sure that the tiles are the same size and thickness.

Mosaic tiles come on a mesh background and can be easily cut into strips to make a border of any width you like. You can team these with large format white tiles for a very stylish bathroom. Buy more of the mosaic and create an accent wall over the bath, in the shower or above the basin with a mirror set in.

Buy decorated tiles and panels for your kitchen and team with cheaper plain tiles. Once again do be sure they are the same size. For a really minimalist look choose white tiles for your kitchen walls and use a bright primary colour just behind the hob.

You can often find plain tiles in size 100x200mm left over from commercial projects. Working it out carefully you can create brick effect, herringbone and basket weave patters to name just three. The brick effect looks really good in deep colours used half way up a wall in a hall way. Top with a border and a moulding in tile or wood and you have an almost indestructible surface on a wall that gets lots of hard wear.

On floors use the herringbone and basket weave patterns to make plain floor tiles look special. For a very rustic look choose a chequerboard floor in red and black or brown and black unglazed tiles or choose black and white for a more Victorian effect.

 

Common Tiling Terms

There is a great deal of terminology used within the tiling industry. The following is a collection of the most common terms and their meanings.

Additive: Generally refers to a liquid polymer that can be added to a grout or adhesive to improve its adhesion and flexibility.

Adjusting time: The length of time after fixing a tile that it can still be adjusted without detriment to the adhesive bond strength.

Buttering: The process of spreading a thin layer of adhesive on the underside of textured tiles directly before bedding. This is to ensure a full bed adhesive is achieved.

Calibrated / Un-calibrated: Calibrated tiles indicate a product submitted to specific mechanical finishing in order to obtain more precise dimensions; they are suitable to be fixed by thin mortar bed or adhesive.

Efflorescence: The appearance of light deposits of salts on cementitious materials, occasionally visible in grout lines. It is as a result of moisture bringing salts to the surface that when dry leave a white powdery deposit showing light and dark variations within the grout. It can occur due to moisture migration from the background substrate, by watering or premature cleaning off of the grout. It is not detrimental to grout performance.

Frost Resistant: The ability of a tile, adhesive or grout to perform even when the external conditions can result in frost formation. The tiles usually have to have very low water absorption to ensure cracking does not occur.

Internal / external: Products that are suitable for both internal and external use without affecting their performance parameters.

Laitance: A term used to describe a fine particle material deposit (often referred to as ‘fines’ or ‘fat’) found on the surface of cementitious or calcium sulphate subfloors. The deposit is a weak interface and should be removed to ensure the tile adhesive has a sound, strong surface to bond to. Laitance should be mechanically removed (often followed by vacuuming), and is caused by too much water when installing a screed. It can also be found when a levelling compound has been incorrectly used.

Movement joints: Gaps left in tiling floor and sealed with a flexible material to minimise the development of stresses within the tiling system. Typically between different substrates, where tiles abut uprights, at corners and where expansion joints are present in the existing background.

Mould resistant: The ability of a product, usually a grout, to resist the growth of mould.

Open time: The time, usually in minutes, after application of an adhesive within which it will still bond and secure the tile. This can be influenced by the nature of the substrate (with absorbent substrates reducing open time) and also the ambient conditions where warm, dry conditions reduce the open time.

Polymer modified: This term refers to adhesive and grout formulations that include added polymer for increased adhesion and flexibility. Polymer modified products are common due to the increased use of vitrified and porcelain tiles, which have a low absorbency and require a ‘better’ adhesive to adhere them.

Pot life: The length of time after mixing a grout or adhesive that you have to use it. After the pot life has been reached, the mixing product should be discarded. Water should not be added to try and regain its characteristics.

Primer: A liquid applied to a substrate prior to tiling. Used either to enhance adhesion or to reduce porosity providing a longer open time for the adhesive.

Rapid setting: An adhesive modified so it sets rapidly, by utilising different cements and technologies. Enables tiling and grouting to be carried out in a shorter time frame.

Ready mixed: Adhesives that are supplied ready for use, without the requirement to add any water or liquid polymer. Usually acrylic based and generally only used for wall tile installations where set time is not so critical.

Set time or ‘Walkability’: The time, usually in hours, after which a bonded tile can be grouted and/or walked upon without affecting the bond. The set time for ready mixed adhesives is greatly dependent on the type of tiles and substrate.

Slump or slip: The vertical movement of a wall tile after it has been bedded into an adhesive. Traditionally battens have been used to prevent slump but modern adhesives are modified with anti-slump or anti-slip characteristics.

Solid bed fixing: Bedding under the tiles which, as far as is practicable, is free of voids, so that the tiles are solidly supported.

Tanking: Applying waterproof membrane, usually incorporating a mesh, in areas such as showers to protect moisture sensitive background substrates from water impregnation.

Tensile adhesion strength: A standard test used to determine adhesion strength of tiles and adhesive. Usually quoted in N/mm² and the higher the number the greater the bond between the materials.

Tile backer boards: These boards can be constructed from a variety of materials including cement, or resin based compounds and may be reinforced to give added strength. These boards are sometimes suitable for use in wet areas, e.g. showers, or for their insulation properties.

Underfloor heating: There are two basic underfloor heating systems used with tiling installations. The first is warm water pipes within a screed. This does not generally require any special products to be used. The other is electrical radiant mats placed on the screed surface. These often need to be encased in adhesive (polymer modified) or in a suitable smoothing compound.

Water repellent: Used usually when referring to grout, it’s the ability of the product to repel water from its surface. Does not imply a waterproof grout.

Water resistant: The ability of an adhesive or grout to still retain its performance even when subject to full immersion in water.

Water staining: A situation where moisture gets into natural stone, or some porous body ceramic tiles, resulting in discolouration, usually of the edges, but sometimes the faces of the tile.

Working time or ‘Workability’: The time, usually in minutes, after mixing an adhesive or grout that will still retain its characteristics to enable it to be applied, bedded onto and finished. With rapid set products the working time will be reduced the longer the material is left in the mixed container. Also, warmer temperatures will reduce the working time.

 

Tile Types

Ceramic: A tile consisting of mixtures of clay, which are pressed or extruded and kiln fired at high temperatures, to give a hard ‘bisque or biscuit’. The ‘biscuit’ may be left unglazed but is most often glazed to give more decorative options as well as physical benefits. This includes terracotta and quarry tiles. Porous body ceramic tiles are not considered suitable for external use.

Vitrious (fully vitrified and semi-vitrified): Similar in manufacture to ceramic tiles, but incorporating different clays to provide tiles that are harder, denser and less absorbent. They may be fired for longer and at higher temperatures than ceramics. The term vitreous simply means ‘glass like’. The classification for ‘fully vitrified’ is a tile with less than 3% water absorption. Fully vitrified tiles require the use of a polymer modified adhesive and may be used externally in areas for spas and swimming pools. Semi-vitreous tiles have a water absorption between 3-7%.

 Porcelain: Porcelain tiles are made from a different blend of clay, and a manufacturing process similar to ceramics. This controls shrinkage and water use and results in a very dense, hard-wearing tile with an absorbency of less than 0.5%, suitable externally for commercial projects as well as for swimming pools and areas subject to frost. ‘Full bodied’ porcelain doesn’t show wear as there is no upper glaze. They are much more affordable and are nowadays also used in domestic installations.

Terrazzo: Either pre-manufactured or laid in-situ, terrazzo consists of granite and marble chips in a Portland cement, or sometimes epoxy resin binder. They can be polished to give a low absorbent and high strength tile suitable for commercial use.

Agglomerate: This type of tile is manufactured by mixing graded pieces of granite and marble with cement and resins to give a pre-formed tile. They generally have low absorption.

 Glass: Manufactured from glass, and available in many striking opaque colours. Traditionally manufactured in small sizes and often on mosaic backings, they are now available in much larger formats. They are very hard and offer extremely low porosity. There are presently no British or European standards covering glass tiles so it is always worthwhile contacting the manufacturer for adhesive recommendations. Typically a minimum of a C2 classification is required but some decorative tiles may require resin based adhesives.

Where can I find information on swimming pools

Members can access the full Design and Construction Process for Swimming Pools technical document by signing in. Architects can register for free to access the document.

 

Where can I find information on adhesives and grouts?

Members can access the full Adhesives and Grouts in Internal Tiling technical document by signing in. Architects can register for free to access the document.

 

Where can I find information on large format tiles?

Members can access the full Large Format Tiles in Internal Tiling technical document by signing in. Architects can register for free to access the document.

 

Where can I find information on calcium sulfate screeds?

Members can access the full Tiling to Calcium Sulfate Screeds technical document by signing in. Architects can register for free to access the document.

 

Where can I find information on internal ceramic tiling?

Members can access the full Internal Ceramic Tiling technical document by signing in. Architects can register for free to access the document.

 

Where can I find information on tiling to acoustic systems?

Members can access the full Floor Tiling to Acoustic Systems technical document by signing in. Architects can register for free to access the document.

 

Where can I find information on movement joints?

Members can access the full Movement Joints technical document by signing in. Architects can register for free to access the document.

 

Where can I find information on slip resistance?

Members can access the full Slip Resistance of Hard Flooring technical document by signing in. Architects can register for free to access the document.

 

Where can I find information on wet rooms?

Members can access the full Tiling in Wet Rooms technical document by signing in. Architects can register for free to access the document.

 

Where can I find information on heated floors?

Members can access the full Tiling to Heated Floors technical document by signing in. Architects can register for free to access the document.

 

Where can I find information on tiling to raised flooring?

Members can access the full Tiling to Raised Flooring Systems technical document by signing in. Architects can register for free to access the document.

 

Where can I find information on resin agglomerated tiles?

Members can access the full Tiling with Resin Agglomerated Tiles technical document by signing in. Architects can register for free to access the document.

 

Where can I find information on the cleaning and maintenance of tiles?

Members can access the full Cleaning and Maintenance of Tiles technical document by signing in. Architects can register for free to access the document.