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Tile Definitions And Classifications

Tile classifications of both ceramic and porcelain tile confuse many people, but the names mean very little. Porcelain is actually a type of ceramic tile. Many different definitions of porcelain exist in the tile installation industry, so the term, porcelain tile does not mean anything unless you know the reason for the name. Tile ratings tell more about tile than a classification of ceramic or porcelain.

Tiles are a mixture of clays that are pressed into shape and fired at high temperatures which gives tile it's hardness. The bisque " The Body " of ceramic tile may then be glazed, or it can be left unglazed depending on it's intended use.


Classifications of Ceramic Tile

P.E.I Wear Ratings from the Porcelain Enamel Institute

Group I Classification

Tiles that are suitable for residential bathrooms with light foot traffic . Generally wall tile products fall into this group. Some wall tiles can be used on the floor. Consult the manufacturer of the tile for their recommended areas of application.

Group II Classification

Tiles that can be used in residential areas, but not areas with high foot traffic, such as in kitchens, foyers, laundry rooms, etc.

Group III Classification

Tiles that are recommended for all residential installations with normal foot traffic.

Group IV Classification

Tiles that are suited for light to medium commercial applications, such as offices, sales rooms.

Group I Classification

Tiles used in heavy commercial traffic areas and are suited for exterior areas, shopping centers, airports, hotel lobbies, public walkways.


Tile Types And Definitions

Ceramic Tile

is a mixture of clays and other natural materials that are mined from the earth, shaped and fired at high temperatures. Traditional ceramic tile can be naturally-colored and left unglazed, like terra cotta, or they can feature colored or highly designed surfaces which can be glazed (finished with a glass surface) from matte to high gloss.

Porcelain Tile

are also ceramic tiles, but are composed of finer clays and fired at much higher temperatures. That process makes porcelain tile more homogenous (can have a through-body coloration, so scratches or dings are less obvious), much stronger and less prone to moisture and stain absorption. For those reasons, porcelain can be suitable for both indoor and outdoor installations.

Natural Stones

tiles consist of any product quarried from the earth and can be categorized into Marbles, Granites, Limestones, Travertines, Slates, Quartzites and various other products. Each type of Natural Stone will vary from piece to piece in regards to color, surface texture, edge treatments, durability and maintenance.


Metamorphic stone formed millions of years ago due to the action of extreme heat and pressure. Marble is simply changed limestone that, due to the heat and pressure, has crystallized, melted and re-cooled. Coloring is extremely varied and often accompanied with lots of veining and other mineral deposits.


Sedimentary stone formed millions of years ago due to the action of water and heat. Water and gases percolating through the stone give travertine its characteristic holes.


Igneous stones formed millions of years ago under conditions of extreme heat. Hard and crystalline in nature, granite is most often seen polished.


A metamorphic stone formed millions of years ago and derived from sedimentary rock. Slate is normally split (cleft) rather than cut with a saw as other stones are. Coloring can vary widely and wildly. Typically, slate is not finished, as the natural cleft surface is its focal point and source of interest and beauty.


Sedimentary stone formed millions of years ago due to the action of water and extreme pressure. Fossilized seashells and other sea life and treasures are often found in limestone. Primarily light beige and tan in coloring


A rock formed from the metamorphism of quartz sandstone consisting essentially of quartz in interlocking grains.

Tumbled Stone

Stone finish achieved by putting the stones in a machine that tumbles the stones around together causing an uneven rough surface and edges. This finish has a rustic appeal.

Mosaic Tile

Tile less than six square inches made of porcelain or clay composition. May come in squares, octagons, hexagons or random shapes ? mounted for ease of installation.

Quarry Tile

Tile made from the extrusion process from shale or natural clays and usually are 6 square inches or more in facial size and can be glazed or unglazed.

Paver Tile

Glazed or unglazed natural clay or porcelain tiles having a facial area of six square inches or more and made from the dust-pressed method.


Most Common Tile Terms


The most common style today in floor and wall tiles, as well as for residential and commercial applications. A liquid glass is applied to the body of the tile and fired at high temperatures. The glazing becomes hard and non-porous. Shiny glazes are softer, can be scratched easier, and can be slippery than the satin or rustic finishes.


There is no glazing or any other coating applied to the tile. Their color is the same on the face of the tile as it is on the back resulting in very durable tiles that do not show the effects of heavy traffic. The most common unglazed tiles are the red quarry tiles or the granite looking porcelain ceramic tiles used in heavy commercial areas.

Decorative Tile

Any tile face decorated by silk screening, hand painting or ceramic decal before firing.

Feature Strip

A narrow strip of tile with design, texture or contrasting color that creates a design concept.

Trim Pieces

Various shaped of bases, caps, corners, moldings, angles, etc.

Field Tile

The primary tile used to cover a wall or floor.

Floor Tile

A ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tile durable enough to withstand traffic, abrasion.

Wall Tile

Glazed tiles with that are designed for indoor use and are generally non-vitreous.

Saltillo Tile

Is a Mexican tile made of unprocessed clays.

Listello Tile

A narrow tile used to accent field tiles.

Mud Bed

A slang term referring to a thick-bed of mortar consisting of sand and cement.


A portion of the room's border or wall which projects beyond a flush surface.


Cross shaped plastic pieces that are used in installation to evenly separate tile. Manufactured in various thicknesses and shapes.


Used for bonding tile to a surface.

Epoxy AdhesiveUn-Glazed

A two part adhesive system consisting of epoxy resin and epoxy hardener. Used for bonding ceramic tile or stone to backing material.

Epoxy Grout

A two part grout system consisting of epoxy resin and epoxy hardener. Made to have impervious qualities, stain and chemical resistant. Used to fill joints between tiles.

Cure Time

The time period that a tile installation setting material must be undisturbed and allowed to set for it to reach full strength.


A penetrant applied to prevent the absorption of liquids or other debris. Used with porous materials including: quarry tile, grout, natural stone. Sealer is not necessary for glazed ceramic tile.

Dry Set Mortar

A cement based setting material for thin-bed installations.


Tile Density & Moisture Absorption

Tile Density

As the weight or the density increase it becomes a stronger tile.

Moisture Absorption

Again as the density increases the amount of moisture that a tile can absorb becomes less.

Tile density and moisture absorption have an indirect relationship to each other. As the density of the tile increases the moisture absorption rate becomes less. Tile density and moisture absorption are important to understand when selecting the tile for different applications.

Non-Vitreous Tile

Tile with a water absorption of 7% or greater (wall tile). Suited for indoor use only.

Semi-Vitreous Tile

Tile with a water absorption greater than 3%, but less than 7%. Suited for indoor use only.

Vitreous Tile

Tile with a water absorption less that 3% moisture, but more than 0.5%. Referred to as frost resistant tiles but can not be used in exterior areas where freeze thaw conditions could cause tile cracking.

Impervious Tile

Tile that have less than .5% moisture absorption (Porcelain tile). These tiles are frost proof and can be used in exterior areas, or on the outside of building facades.


Tile Production Methods


It is an Italian word meaning " double fired ". The clay body is fired on the first pass through the kiln, and the glaze is applied and fired on the second pass through the kiln. This process is only being used today for decorative wall tile products.


It is an Italian word meaning, " single fired ". The tile passes through the firing process one time at a temperature of 2200 degrees. Monocuttura tiles have denser bodies and harder glazes than Bicottura tile.


White Body Tile Versus Red Body Tile

The color of the body is determined by the color of the clay used by the manufacturer that is available in their geographic region. Look at the body of the tile to see if the color is red or white. The quality of the tile is more related to the quality of the manufacturer not the color of the body.


Wall Tile Trims


This is the most used trim shape for wall tile installations. Wall tile bullnose is sometimes referred to as surface cap . It has one rounded finished edge on the tile and can be used horizontally or vertically.

Corner Bullnose

It has two rounded finished edges on the tile to be used to complete the corner where the horizontal and vertical bullnose meet. Generally you use only 2 to 4 pieces for a bathtub enclosure.

Stack On Cove Base

This cove base provides a coving on the bottom and a flat edge on top to continue with more wall tile up the wall.

Rounded Top Cove Base

This cove base has a rounded finished top like bullnose and is used as a cove base in areas that will not have wall tile installed above it.

The above trims are the most commonly used. There are many other specialty trims available that will only confuse you. we'll be able to look at your installation and know what trims will be needed.


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Jacksonville Tile Pro | Sales (904) 306-6645 | Email: info@jacksonvilletilepro.com

Copyright © 2012 Jacksonville Tile Pro | Still Setting The Standard!!! | Our Privacy Policy

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