FAQ | Tile Solutions Wall & Floor Tiles
Brick tiles are a good floor choice for informal or rustic décor. Available in several earth tone colours, brick tiles should be treated with a stain resistant sealer. Floor brick is normally used in outdoor settings (such as patios) and can be arranged in interesting geometric patterns.
Cement-bodied tiles are poured into molds, then fired or dried naturally. Colour may be added. Sealing is required after installation for moisture and stain resistance.
Ceramic tiles are made from clay or other minerals. The extruded material is shaped and heat-treated (fired) in a kiln. Clay tiles are then further treated in one of two ways:
- Glazed — Colour is added to the tile after firing. The glasslike surface is bonded to the tile. Glazing allows brighter colours to be used and adds stain resistance. Because of their slick, glassy surface, glazed tiles are used mostly on walls or countertops. Glazed tiles offer more colour choices than unglazed.
- Unglazed — (Also called quarry tiles). The pigment or natural color is present during firing and is part of the tile itself. Unglazed tiles need sealing for stain resistance.
Porcelain or ceramic mosaic tiles are two inches square or smaller. They can be installed individually or can be found pre-mounted on mesh or paper sheets. Mosaics may be glazed or unglazed.
Pavers resemble brick, but are thinner. Shale based pavers are used for patios as well as interior floors. Like quarry tiles, pavers need sealing for moisture and stain proofing
The material is fired at a very high temperature, making a dense tile. The denser tile makes porcelain tiles more resistant to moisture.
Quarry tiles are unglazed and require sealing in wet areas. Clay-based quarry tiles are used extensively in commercial settings. Because it’s a durable and relatively inexpensive material, it’s becoming more acceptable in homes. The predominant colours are earth shades of red and orange.
Saltillo or Mexican tiles are air dried rather than kiln dried. Drying outdoors in the sun makes this tile a little softer and less durable. The exposure to the elements also gives the tile a look that is unique. When used indoors a sealer is required.
Terra cotta is the same material in construction and appearance as clay garden pots. Tiles are absorbent and need to be treated for indoor use.
Stone or marble chips embedded in cement make up a terrazzo floor. The polished surface makes a durable floor material.
Finding a tile you like is easy. Just make sure it’s the right one for your floor and choose a tile that’s rated for the area where you plan to install it. Entryways need a hard, abrasion-resistant, moisture-proof tile. Baths require a moisture-proof non-slip material. Slip-resistant tiles are treated with an abrasive material to “rough up” the smooth surface for safety. Some tiles are rated for indoor or outdoor use only, others can be used in either application.
Floor tiles are usually 1.25cm to 2cm thick, manufactured in squares measuring 10 cm x 10cm up to 60cm x 60cm. Other shapes, such as octagonal and hexagonal are available. (Wall tiles are thinner and come in squares from 8cm x 8cm up to 15 cmx15cm.)
Mosaic tiles are 5cm square or smaller and can be installed individually. Mosaic tiles are also available in pre-mounted paper or fabric mesh sheets.
Also known as vitrified tiles, they are often pressed under greater pressure during the manufacturing process and are fired at extremely high temperatures.
Porcelain tiles may be glazed, polished or unglazed to suit a range of interior applications. They are also capable of imitating natural stone and come in a number of look-alikes such as limestone, marble and travertine.
What is the difference between standard ceramic tiles and porcelain tiles?
Tile terminology can be confusing. Most types of tiles that are made from clay or a mixture of clay and other materials, then kiln-fired, are considered to be a part of the larger classification called “Ceramic Tiles”. These tiles can be split into two groups, porcelain tiles and non-porcelain tiles. These non-porcelain tiles are frequently referred to as ceramic tiles by themselves, separate from porcelain tiles.
“Ceramic” or non-porcelain tiles are generally made from red or white clay fired in a kiln. They are almost always finished with a durable glaze which carries the color and pattern. These tiles are used in both wall tile and floor tile applications, are softer and easier to cut than porcelain, and usually carry a PEI 0 to 3 rating. Non-porcelain ceramic tiles are usually suitable for very light to moderate traffic and generally have a relatively high water absorption rating making them less frost resistant and they are more prone to wear and chipping than porcelain tiles.
Porcelain tile is a tile that is generally made by the dust pressed method from porcelain clays which result in a tile that is dense, impervious, fine grained and smooth, with a sharply formed face. Porcelain tiles usually have a much lower water absorption rate (less than 0.5%) than non-porcelain tiles making them frost resistant or frost-proof. Glazed porcelain tiles are much harder and more wear and damage resistant than non-porcelain ceramic tiles, making them suitable for any application from light traffic to the heaviest residential and light commercial traffic. Full body porcelain tiles carry the color and pattern through the entire thickness of the tile making them virtually impervious to wear and are suitable for any application from residential to the highest traffic commercial or industrial applications. Porcelain tiles are available in matte, unglazed or a high polished finish.
Porcelain stoneware is a hard and compact ceramic material that is coloured and non-porous. “Stoneware” means that the ceramic body of the tile is extremely vitrified and therefore compact and featuring a high mechanical strength.
This ceramic body is obtained starting from a mixture of clay, sand and other natural substances. After being suitably prepared, these mixtures are fired at a high temperature (1000 – 1300 C°).
One of the most outstanding features of porcelain stoneware is its extremely high resistance to abrasion, in other words the resistance that the surface has with regards to the movement of bodies, surfaces or materials that come into contact with it.
The most striking properties of ceramic materials strictly relate to their composition and structure, which are the result of the production processes mentioned above.These properties are hardness and mechanical resistance, stiffness and inertia.
‘Surface finish’ defines the texture of the surface of a ceramic piece and the process adopted to obtain it.
The matt finish is the most versatile; the semi-polished finish enhances shine and elegance; the bush-hammering effect simulates a process performed with tools such as chisels, bits, etc. that give the surface a rough and rustic effect; structures make the surface non-slip for use in wet environments and particular environmental conditions as well as for use outdoors.
Glazed tiles are coated with a liquid glass, which is then baked into the surface of the clay. The glaze provides an unlimited array of colours and designs as well as protects the tile from staining. The unglazed tiles are pretty much the same as the glazed tile, except that their surface is not coated. Full-body porcelain tiles do not show wear because their colour extends throughout the tile, making them ideal for commercial applications.
Suitable and easy maintenance of hard surface materials is just as important as your original decision to purchase and have installed your choice of tiles.
You are obviously expecting long term performance and pleasing appearance.
Your aim should be to:
- Keep your tiles and stone surfaces clean and maintain a pleasing and hygienic condition.
- Maintain the surface to retain the initial surface performance attributes.
- Remedy any potential situation that may permanently damage the surface of tiles or stone installation.
Glazed Surface – generally fully glazed tiles are easier to clean than unglazed products, depending on the water absorption of the unglazed products.
Unglazed Products – the lower the level of water absorption, the easier it is to clean.
Age of the Product – cleaning a worn surface becomes more difficult.
Slip Resistance – slip resistant surfaces are developed for a purpose, but cleaning of the surface is usually more difficult.
Stone Tiles – higher polished surfaces are easier to clean.
Initial Cleaning Following Installation
Obviously, the initial cleaning operation will require a more concerted effort as there will always be a bit of grout haze present. (The installer should not leave any adhesive or grout residue on the tile surface).
The major portion of these contaminates will be able to be removed using normally available household cleaning agents with perhaps the necessity to use scrapers / scouring pads in hard to reach positions.
Use non-metallic type scourers only as metal may leave metallic marks.
Care must be taken with gold, silver, platinum type finishes as they are relatively soft and do require particular care.
Some hand-made, partially glazed or lower fired items such as spotters, listello, etc. may need care so as not to affect the surface.
Do not use abrasive cleaners, scouring pads etc. on these products.
In all cases of treatment with cleaning materials, follow up with a thorough water washing.
The majority of floor tile contaminates are due to foot born traffic. Effective door mats do keep most contaminates at the doors.
Grout and Joint Cleaning
All internal corners, tiling edges, grout lines and movement joints from time to time will require some extra attention so as to ensure that no build-up of contaminates occur. These areas may require specific cleaning with cleaners and scourers to return them to their original appearance.
Mould or discolouration is basically the result of lack of removal of soap, shampoo and other contaminates left in corners that dry and build up.
If this occurs, scouring the area will be necessary even scraping off these items out of corners may be required.
Also, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning as they may have special instructions for cleaning.
Tiles and similar finishes require regular cleaning so that contaminates do not build up. They are ideal finishes but they do not clean themselves.
Recommended Cleaning and Maintenance Procedure.
The initial cleaning of the tiles may require an extra effort to remove any grout residue that is left after laying. We would recommend the use of a ‘Grout Haze Remover’ for this initial clean.
To maintain the surface with regular cleaning we would recommend –
- Sweeping or vacuuming the tiles first
- Then wash the surface with ‘Neutral Detergent’.
- Rinse the surface thoroughly with clean rinse water afterwards, changing the water regularly, i.e. every 20m² or more if the water is extremely dirty.
Cleaning should be done regularly using this 3 step process.
Cleaning tools, i.e. mop heads and brushes, should be changed regularly and allowed to dry between uses.
Cleaning & Maintenance of Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles
As recommended by The Australian Tile Council Inc.
Post Installation Cleaning
- Wax on Porcelain- In some instances, the manufacturer will coat their tiles with a protective wax layer. You should consult your tile merchant about the timing and removal technique for the protective layer.
- Physical protection layers- As the name suggests, this is the presence of a film on the tile, typically to protect it in transit. We would recommend this layer be removed from the tile prior to grouting in most cases, depending on the type of layer present.
- Slip Resistant Tiles- Generally the fact that the tile is considered to be slip-resistant means that it has a more textured surface, which may prove more difficult to clean. Dependant on the surface type, the use of scrubbing equipment and cleaning products may be necessary. If required, clean with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly with clean water.
- Initial Cleaning- This operation may require a concerted effort as there may be some grout haze present. The tiling contractor should not leave any adhesive or grout residue on the tile surface. Normally, there is a requirement for some post installation cleaning. Damage can occur to tiles if incorrect chemicals or cleaning methods are used.
- Glazed Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles- Maintaining these surfaces can be achieved by sweeping or vacuuming then washing the area using a specialised tile cleaning agent available from your tile merchant. Rinse surface thoroughly afterwards, using clean water. Residual streaks, detergent marks and films can be a result from excessive use of cleaning agents. In some instances, on advice from your tile merchant only, acidic cleaners may be needed for optimal results. These products must be recommended by your merchant as suitable for your particular tile application.
Do not use acid, unless recommended by your merchant. To clean fully glazed tiles as this may affect or damage the surface.
- Polished Porcelain- Generally the cleaning and maintenance of polished porcelain is not too dissimilar to that of ceramic tiles. Different brands of polished porcelains may however, recommend varying methods of cleaning and maintenance. It is suggested that you ask the tile merchant what is the most suitable product and method for your particular tile. Do not use acid, unless recommended by your merchant. To clean fully glazed tiles as this may affect or damage the surface.
- Glass and Metallic- When cleaning these tiles be careful not to use abrasive applicators such as scouring sponges.
- Unglazed tiles- All unglazed products do have a level of surface porosity which usually means more attention is required to retain cleanliness. Spills or accidents that result in contaminates on the surface, may stain. Often, unglazed tiles are sealed for ease of maintenance or future cleaning.
Many grouts on the market have mould inhibitors which can help reduce mould growth. Mould can still occur if conditions are severe or if a grout without mould inhibitor has been used. Mould can be removed using specialised grout cleaners. Gels are particularly effective, as they can be left on the grout in badly affected areas, before washing it off. Heavy duty cleaners can help remove soap scum and other dirt build-up in extreme circumstances. Mould or discolouration is basically the result of build-up of soap, shampoos and other residues left to dry. If this occurs, a heavy duty cleaner may be necessary.
Freshly installed tiles may be covered overall, or in patches, with grout haze. There are a number of commercial products available from your merchant, for this problem.
Efflorescence is a white discolouration caused by minerals in the cement that are soluble in water, being dissolved and transported to the surface as the water evaporates. It is most noticeable on dark materials but can occur on any cement based system. This is not normally a problem as only insignificant amounts of white discolouration make it to the surface of the grout during normal curing. However, because it is water soluble, under certain conditions, the migration of the discolouration to the surface can be increased. Therefore if the system takes longer to cure or if there is more water present during curing, there is more time available for water to be carried to the surface. Sometimes minor efflorescence can be removed by using normal cleaning methods, whilst more difficult stains can be treated with specific products from your merchant. Ensure the grout has had sufficient time to cure or you may make it worse by increasing the water on the surface.
Generally, the longer a stain has been left on a tile, the more difficult it will be to remove. Where possible, consult your merchant about the type of stain you are trying to remove, as there are specialist products for cleaning.
Cleaning and Maintenance Standards
Should you have further or more specific questions, The Australian Standards are available to all members of the public for reference.
The relevant document being- Standards AS3958.1-2007 Appendix C Cleaning & Maintenance