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Ceramic Tile Information

Photo of Small Tile Kilns

One of the most popular flooring choices available today, ceramic tile is often chosen for its moisture resistance, ease of cleaning and versatile design possibilities. Man has been installing ceramic tile flooring for thousands of years. Ceramic tiles are made from materials found in the earth such as clay, talc, and other minerals. These materials are quarried and refined, then formed into tiles and fired in a kiln in temperatures up to 2000°F.

Ceramic tiles range in size from under one square inch to over two square foot. They are available in numerous shapes such as squares, rectangles, and octagons. Some manufacturers may even allow you to create custom ceramic mosaics or centerpieces. With countless colors, textures, patterns, shapes, and designs available, you are sure to find the right ceramic tile floor that suits your personal taste.

Ceramic tiles are either single–fired or double–fired, and glazed or unglazed. Single–fired tiles are fired in a kiln only once. Double–fired ceramic, as their name implies, are fired twice, producing tiles that are denser and harder.

Photos of Glazed and Unglazed Tile

Glazed tiles are usually double–fired and topped off with a layer of liquid glass during the second firing stage. However, with today’s technology, glaze can now be applied during the first firing (eliminating the need for a second firing). Smooth glazed ceramic tiles can be manufactured with added texture as they tend to be very slippery.

Unglazed tiles are naturally more textured and therefore a more slip resistant choice. On the other hand, unglazed tiles can stain more easily than glazed tiles. For this reason, unglazed tiles are often sealed after installation in order to increase stain resistance. On another note, unglazed tiles often have full body color (meaning the surface color extends throughout the tile). This helps to mask any potential scratches or other imperfections, whereas glazed tiles may show the body color of the tile when the surface is scratched or damaged.

Ceramic tiles can also be made from recycled content. A number of tile floor manufacturers can make green ceramic tiles that contain up to 70% recycled materials (e.g. glass bottles; recycled windshields). Often times these green alternatives can be less expensive than ceramic tile made with newer materials.

Ceramic tiles are often classified one of three ways: Porcelain Enamel Institute rating, American National Standards Institute system, or by the Moh Scale.

The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) Logo

The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating assesses the abrasion resistance of ceramic tiles and recommends suitable installation areas based on those results. The rating system is based on a scale of 1–5, where PEI class 1 is only safe for use on walls, and PEI class 5 is safe for most heavily trafficked commercial areas. For more information on this classification system, check out this article: Figuring Out the PEI Tile Rating System.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) classifies tile by its water absorption potential:

  • Non–vitreous tile – Has an absorption rate over 7.0%
  • Semi–vitreous – Has an absorption rate between 3.0–7.0%
  • Vitreous – Has an absorption rate between .5–3.0%
  • Impervious – Has an absorption rate less than .5%

The Moh Scale measures the scratch resistance of minerals, 1 being the softest (talc) and 10 being the hardest (diamond). Each mineral can scratch those ranked below it, but not those above it. For example, diamonds have a rating of 10 and can scratch all other minerals that receive a rating of 9 or below.

Ceramic Tile Installation Basics

Ceramic Tile being Installed

Ceramic tiles can be installed in any just about any household area and even outdoors (as long as approved by the manufacturer). Note that ceramic tiles used for outdoor installation must be able to withstand freeze/thaw conditions. Impervious tiles and some vitreous tiles are the only types of tile suitable for these conditions. Impervious tile, the most moisture resistant ceramic tile available, is also known as porcelain tile. Porcelain tile is made by firing finer clay under higher temperatures, resulting in tiles that are denser than ceramic. Porcelain tiles are therefore very moisture resistant, very easy to clean and the best overall choice for outdoor spaces.

Because ceramic tiles can be difficult to cut and require extreme precision and careful subfloor preparation, a professional tile installation is recommended. You can easily find a professional installer in your area by searching by your zip code using the locator tool at the top of this page. If you have the time and patience to take on the job yourself, no worries, we have a Complete Do It Yourself Tile Installation Guide written by some of the most experienced tile installers in the industry. For a shorter version that is right to the point, check out the™ Quick Tile Installation Guide. Always check refer to the manufacturer recommendations for your ceramic tile floor installation.

Ceramic Tile Cleaning, Care and Maintenance Basics

Ceramic Tile being Cleaned

Ceramic tile care and maintenance is generally very simple. Give your tile floors a light cleaning regularly to pick up any dirt or debris, and clean any spills immediately to prevent stains. Mop the tile with water when needed, adding a manufacturer– approved cleaner from time to time to renew shine. Grout can be cleaned with a specialized tile grout cleaner in the event that it becomes stained. When properly installed, cared for and maintained, ceramic tile flooring can last a lifetime. For full tile care and maintenance instructions, check out’s™ Tile Flooring Care Guide. For the more eco–conscious consumers, you may be interested in an eco–friendly cleaning routine. Refer to our articles and blogs for tips on green cleaning products, or visit Green.FindAnyFloor.comtrade;.

Buying Ceramic Tiles

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If you’ve decided that ceramic tiles are the perfect flooring choice for you, it’s time to shop. First, locate retailers in your area by using the handy search tool at the top of this page. Next, check out this step by step Tile Buying Guide that will walk you through the different decisions you will make when buying stone flooring, including choosing the right flooring store and installer to setting a budget and comparing estimates. Also, don’t forget to take the printable Tile Buying Checklist with you. Armed with these tools, you can feel confident that you will find the right ceramic tile to meet your personal needs.