Types of Man Made Tiles

When shopping for wall tiles or floor tiles you will be bombarded with terms like porcelain, ceramic, mosaic etc. This guide will teach you everything you need to know, and a whole lot that you don't about different types of tiles. Also see our types of natural stone page for a description of types of natural stone tiles.

Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic 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 colour and pattern. Produced for both wall and floor use in varying degrees of wear resistance some are suitable for commercial use.
As the clay back (or biscuit as it's often referred to) is usually able to absorb water, most are less frost resistant that other types of tile and so often are not suitable for external use. Sealing is not required with ceramic tiles. Ceramics are available in most finishes including matt, satin and high gloss.

Ceramics can be cut using a normal tile cutter. First the glaze is scribed and then the tile is snapped along the scribe. Odd shapes can be cut with a water cooled cutter or tile nippers.

When compared with porcelain tiles, especially porcelain floor tiles, ceramic tiles are more prone to chipping and wear. However this is relative! Most good quality ceramics will last a lifetime if laid correctly.

You can find ceramic tiles on the Trade Price Tiles website by filtering for 'Tile Material' in the Shop By options on the left whilst browsing.

Porcelain Tiles

Porcelain tiles are generally made using pressurised manufacture of porcelain clay dust. The result is 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 at the rear of the tile (less than 0.5%) than ceramic tiles which allows them to be classified as frost resistant or frost-proof and hence used as outdoor tiles. 

Porcelain tiles are either glazed and carry the colour\pattern in the glaze or full body, which means that the tiles carry the colour and pattern through the entire thickness of the tile making them virtually impervious to wear and suitable for any application from residential to the highest traffic commercial or industrial applications. Even glazed porcelain tiles are much harder and more wear and damage resistant than non-porcelain ceramic tiles.
Porcelain tiles are available in most finishes including matt (unglazed), satin and high polished gloss.

Porcelain tiles can be cut in the same way as ceramic tiles but as they are more dense its often harder work. Cheap tile cutters tend to be no match for porcelain. Shaped cuts should be made using a water cooled electric cutter.

You can find porcelain tiles on the Trade Price Tiles website by filtering for 'Tile Material' in the Shop By options on the left whilst browsing.

Quarry Tiles

Quarry tiles are made using clay which is then fired to form the tile. Most people remember the 150x150 red tiles in kitchens and hallways in older houses, often worn smooth from many years of footfall. They have mostly fallen out of favour in recent years apart from owners of 1930's era houses who are renovating or replacing existing floors.

Quarry tiles are unglazed and require sealing. Cutting is usually very difficult, the scribe and break method does work if the breaker is very strong. 

Mosaic Tiles

This is a general term for small tiles sold and fixed by the sheet. A sheet is a hessian or mesh backing that allows fixing of the tiles in a practical fashion instead of individually fixed every tiny tile. Mosaic tiles come in ceramic, glass, porcelain and a variety of natural stone materials. 

Cutting is exactly the same as described elsewhere in this document but can be tricky as you often have little to hold on to. Sealing requirements depend on the material that the mosaic tiles are made up of.

Glass Tiles

Glass tiles are usually vitrified or hardened glass. Formed just like normal glass and then heat treated.


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