There are 4 types of tile: glazed, unglazed, porcelain, and natural stone.
Glazed – The glaze coating is comprised of liquid colored glass and is applied and baked to the surface of the tile under very high temperatures. The liquid glass coating is what creates the texture, design, and color of a glazed tile and protects the body of the tile from staining. The colors in the glaze come from various minerals such as zinc, mercury, copper, gold, silver etc.
Glazing allows ceramic tile to be offered in unlimited colors and designs. If the glazed surface is scratched or damaged, you cannot repair the tile- it has to be replaced. Glazed ceramic tiles are generally used in residential areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, walls, and countertops.
Some particular features of glazed ceramic tiles are:
- Stain Resistant
- Scratch Resistant
- Fire Resistant
- Fade Resistant to direct sunlight
- Slip Resistant
- Easy to Clean
Single-Glaze Tiles – To produce single glazes, the glaze coating is applied directly to the tile before it is fired. Single-glazed tiles offer more vivid colors and are typically more durable than double-glazed tiles and unglazed tiles.
Double-Glaze Tiles – Double glazes are produced by applying a glaze coat to tiles that have already been fired, then firing the tiles a second time. Double glazes show patterns better than single glazes, but are somewhat less durable, making them more suitable for lighter-traffic floors, floor accents, and countertops.
Unglazed – Unglazed tile have no glazing on the surface which means it has a matte finish making it look more like natural clay. The color of the bisque, or body of the tile goes all the way through the tile. All color variations commonly found in unglazed tiles are produced by mixing different colored clays or by adding various colored minerals to the clay before firing. The through color means the tile will not show wear from scratches like glazed tile does.
The most common unglazed floor tiles are quarry and unglazed porcelain. The most popular color for quarry tile is red, followed by various earth tones. Unglazed porcelain and quarry tiles offer good slip resistance, making them traditional favorites for high-traffic areas and outdoor settings, such as patios and porches.
Porcelain – Porcelain tiles are growing in popularity with homeowners and interior designers. They are denser and less porous than glazed ceramic tile. Plus, porcelain tiles are highly resistant to moisture, stains, bacteria, odors and even harsh cleaners. For homeowners, porcelain tile is especially resistant to staining, scratches and fading. Porcelain tiles come in either a glazed porcelain or a through-body porcelain tile. Through-body porcelain tiles have the same colors all the way through from front to the back of the time. If they are chipped or scratched, the color will not change. Glazed porcelain tiles are similar to glazed ceramic tiles in that they have the design layer (glaze) on top of the tile body that is a different color and will be noticeable if chipped.
True porcelain tiles have a 0.5% or less water absorption rate, making these tiles freeze-thaw resistant. This is why porcelain tiles are very popular for outdoor settings. Porcelain tile are formed under extremely high pressure and fired at very high temperatures for nearly twice as long as other ceramic tiles. This provides a much denser and stronger tile than common glazed ceramic tiles; making them ideal for entry ways, corridors, and other high traffic areas.
Natural Stone Tile – There are several different types of natural stone used in residential and commercial applications. Their uses vary widely and include flooring, countertops, wall covering, fireplaces, and exterior facades. Types of natural stone include, but aren’t limited to, marble, granite, and slate.
Marble, granite, and slate tiles are available in two different surface textures or finishes: polished or honed. A polished finish is shiny and sleek looking and is slippery when wet. Polished finishes work best on walls such as in a shower or a fireplace. A honed finish has more of a matte finish and is therefore less slippery than polished surfaces. Marble is also available with a tumbled finish, giving it an antique, rustic appearance.
The process of tumbling marble actually involves tumbling the tiles with sand inside a large drum. After a period of time, the corners of the tiles become rounded and the edges slightly chipped, resulting in a well-worn, antiqued appearance. The popularity of tumbled marble as increased dramatically in recent times. This is especially true regarding its use for bathroom countertops and backsplashes. The number of stylish touches that can be created with its sculptured trim, mosaic borders, and decorative medallions is virtually limitless.
Granite is one of the hardest and most durable of all stones used in flooring. The speckled colorations found in granite add a visible sheen and depth to each tile. Like marble, no two pieces are alike and color variations add to the natural beauty and appeal.
Slate is more of a fine grained rock with traces of metal that were present during it’s slow, natural formation in the earth. Natural shade variations are an inherent characteristic of slate and enhance the distinctive details of each piece. Slate has a rustic charm that appeals to many who enjoy natural materials.