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Frequently Asked Questions About Tile And Stone

This Support FAQ page provides answers to questions our support team frequently receives. Here are the questions we're most often asked. If you don't find the answer you're looking for feel free to contact us.

What are rectified tiles?

All natural tiles vary slightly between production runs. Sizes change between batches and this means is that mixing and matching different production batches is seldom possible. Rectified tiles are deliberately made over size, and are then cut on a diamond saw at the factory to a common caliber. The square, saw-cut edges allow for finer narrower grout joints between tiles and result in a beautiful and contemporary finished look. Rectified calibration also means that rectified tiles will still work together when modular sizes are mixed. Rectified products have increased in popularity over recent times. Note that rectified tiles need to be installed on a good surface square and level, and your tile contractor should be experienced with the requirements for laying this type of product.

What is the difference between ceramic & porcelain tiles?

Ceramic tiles have been around for over 2000 years. They typically have a white or red clay biscuit with some form of glaze on top. Porcelain tile cost more than ordinary ceramic tile because you are getting a superior product. Porcelain tile requires the finest natural ingredients and a rigidly controlled manufacturing process that utilizes the most advanced processes and technology. Porcelain tiles are made from an extremely finely powdered clay tablet that is pressed under enormous pressure and heat - several hundred degrees hotter than ceramics. Porcelain tiles are much harder and more dense than ceramic tiles. This allows porcelain tiles to be made in very large formats that would be impossible to achieve in a ceramic tile. Porcelain tiles will also often have a colored biscuit that matches the surface glaze, or have a color and pattern that extends all the way through the tile. This avoids the common problem with ceramics where the glaze gets chipped and exposes the color of the clay biscuit underneath.

What is the difference between glazed and unglazed tiles?

Glazed tiles are made the same as unglazed except that a glass layer called a glaze is fused to its' surface by means of tremendous heat. The glaze provides an unlimited array of colors and designs. The glaze also protects the tile from staining. Unglazed tiles are true inlays. Unglazed tiles are very similar to glazed tile, except that their surface is not coated. Unglazed ceramic tiles do not show wear because their color extends throughout the tile, making them ideal for commercial applications.

What is the difference between wall and floor tiles?

Wall tiles, because they are not intended to be load bearing are typically thinner, lighter and softer than floor tiles. Wall tile glazes are not designed to handle the abrasive forces from foot traffic. Increasingly, floor tiles are being applied to walls and this is no problem so long as the walls are strong enough to support their weight and proper ceramic tile installation methods are used. However, it is not usual to recommend using wall tiles in floor applications.

What is the difference between interior & exterior tiles?

Don't limit yourself to thinking that tile can just be used indoors. It is an ideal patio covering and for decorative front porch stoops. You can permanently adhere tile to pre-cast concrete walking pads to create stunning garden stepping stones. But if you decide to use ceramic tile outdoors, be sure these tiles meet slip-resistance minimum requirements. Exterior tiles have a surface texture that helps make them slip resistant. Top-quality tile manufacturers make special outdoor tile that has a slightly gritty surface, even though the tile is glazed. The invisible grit provides superb traction when tiles become wet. To be used outdoors,the tile must be frost proof and unglazed for floor use. Make sure the absorption rate is 0.5% or less. We recommends that slip-resistant tiles be used outside in areas exposed to weather and rain, or around swimming pools etc. Exterior tiles are usually graded to indicate their particular slip-resistance. Note that there is always a trade-off between slip resistance and maintenance and cleaning. Slip-resistant tiles will accumulate more dirt and will naturally require more regular attention.

Do ceramic and porcelain tiles vary in quality?

Tile manufacturers grade their products as they come out of the factory. Defective products are clearly labeled "2nd Quality" by Italian manufacturers and are sold at a lesser price. The ASTM standard C-1027 describes test method for determining visible abrasion resistance of glazed ceramic tile. Classification for durability is based upon both the results of this test. All unglazed tile should meet Class IV+ standards when installed in either commercial or residential installations.

Class 0
Generally not recommended for use on floors
Class I
Light traffic, for residential bathroom floors
Class II
Medium-Light Traffic, residential interiors with the exceptions of kitchens, stairs, landings and areas near external entries.
Class III
Medium-Heavy Traffic, all residential applications. Commercial applications which are similar in traffic to residential applications. Specifically excepted are areas of prevalent circulation or turning points.
Class IV
Heavy Traffic, all residential and most commercial applications such as the public areas of exhibition halls, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, shops and schools.
Class IV+
Extra Heavy Traffic, all residential and commercial applications similar to Class IV where extra durability may be required.

How many tiles do I need?

Tiles are usually sold by the square feet, so the area to be tiled needs to be carefully measured to establish how many square feet are involved. This can be done by your architect, builder or preferably your tile contractor. Note that there is always a degree of waste resulting from the cuts required to achieve your tile layout. The contingency allowance for wastage is best estimated by your tile contractor, but is typically between 15% on a straight lay and 15% on Diagonal lay, depending on the tiles being used and the complexity of the particular design and layout. Also, consider that it is always wise to keep several spare tiles just in case replacements are required at a later date.

What type of tile can be used around my fireplace?

Any tile can be used on the face of a fireplace. Putting the tile directly in the firebox is not recommended, but high-fired ceramic tile is often used directly on top of and surrounding the firebox.

Can I use high gloss tile on my kitchen countertops?

It is not recommended. Structurally it will work, but the high gloss will eventually show scratching.

If I drop something, is it going to crack the ceramic tile?

It depends. With proper installation, ceramic tile is very durable. If you drop a glass or dish, the glass or dish will most likely break, while the tile may chip or crack.

How can I drill a hole through ceramic tile?

Use a carbide tipped masonry bit or diamond drill bit. Regular twist drill bits can't cut through the fire-hardened glaze.

I'd like to install porcelain tile in my home, but won't it be cold?

Not necessarily. Porcelain tile is no different in temperature than anything else in the room except that it holds its temperature better because of its mass. Of course, cool is good in warm weather climates and it's easy to warm things up with an area rug or two.

What's your opinion about sealing grout. Should it be done?

Not necessarily. There are a lot of contractors who will tell you yes, and still others who will tell you no. The reason for sealer is to make cleaning and maintenance easier. There has been a trend in recent years to use light colored grouts in the main floors of the home in order to match lighter colored tiles, and a sealer is used to prevent "wear paths"-- darkening of the grout joints in areas of main traffic in the home. Unfortunately, in my experience, sealers will not prevent this. They'll only delay the inevitable. You're much better off to use either a medium or darker colored grout. As for using sealer in the bathroom, sealer will help, but again, over time, grout will discolor somewhat, or "age", and cleaners will be, for the most part, just as effective, with or without sealer.

Nothing is going to help keep grout looking fresher then choosing a medium colored grout that hides the inevitable dirt that will end up on a grouted floor. In showers and tubs areas, you usually have the opposite effect with lighter colored soap scum and hard water.

What should I know about kitchen and bathroom floor installations?

When you're thinking of tiling your kitchen or bathroom floor, take into consideration the disruption in your daily life. Some preparation can be done well in advance of the tiling project. You will have to remove cabinets and doors if a new sub flooring will be applied. For the kitchen floor project, set aside a long weekend so the kitchen can be back in operation as quickly as possible.ow long does it take?

Tiling the average Kitchen floor takes usually 3 to 4 days and involves the following:.

If you want to install kitchen floor tile where it will be covered by cabinet bases or other permanent fixtures.

Remove Cabinets If Needed

In some cases cabinets must be removed to take out the old flooring or to replace the sub floor.

Consider The Appliances

Free standing appliances, such as dishwashers, ranges and refrigerators should be removed from the kitchen to install tile underneath the appliance location.

Drawing Layouts

Good layouts start with accurate measurements and detailed scale drawings. Use these drawings to experiment with potential layouts until you're satisfied. Try to center the tile in the room and keep the final tiles at opposite side equal in size.

Minimize the number of cuts required

Disguise areas in rooms that are not square. Laying out borders, diagonal sets, or running bonds in that stage are also important.

Is ceramic tile expensive?

The cost of ceramic tile when installed by a professional is typically higher than many other floor coverings. However, because of its durability, it is also considered to be the least expensive in the long term. Occasionally, a tile may be cracked or broken, but the entire floor will never have to be replaced, except in rare cases. Most other types of floors, such as carpet and vinyl flooring, will eventually need to be replaced. Tile runs the gauntlet. It will endure so much and increase the value of your home.

How long will tile last?

As long as you don't chip at the tile with any heavy or sharp objects, tile should last for the life of the home. Tile was found intact in the ancient ruins of Rome and various other places. After all, it's made of finely ground stone, and hardened in a kiln. Just basic maintenance and avoiding heavy drops should definitly keep your tile lasting and looking great for many years to come.

Should a sealer be used on ceramic tile?

A glazed tile is already stain proof, so there is no purpose to putting on a sealer. You may want to put a penetrating sealer on your unglazed tile or your grout joints. The penetrating sealer is an invisible, stain resistant shield that is absorbed into the surface.

Should something be done before installation of ceramic tile if there are cracks in the slab?

Whenever there are cracks in the slab other than a hair crack, spider webbing surface cracks, it has to be addressed before installing the tile or you will more than likely have cracks in the tile. There are several ways of doing this, but the best is a crack isolation membrane. The joint should be thoroughly cleaned and filled with a resilient filling agent ( before Installation )

Can ceramic tile be used outdoors?

Yes tile can be used outdoors, we recommend the tile must be frostproof and unglazed for floor use. Make sure the absorption rate is 0.5% or less.

Can I tile over sheetrock?

Yes you can tile over sheetrock so long as it's not a wet area ( tub enclosure, shower area, etc.) yes, you can. Even stone tile will adhere well.

Can tile be installed in the bedroom?

Tile is becoming a more popular choice for bedrooms. Tile offers natural comfort and easy maintenance. In addition, tile provides a tasteful and stylish feel to any bedroom.

Should I use large or small tile?

Using large tiles in a small room will visually expand the room, making it look larger. However, dramatic tile patterns may make the room look even smaller.

What color grout should I use?

Using a grout that is the same color as the tile will create a blended effect, making the floor more uniform in appearance. For some, this may be the desired effect. However, using a contrasting color grout will emphasize the grout joint. You don't want to go to extreme or your floor will end up looking too busy and you will tire of it quickly. The best bet for grout selection is to choose one the blends well with the tile.

Is tile or grout waterproof?

No. Even with a grout sealer, most sealers used these days are breatheable, meaning the moisture can transmit through it, both in and out, so even sealer won't make it waterproof.

What is an isolation membrane ? Should I use one?

An isolation membrane is one made for the specific purpose of isolating ceramic or stone tile from movement in the structure on which it is installed. It comes in a couple of different forms, trowel applied or sheet membrane. Either one is good, but the preference is usually for the sheet membranes, because of their greater tolerances for movement.

Are ceramic tiles cool?

It depends on the temperature in the room. Ceramic tiles can be cool underfoot if the room is cool. If it becomes a problem, particularly in the winter months, consider area rugs or even an under-floor heating system. Tile will acclimate to the room temperature.

How long do I wait to install tile on a new concrete slab?

New concrete reaches full strength after 21 days but it is recommended to wait the full curing period of 28 days before installing tile.

How do you clean ceramic tile?

Cleaning tiles is simple. Wipe tile with a damp sponge or mop, using a small amount of soap-less detergent in warm water. Heavy duty cleaning can be accomplished with a bleach and water solution. Avoid abrasive household cleaners, which will scratch your tile.

Why are soaps not recommended?

They tend to leave a film which can dull the surface and promote mold and mildew.

Can I use steel wool pads to clean my tiles?

No, they are not recommended for the same reason abrasive cleansers are not recommended. They may scratch the tile. Further, loose bits of steel left on the grout can cause rust stains.

What is an acceptable amount of lippage (high corners) on a ceramic floor tile installation?

Lippage is referring to the variance in plain from one piece of tile to the other and becomes particularly objectionable when it occurs in a corner. The most common reason for lippage is that the substrate has not met Tile Council of America standards and the tile contractor has failed to point this out prior to the installation. The larger the piece of tile, the more difficult it is to compensate for an uneven floor surface. This then becomes a particular problem on canterlevered floors. It would be desirable to keep it within 1/32 (approximately the thickness of one dime), with 1/16 (2/dimes) as maximum.

What determines when a sanded grout should be used instead of a non-sanded grout?

The width of the joint dictates not only whether the grout should be sanded or not, but also the gradation of the sand. As a rule of thumb: 1/8 or less - non-sanded grout , over 1/8 to 1/2 - fine-sanded grout , over 1/2 to 3/4 - coarse-sanded (Quarry) grout.

Will tile fade over time if exposed to direct sunlight?

No. The color of your tiles are oven-heated at temperatures exceeding 2300 degrees. As such, they are impervious to fading.

How long do I wait before sealing?

This depends on the sealer being used. Because of the different formulations, different sealers require different waiting times, anywhere from 3- 28 days, and the best advice I could give you is to check your particular brand of sealer for its recommendation. Generally speaking, there are two types of sealer base -- water and solvent, and the solvent based sealers generally require the shorter waiting period, but they're also much more expensive. I prefer waiting 14 days.

What could be causing cracks to appear in my floor tile?

There is always a remote possibility of an individual fractured tile, usually caused by not being bonded properly and then being affected by an object dropping on it. That type of fracture is repaired by replacing the damaged tile. A rule of thumb to determining the problem: if the crack goes from one tile to another on a continuous line through the grout joint, the problem, without any doubt, is in the substrate; which is usually a crack in the slab. The damaged tile would have to be removed, a crack isolation membrane put down and the tile reinstalled; which should solve the problem.

Will grout stain or get dirty easily?

It depends. Grout that has not been sealed after installation is subject to stains. Grout that has a protective seal over it will retain its new appearance for many years.

Do I really need thinset under my backerboard?

Yes absolutely, The manufacturer requires it, and if, for some reason, there's a problem with the floor afterward, you've immediately lost any warranty protection. There's a big controversy in the industry right now concerning the type of thinset to use. The manufacturers, for the most part, recommend latex modified thinset, whereas the Tile Council of America recommends unmodifed, or dryset thinset. The reason is that the thinset isn't there to bond the backerboard to the subfloor. If it were, then the modified thinset would make a difference. In reality, it's actually there to fill the paper thin voids between subfloor and backerboard, thereby eliminating another source of and extending the life of your floor.

What are the types of ceramic tile?

Two basic types of tile. Glazed and unglazed. A glazed tile is a hardened piece of clay covered with a protective glass coating, creating a sheen. The coating is sprayed or poured on as a liquid and then hardened in the oven. An unglazed tile is simply a hardened piece of clay. There is no protective covering.

Are unglazed tiles as stain-resistant as glazed tiles?

No. Glazed tiles are far more resistant to stains because of the glass protective coating. There are some unglazed tiles with a measure of stain resistance, but as a rule, glazed is better if worried about stains. The hardness of the glaze be impacted by the temperature of the oven.

Does the gloss level affect slip-resistance?

Naturally. High-gloss products will be more slippery than low-gloss products.

How high should toilet paper holders and towel bars be?

The best advice is wherever they feel comfortable to you. About the only one that would be somewhat difficult to figure out when it's time to install is the toilet paper holder, and the general rule is about 24" off the floor, and 18-24" forward of the toilet flange. As for the soap dish, you'd want to locate it somewhere where it won't be in the direct line of the showerhead, even though the traditional location is the middle of the back wall, 6" from the tub puts it right there. Putting it in the line of fire just gives water a chance to work its way behind the soap dish and shorten the life of your shower wall.

How long will glazed tile last?

If the right product is selected for the area, and if it's properly maintained, the tile should last for the lifetime of the home. Glazed tiles are nearly indestructible.

Why can't I install wall tiles on my floors?

Wall tiles are specifically made to for walls. The glaze applied is too soft and thin and the tile itself is more porous, making the tile softer and more prone to breakage with heavy foot traffic.

How can you determine whether a tile is suited for outdoor use in a cold climate?

The tile label will specifically state whether they are frost resistant. Tile that absorb 3% or less moisture are considered frost resistant. They are classified as vitreous and impervious tiles.

Can a floor tile be used on a countertop?

If the structure of the counter is strong enough to support the weight of the heavier floor tile, then this should be fine.

Will tiles burn if a match or cigarette is dropped on them?

No. Tiles are fire-proof.

What is the most important feature to consider when selecting a tile?

It's durability. The tile must be tough enough to withstand the abuse it's going to be subjected to.

What is the difference between porcelain and ceramic tiles?

Porcelain tiles are usually unglazed tiles consisting of a fine mixture of clays. Porcelain tiles are very dense, impervious tiles that are extremely moisture-resistant. They are very durable tiles.

What is preslope in a shower pan, and do I really need it?

In a shower pan, the slope is the pitch from the perimeter to the drain. This allows 90% of the water to run down the surface of the floor and into the drain. Preslope is for that other 10% of the water that seeps into the floor's surface to be caught by the shower pan floor liner. It's a slope that goes under the pan liner so as to make sure that any water that gets through the surface will seep down the liner to weep holes surrounding the drain underneath the shower floor, where again, it will be directed to the drain's pipe. Without this preslope, the water sits in the bottom of the shower pan, where it can become a major area for mold, mildew, and bacteria to fester and become a bad health problem. So, yes, you really need it.

Can tile be installed directly over wood sub floors such as flake board, chip board, luan, masonite, or other composition-type boards?

not recommended. Often, these are prone to absorb moisture and, if they do, may fall apart. The last thing you want under your beautiful new tiles is to have the sub floor become damaged.

Can I install tile over existing ceramic tile?

Assuming the existing tile is cleaned thoroughly and sound, this should be fine.

Under what conditions can tile be installed directly over a vinyl sub floor?

I recommend that the vinyl be removed but when the vinyl is firmly adhered to the floor and all contaminants and waxes have been stripped from the floor it should be ok. If the vinyl is cushioned, it should be removed. Bear in mind that some older vinyl may contain asbestos, which can be dangerous if inhaled. If unsure, contact a professional.

How long will it take for the thinset to cure?

You should wait at least 24 hours before walking on your new floor. Some installations will take longer, and you should check this with the manufacturer.

What is a Moh?

Moh is a scale of hardness developed by the German mineralogist Fredrich Mohs. The scale ranges from 1 ( talc ) to 10 ( diamond ).

How good is premixed thinset?

Premixed thinset is an organic adhesive (mastic) with a fine sand mixed in to give it some bulk. For wall applications where mastic is appropriate, it's ok, I don't see any advantage over traditional mastic, But for the use it was intended, that being to replace portland cement based latex modified thinset, it's a bad idea, for several reasons. First, all mastics are formulated to be used in very thin applications. The thicker it's used, the longer it takes to dry, and for some of the heavier notches that are used in flooring installations, it will never completely dry. Any kind of pliability will cause flex in the tile, which will cause the tile floor to fail, allowing either tile or grout to become cracked. Secondly, even if it's used in a thickness that will allow it to dry, all it takes is a little moisture in the air to cause problems. All mastics are water based, and any moisture will allow the mastic or premixed thinset to re-emulsify which causes failure in the floor.

Is there a difference between marble and granite?

Both marble and granite are quarried, cut, and formed directly into tiles. However, they differ on many levels. For instance, granite is and igneous stone. That is, it is formed from molten lava. Granite, which is comprised of crystallized minerals, is extremely hard. So hard that it would dull your knives if you used the surface as a cutting board. Marble, on the other hand, begins its evolution as sediment. It is comprised mainly of silt, animal skeletons, shells, and plant matter. Over millions of years, this sediment solidifies into what we term marble. Because its main component is calcium, it can be affected by acids such as vinegar and citrus beverages.

Should I use marble or granite in my kitchen?

Granite is a more durable stone; therefore, it is advisable that it be used in the kitchen. Granite is also impervious to heat. You could place a hot pan on it to no ill effect.

Marble is far easier to scratch and is affected by acidic substances. These acidic substances will cause a chemical reaction which removes the polish. However, with proper precautions, such as sealing, marble may be used in the kitchen. Ancient Greeks used marble extensively in all areas of their homes.

Is it necessary to seal stone?

Marble and stone are minerals and, as such, are porous. In other words, they may absorb liquids, which can result in staining. After installation, marble and granite surfaces are sealed in order to clog the pores and prevent everyday spills from staining them. However, time may remove the seal, making it necessary to reapply. Granite is far more stain-resistant than marble.

What is the best way to clean marble and other stones?

Don't use anything you wouldn't consider safe to clean your hands with. For instance, you would't clean your hands with an abrasive powder and or cleanser. Never use any product which is acidic, such as glass-cleaner type products. Use cleaning products specifically designed for marble and granite.

Can my granite top be damaged?

It cannot be damaged through normal living. Neither knives nor hot items, such as pots and pans, will affect it. However, like any solid surface, high impact blows have the potential to harm granite. Because of its crystalline structure, it can chip if subjected to hard objects. In the event of severe abuse, a chip can be filled with a granite dust and epoxy mixture. Additionally, if left unsealed, granite can absorb stains, which can ultimately cause discoloration. Heat from pots and pans or burning liquids will not affect granite under normal circumstances.

Does granite stain?

As a general rule, no. Granite is very dense. On some colors, moisture may penetrate if left for a long time on the counter, but any dark spots will dry and disappear.

How durable is Travertine?

Because it is a stone, it can be durable. However, like other stone, the surface needs to be sealed to provide some protection. Acidic foods and liquids, such as orange juice or vinegar, a common cleaner could damage the surface. Travertine can scratch, requiring repair or replacement of the tile.

How Do Tile Setters Spend Their Time?

• Measuring and marking surfaces for tile to be installed

• Using tile cutters, grinders and wet saws to cut and shape tile

• Spreading first layer of thinset or mastic over surface

• Cutting wire mesh to required size and tacking to surface

• Applying a cement onto the mesh and leveling to the right thickness

• Applying another layer of thinset mortar on surface.

• Applying thinset adhesive to the back of the tile and installing

• Tapping with a mallet to attach tile to adhesive for bonding

• Filling in spaces between tiles with grout

• Applying sealers


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