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Know your tiles – the Boulevard Décor™ way…

Know your tiles – the Boulevard Décor™ way…

We have reached a time where a tile is no longer just a tile.
In this article we will be discussing various different types of tiles and what you should be aware of.


Porcelain Tiles:

Porcelain tiles have become extremely popular with regards to home interiors, and it is no wonder why – they are durable, hard-wearing and offer a beautifully sleek and upmarket aesthetic.

One quality that really sets porcelain tiles apart from ceramic tiles is their supreme durability and the fact that they are resilient to tremendous wear and tear. Porcelain tiles are composed of highly refined and purified clay that is shaped through a dry pressing process, which is then fired at extremely high temperatures. The end result is a fully vitrified tile that is harder, stronger and more durable than even natural stone.

Porcelain tiles are also rectified (cut to size) after the firing or baking process, so the size of the tile is always consistent and exact.
This means that smaller spacing between the tiles can be used when they are laid.
Porcelain tiles also boast an extremely low water-absorption rate of less than 0,5%.

This quality makes them more hygienic and easy to clean, as they are impervious to acids, alkalis, strong detergents and solvents. It also makes them resistant to extreme weather conditions, frost and really cold temperatures. Natural porcelain tiles are also chip- and scratch-resistant.

As porcelain tiles have increasingly gained in popularity, so has their technology evolved and developed. Today, there are a few main different types of porcelain tiles:


Polished Porcelain Tiles:

Once these tiles have been fired, they undergo a rigorous polishing process using soluble salts, so that the tile is finely honed and smoothed until it bears an impressive high-gloss sheen, in much the same way marble, granite and other natural stones are polished. The process also gives them an impressive level of slip-resistance for such a high-gloss tile. Although these tiles look like they have been coated, it is important to understand that this is not always the case. The polishing process cuts through some of the porcelain clay particles, exposing their inner core.

Although porcelain is relatively impervious to stains, it is the inner core that may, in some cases, accept staining. As such, it is essential that these tiles be sealed with a special sealer so that the exposed pores are filled. This will make the tiles impervious to any stains and easier to maintain. These sealers will not affect the appearance or the slip-resistance of the tile. Since these tiles are made entirely from clay, their colour and texture variations are limited to that of the actual clay used.

–              Perfect for all applications


Polished Porcelain Tiles (nano treated): 

Porcelain tiles are made from ceramic materials which are pressed harder and fired at higher temperatures than glazed ceramic tiles.  The materials melt (vitrify) into a glossy material which has a water absorption rate of less than 0.5%.  Nano treatment is a process of treating the surface of the tile with organic nano particles which combine with the tile substance to form a nano film of high density and stability.  It increases the sheen of the tile, enhances the colour and provides improved protection against staining.

Glazed Porcelain Tiles: 

These tiles boast a porcelain body with a factory-applied glaze that creates an extremely dense and non-porous finish. It also allows for the ability to apply various printed patterns onto the tiles for more variations with regards to colour and texture. Different manufacturers use various techniques to glaze porcelain tiles, however, once a porcelain tile has been glazed, it will last the lifetime of the tile and no further treatment will be required as the tile can be considered as non-porous, stain- and slip-resistant. This makes them exceptionally easy to clean and maintain and ideal for all kinds of residential floor and wall applications. A good starting price for these tiles would be around R150-00 and most popular sizes would be 600 x 600.

–           Perfect for all residential floors and walls
–           Not ideal for high traffic and commercial settings

There are two types of glazed porcelain tiles, namely:


Glazed Polished Porcelain Tiles: 

The glaze on these tiles is mechanically polished to a super-high gloss or mirror-like finish. Glazed polished porcelain tiles have the advantage of looking like polished porcelain tiles, but they don’t require any sealing.


Semi Polished Porcelain Tiles: 

The glaze on these tiles has only been given a partial polish, giving them a polished appearance that follows the texture of the pattern that has been applied during the glazing process. The biggest benefit of this technology is that you end up with a more effective non-slip texture that can be carried through from indoor to outdoor applications in the home.


Double-loaded Polished Porcelain Tiles: 

Once natural porcelain tiles come out of the kiln, they undergo no further processing what so ever. In this unglazed and unpolished format, these tiles boast an absorption rate of less than 1%. These are known as “through body” porcelain tiles. These tiles can be treated and a different face or body applied – this is known as being double-loaded. This means that the top half of the tile varies in terms of design and texture to the bottom half of the tile. This technique increases the colour and texture variations of these tiles.

Double-loaded tiles are baked for longer and pressed harder, and therefore boast an exceptionally high level of durability. Like polished porcelain tiles, these tiles need to be sealed to avoid any staining. Most popular size for these tiles would be 600 x 600mm. They would generally be used in Commercial and Residential settings, however one should avoid using them in high foot traffic areas.

–              Perfect for Commercial and residential settings
–              Not suitable for high traffic areas


Full Body Porcelain Tiles:

Made with a limited number of selected materials, blended, pressed and fired at higher temperatures than you would fire ceramics, veins and grains go all the way through the tile, so aesthetically what you see on top will be through the tile.

The advantage of this – amazing technical performance. You can use this tile in shopping centres, railway stations and other areas exposed to heavy footfall. There would be no glaze to these tiles.
You can check to see if the tile is “Full Body” by looking at the edge of a tile, if the colour runs all the way through and is not just on top, you’ve got it.

In recent years ink jet technology has resulted in far more decorative full body porcelain tiles being made available to the industry. Another incredible factor is that you will not experience fading of the colour due to outside weather conditions. Even the designs, being all the way through the tile, will not be affected by fading as a result of the weather.

–              Perfect for high traffic areas, commercial spaces, and back of house.
–              Could also be used in domestic or residential settings.

Grès Porcelain

Grès Porcelain stoneware is a ceramic with a compact, hard, coloured and non-porous body. The word “grès” means that the ceramic body of the tile is extremely vitrified, that is to say compact, hence the exceptional great resistance. The result is a lean clay body, little refractory, fired in a kiln (at 1200-1400 C°) until it reaches a non-porous vitrification and a complete water-proofing.

–              Mostly used for floor tiling but can be used on walls.


Sealing Porcelain Tiles:

Polished and natural porcelain tiles require sealing in order to ensure they are not stained. Some tiles are pre-sealed before they leave the factory – these tiles are not glazed, but instead they been treated with a special sealer to create an extremely hard and durable finish.

It is essential that consumers understand that some porcelain tiles are pre-sealed and others are not, and it is very difficult to tell the difference with the naked eye. Of course, pre-sealed tiles are more costly than those that are not sealed, however, they are by far the better choice, as there is no possibility of them staining or being marked when transported or laid. Where the tiles are pre-sealed at the factory, a Nano sealant is used, as this is the most durable, top-quality sealant that can be used.


Porcelain Adhesive:

Using the appropriate porcelain adhesive is also essential to the successful laying of porcelain tiles. Porcelain adhesive is available in 18 hour, 12 hour, 6 hour and 2 hour options, which is useful where there are time limitations on certain projects. Ensuring that the substrate on which the tiles are to be laid is entirely flat is also essential – in the case of an uneven substrate, you will need to commission a professional to level the floor by installing a floor leveller or floor screed. Laying tiles on an uneven substrate will lead to lippage, which means the tiles won’t be laid evenly, which could result in them cracking.


Ceramic Tiles:

The world of ceramic tile is wide and spectacular, with a seemingly endless family of product choices and style options. Ceramic tile flooring and wall products are offered in a broad range of textures, patterns and sizes.

When combined with a spectrum of grout and glaze options, they offer significant design options for any room in virtually any home style.

The term ceramic refers to any hard-bodied material made chiefly from clay and hardened by firing at high temperatures. Most modern ceramic tiles contain a mixture of refined clay, ground shale or gypsum, and other ingredients that reduce the shrinkage of the tile as it’s fired.

Once mixed with water, the clay body of the tile (or its bisque) gets its shape by being squeezed into a mould, pressed into a die, or cut like cookies from sheets. From there, temperatures from 480 degrees Celsius to 1370 degrees Celsius harden the bisque. Most ceramic tiles are fired at about 110 degrees Celsius. In general, higher temperatures produce a denser tile. Most unglazed tiles are fired only once, but some are fired twice. Those with decorative glazes are fired up to five times. The more firings, the higher the cost.

Ceramic tiles are not as dense as Porcelain tiles and have a higher absorption rate. This means that it is not frost-proof, and it may chip or damage more easily than their porcelain counterparts. Despite these differences, ceramic tiles are still very popular used for floors, counter-tops and walls. The tile is coated with a special glaze that protects and seals it which keeps the tile from absorbing stains while improving the durability of each piece.

There are 2 main local manufacturers in the South African ceramic tile industry today, namely:
Johnson Ceramic and Ceramic Industries.
With Johnson Ceramic you would find a lower irreversible water expansion with a 5mm spacing with the grout line where with Ceramic industries it would generally be between 7 – 10 mm spacing with the grout line.


Glazed Ceramic Tiles:

Glazed ceramic tiles consist of a ceramic body with a thin layer of glaze (glassy material) fired onto the surface.  The glaze renders the tile waterproof, chemical-resistant, fire-resistant and highly durable.  These tiles are produced in various colours and textures ranging from matt to gloss finishes and have a water absorption of over 0.5% and an abrasion resistance (PEI) rating to ensure that the correct tile is chosen for the correct application.

–              Perfect for high humidity areas such as bathrooms, toilets, laundries and kitchens.


Unglazed Ceramic Tiles (Terracotta):

Terracotta literally means “fired earth” and a terracotta tile (also known as a quarry tile) is made of fired clay, without a glaze.  Tiles are usually the colours of the naturally occurring clays and range from browns to ochres to reds.  The colours often vary from tile to tile.  Because Terracotta tiles are unglazed they are absorbent and will soak up liquids, greases, etc.  For this reason they must be sealed with a surface or penetrating sealant before use.


Hard Body Ceramic Tiles:

Hard body ceramic tiles have been known to be similar or even equivalent to Grès Porcelain with less than 0.8% water absorption. Hard body ceramic would look like porcelain and is locally manufactured. The most affordable size option for these tiles would be in a 600 x 600mm format and would be perfect for domestic applications.
As these tiles also have a great density and a low irreversible water expansion rate you would generally only need a 2 – 3 mm spacing.
One would need to use a porcelain adhesive for this type of tile.


Inkjet Digital Printing on Ceramic Tiles:

Inkjet ceramic tiles are produced from the same ceramic materials as normal ceramic tiles, but instead of being decorated with glazes, they are printed with special inks to create photo-realistic images on the surface of the tile.  Much like the picture on your television screen, the graphics on tiles are made of millions of small dots of colour.  The surface is then coated with a clear glaze to protect the design.  A good inkjet design offers the benefit of variability, ideally there should be between eight ad ten different ‘faces’ for each design.  This means that there should be no repeated tiles within a two square metre space.


Ceramic Adhesive:

There would be no specific time frames to this adhesive. Normal drying times would be between 8 – 12 hours after application before one would be able to use.


Boulevard Décor™:

There lies great value in dealing with knowledgeable professionals in order to choose the correct tile for the appropriate application.  Floor and wall coverings form a large part of the Bill of Quantities in any residential or corporate environment and this in its own validates the necessity to properly explore options instead of simply purchasing.  Besides the colour elements of the setting, texture and grade are equally important to achieve a reasonable and true value for the spend.

When you know your tiles, you can rest assured you won’t have any surprises in the future.  For this reason Boulevard Décor™ will never compromise the project by incorrectly advising – hence one of our slogans: ”The promise never to compromise a project – when the project matters”.  Settling for the cheapest available options is exactly that – compromising the project, only to be totally dissatisfied later.

Over years of building our network of trade partners with parties who are like-minded in their offering to their clients, well established relationships have been formed with our suppliers – to the extent that neither us or our suppliers will advise or even quote on incorrect products.  It is our opinion that while our approach is not on what the cheapest option is, but rather the most accurate option for the best price point, it is what helped build our integrity over many years.


Technical Terms

As you make decisions about tile purchases, you may encounter the following terms associated with tile manufacturing:

–              Bisque: The clay body of the tile. Bisque that is “green” has not yet been fired.
–              Cured: Describes bisque dried naturally or in low-temperature kilns.
–              Extruded: A process in which wet clay is squeezed under pressure into a mould.
–              Fired: Bisque hardened in high temperatures.
–              Glaze: A hard, thin layer of pigment applied to the tile to give it colour and protection.
–              Vitreosity: The resistance of a tile to water absorption, ranging from non-vitreous (very absorbent) to impervious
               (almost completely water-resistant).


AUTHOR:  Darius Du Plessis & Nickie Potgieter

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