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tile glossary

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Abrasion Resistance

The ability of a flooring surface to resist abrasion when in contact with abrasive materials.


Absorbing or taking in a liquid or gas.


A chemical with a pH rating below 7.

Acrylic Resin

A transparent, synthetic resin made by polymerizing acrylic and methacrylic acid. It is fairly resistant to external contaminates.


A material often called glue that bonds one material to another.


An ingredient other than water, cement, and aggregate that can be added to concrete at the site of installation or at the factory to modify its properties in a number of ways. For example, it can lengthen or shorten hardening time.


A chemical substance often used to neutralize acidic substances.

Back Butter

The act of applying a layer of glue or adhesive to the back of a tile before installation.

Backing (Tile)

The bottommost layer of flooring that sits closest to the substrate. In carpet, this is the material that the fabric is tufted or woven into.


The area of wall behind a counter or sink.

Balanced Cuts

Tile that is cut to fit where full tiles will not.


A word used to describe tiles that are cut and placed where a baseboard would normally go.


A floor trim similar to a baseboard.

Beating Block

A block of wood often used with a mallet to firmly embed tiles into an adhesive.


A term that describes the fullness of a finishing material.

Brushed Finish

A finishing technique that involves brushing a flooring surface with an abrasive brush to replicate the appearance of natural wear.

Bull Nose Tiles

Tiles with a built in bull nosing, also known as caps.

Bull Nosing

A molding applied to the front of stairs and landings to create a rounded finish.


See Back Buttering


When a material such as stone or cement is cut or sanded so that it is uniformly thick throughout the entire slab


See Bull Nosing


A trim that usually goes around windows, doors, or entryways.


A flexible product that is spread into joints to provide a water and air barrier.

Cement Backer Unit / C.B.U.

A layer of material that is placed between a wooden subfloor and cement flooring to provide support and a moisture barrier.

Cement Board

Panels of aggregate cement reinforced on each side with glass-fiber mesh.

Cement Body Tile

Tiles made of cement and sand.


Ceramic tile is the most common type of tile flooring. They are formed from clay and other minerals, and then fired in a kiln. Ceramic tiles are available glazed or unglazed.

Coefficient of Friction / C.O.F.

Refers to a surface's ability to resist objects slipping or sliding across.

Conductive Tile

A type of tile flooring that conducts electricity and can often transmit it safely to the ground below.

Conventional Installation

A tile flooring installation method using cement mortar to affix the tile to the subfloor.


A tile used as a trim around corners and where a baseboard would go that is concave on one edge.


A split or separation in the surface of a floor. Often must extend to a specific depth to be considered a crack.


Small cracks or checks that interlace in the surface of a finish.


When properties of an adhesive or cement are changed by a chemical reaction which allows it to reach its maximum strength. This is generally done by condensation, heat, or another catalyst.

Damp Proofing

A coating that is applied to a surface to prevent migration of moisture.

Decorative Tile

Tile that has been decorated for aesthetic reasons using one of a number of different methods.


A layer of material used as a foundation for a tile installation which protects the subfloor and allows the tiles to move slightly without being damaged. It is also known as an underlayment.

Dry Set Mortar

A cement based mortar used in applications which are usually not greater than 3/16th of an inch.

Edge-Bonded Tile

See Pre-Grouted Tile


Salt deposits that form on the surface of concrete when sodium calcium hydroxide mixes with carbon dioxide.

Embossed (Tile)

A styling technique that consists of a three dimensional pattern or design in a surface.

Epoxy Adhesive

A type of adhesive that contains an epoxy resin and a hardener, used to adhere tiles to the surface beneath.

Epoxy Grout

A type of grout which contains an epoxy resin and a hardener, used to fill joints and grout lines.

Expansion Joint

A space left around the perimeter of the room or between sections of flooring that allows for the movement and expansion of the flooring.

Exposed Aggregate

Colored rocks or other aggregate exposed on the surface of concrete, generally by using abrasive materials or a pressure washer to remove the surface mortar. It is also seen on the surface of natural stone flooring.


A facility or area of operations where stone and other material is cut and customized to specific dimensions.

Facial Defect

A defect on a flooring surface which diminishes the overall appearance.

Faience Tiles

Decorative tiles that have a colorful picture or design on the surface. They are often hand-crafted and may vary from tile to tile.

Feature Strip

A design feature similar to a border that is used as an accent to enhance a floor.

Field Tile

Tiles used for the largest areas of flooring which may be inside a band or border.


The act of filling voids in a surface with a filler.


The coating applied to the surface of flooring to provide protection.

Fire Decorating

A technique that involves firing decoration onto a flooring surface.

Fire Resistance

A term used to describe the ability of flooring to withstand fire.

Fire Retardant

A chemical used to make a floor more fire resistant.

Fire, Bisque

A procedure of firing ceramic flooring.

Flamed Finish

A finishing technique that is often used on stone flooring to achieve a rough, textured surface. The surface is heated by flame until it is very hot and then quickly cooled, causing the surface to pop and chip.

Floating Floor Installation

A common flooring installation method where the floor floats on an underlayment and planks are hooked together by their tongue and groove edges. Glue is sometimes used in the seams of the tongue and groove, but the flooring is not attached to the subfloor

Floor Tile

A tile that is strong enough to be installed on a floor for everyday use.


An object or surface that is level with another object or surface.


A crack or break in rock or another surface.

Frost Proof Tile

A floor tile that is resistant to damage from freezing and thawing.

Gauged or Gauging

Measuring stone, cement, or other material in order to produce uniform thickness throughout the entire slab.

Glass Mosaic Tiles

Small pieces of glass arranged and mounted on a backing.


A protective coating fired onto a flooring surface, often colored.

Glazed Tiles

Tiles covered with a glossy or matte glaze which also adds moisture resistance.



Firing a protective coating onto a flooring surface, often colored for aesthetic reasons.


A moisture resistant panel that is similar to drywall.


A creamy mixture of mortar, cement or other cementious material and water used to fill joints and grout lines. It often has sand, gravel or other similar material added and is available in a variety of colors.


Filling joints with grout when installing tile floors.

Grouting Float

A trowel that is used to push grout firmly into joints.

Heavy Duty Tile

Tile that meets specific requirements which make it suitable for high traffic and commercial areas.

Honed Finish

A finishing layer of flooring which has a matte appearance and reflects less light then a polished floor.

Impervious Tile

Very water resistant tile with an absorption rate of 0.5% or less.

Isolation Membrane

An extra membrane placed below the surface of tile for added protection.


The frame of a door, window, or other opening.


An area in a wall which is indented in or projects out, making it deviate from a flush surface.

Joint Compound

A compound applied with paper or mesh to joints to provide a flawless joining of two surfaces once sanded.

Latex-Portland Cement Grout

A type of grout made of Portland cement and a latex additive.

Latex-Portland Cement Mortar

A type of mortar made of Portland cement and a latex additive.


Structurally durable backings that veneer slabs are adhered to.


A problem that occurs when the edges of two tiles that come together at a joint are not on the same plane. Some lippage can be tolerated and bridged using grout, depending on the width of the joint. Generally, the lippage between two surfaces should not b

Listel or Listello

A strip or border used for decoration, generally on a wall.

Masonry Cement

A mixture of cement with hydrated lime added to increase the workability.

Medium Duty Tile

Tile that meets specific standards and is suitable for medium traffic areas.

Mexican Paver Tile

A terracotta-like tile flooring that is usually unglazed and is available in many colors and textures.


Trims used to cover expansion gaps or to transition to another flooring surface.


Tiles fired in a single setting at temperatures in excess of 2000F.


A cementious mixture that also contains sand, water, and lime, used to adhere masonry such as ceramic tile or stone to the surface beneath.


A pattern or irregular design created with small pieces of flooring.

Mosaic Tile

Small tiles usually less than six square inches, usually pieced together to form patterns or irregular designs.

Mounted Tile

Tile that is pre-mounted either on the surface or on the backside on mesh, paper, resin, or another material.


A slang term for mortar made of sand and cement.

Natural Clay Tile

A natural ceramic tile that is usually made using a plastic or dust-pressed method, resulting in a lightly textured surface.

Nominal Dimension

A measuring of flooring that includes the recommended joint size. The actual size of the tile or piece of flooring may be smaller.

Non-Slip Tile

Tile that is resistant to objects slipping or sliding across it.

Non-Vitreous Tile

Tile that is not very resistant to moisture and has absorption rates over 7%.

Paper and Wire

A tile installation method which involves using wire mesh and tar paper as a backing.

Paver Tile/Pavers

Dust-pressed porcelain or clay tiles that are similar to ceramic mosaic tiles. Also may be vitreous stone, glazed or unglazed.

Pin Holes/Pin Lines

Tiny holes or lines in finish caused by finish sinking into low or less dense areas. This can be corrected by applying an additional coat of finish.

Plucked Finish

A finish texture that is achieved by plucking small particles out of the surface.


A truly level surface.

Polished Finish

A finish that has a high degree of shine or gloss and strongly reflects light.

Porcelain Tile

Very dense and smooth dust-pressed mosaic or paver tile.


The amount and size of tiny holes or pores in a flooring surface.

Pre-Grouted Tile

Tile that is pre-grouted in sheets and bonded together usually using an elastomeric material.


A common silicon dioxide mineral that is the main component in sandstone.


An area of flooring with consistent thickness.

Reducer Strip/Reducer

A molding accessory normally used at doorways or fireplaces, or to divide a room that is grooved on one edge and tapered on the other, forming a teardrop shape.

Sample/Sample Board

A small piece of flooring that acts as a representation of the final product.


Using a small piece of a product as a sample.

Sand Mix

A mixture of sand and cementious material applied not more than 2" thick to patch or level mortar beds.


Propelling sand at a high speed onto a surface to clean or roughen it.



Using a straightedge or other tool to level mortar in a mortar bed.

Sculptured Tile

Tile that has been sculpted or molded for decoration.

Sealant Coating


See Sealer


A coat that is applied to the surface of a floor before applying finish or other coats, which prevents the finish from being absorbed into the flooring itself. Also may be applied as a final finishing step to a flooring surface to add protection and moist

Self-Spacing Tile

Tile that has built in spacers or lugs.

Semi-Rubbed Finish

A finish obtained by rubbing high areas of a surface down while leaving some lower areas with their natural texture.

Semi-Vitreous Tile

Semi glass-like tile with a water absorption rate between 3% and 7%.


Applying the stress of two forces acting in opposite directions on an object.

Shot-Sawn Finish

A rough finish obtained by using a gang saw to saw random, textured markings with chilled steel shots.


A flat finishing piece often installed horizontally under windows and other openings.


A rectangular or square cut of stone from a quarry which has two parallel surfaces.

Slip Resistance

A measurement of the frictional resistance of an object from moving across a surface.

Smooth Finish / Smooth Planer Finish

A finish obtained using a planer machine with any tool marks removed after use.


The visible underside of an arch, portico, or other piece generally installed over a door way.


Small device in a cross, T, or Y shape that is used to evenly space tiles during installation.

Special Purpose Tile

Tile that has been specially made to fit a certain requirement. This can range from a specific color, size, shape, decoration, strength, or other physical property.

Straight 90° Edge

An edge of a tile that forms a right angle, creating a clean look.

Straight Joint

Joints installed in alignment with each other.

Structural Defects

A defect in the body of flooring, which diminishes the overall appearance or structural integrity.


The base floor of a structure on top of which the flooring is installed. Typically this is made of wood or concrete.


The surface that the flooring is installed on. Generally it is the subfloor.

Thin Stone/Thin Veneer

A layer of flooring less than 2" thick.

Thin-Set Mortar

A thin layer of cementious adhesive that is spread onto a surface with the tile laid on top.


A thin piece or slab of ceramic, stone, or another material, often used for flooring, roofs, or interior or exterior decoration.


A term used for the leeway a product can have in dimension that is ordered at a specific size.

Tooled Finish

A flooring finish that has 4-8 parallel, concave grooves per inch.


A term used to describe a substance that allows light to pass through but is not completely see-through.


The materials used to provide a finished look to the flooring and cover expansion gaps. This includes T-moldings, baseboards, quarter rounds, etc.

Tumbled Finish

A finish often used on tiles where they are placed in a machine and tumbled to deliver a tile that is chipped or broken around corners and does not usually have square edges as a result.

Un-Sanded Grout

A type of grout which is applied to joints and requires no sanding once dry, minimizing the risk of damaging the floor. Any excess grout is wiped clean with a sponge before the grout hardens.

Unglazed Tile

A hard tile which does not have a color or glaze over the surface. Unglazed tiles are usually naturally or synthetically colored throughout the entire piece.


A thin facing applied to a surface for decoration, insulation, or extra protection. It is commonly seen in stone, which is applied to interiors and exteriors of homes to provide the look of stone walls.

Vertical Broken Joint

A tile installation method where each row is offset from the previous row for half a tile's length.

Vitreous Tile

A glassy, rather than crystalline, tile with low porosity that has a low water absorption rate between 0.5% and 3%.

Wall Tie

A device which is used to hold masonry to the wall or to other pieces.

Wall Tile

Tiles often installed on walls that cannot withstand extreme outdoor temperatures.


Applying a wax finish to a floor. Also refers to the filling of small voids in marble flooring with a colored product.


The removal of the finish layer of a flooring surface, generally caused by friction from dirt and debris.


Alteration caused by temperature changes or extreme water or humidity, and other natural, environmental factors.