• Eco-Friendly Ways to Clean Ceramic Tile

    Date: 2013.05.14 | Category: Tips and Advice | Response: 0

    We know that ceramic tile is durable and easy to clean, but sometimes things get a bit grubby. Commercially available cleaners can be harsh and potentially damaging to the finish and grout of your tile flooring. The good news? Some of the best cleaning agents available are likely sitting in your pantry right now.

    For most light cleaning, a gentle soap and hot water does the trick. For spot cleaning, wipe the affected area with a clean, lint-free cloth and the soap-water solution. For larger surfaces, a damp mop is a better choice.


    If dirt is built up in the tile crevices and grout lines, a mixture of hot water and ordinary white vinegar makes an excellent cleaning solution. Mix one gallon of hot water with one cup of vinegar. Vinegar is an excellent all-natural cleaner that leave tiles bright and return the lustre without streaking. An old toothbrush or similar gently-bristled brush can help dislodge stubborn dirt in the grout lines. Wipe the tile surfaces with a clean sponge or lint-free cloth, or use a mop. A word of warning: mop heads can pick up grit easily that might mar the finish of your tiles. Flush the mop head with clean water thoroughly — and often.

    For really stubborn dirt, use straight vinegar and put a bit of elbow grease into the process.


    Unglazed tile is porous and prone to absorbing grease and oils. An oily or greasy spot on tile can often be removed with cornstarch. Sprinkle cornstarch liberally on the affected area and allow it to sit undisturbed for several hours. The cornstarch will draw the grease and oil out of the tile and can be swept or vacuumed up. You may need to reapply several times to completely remove the spot. After the spot has been removed, you can clean the tile as normal using the vinegar and hot water solution.

  • Help Catalog Guastavino Vaults

    Date: 2013.04.30 | Category: History of Tile | Response: 0

    MIT professor John Ochsendorf wants your help — and he wants you to spend more time looking up.

    He is the curator of Palaces for the People: Guastavino and America’s Great Public Places at the National Building Museum. Patented in 1885 by architect and builder Rafael Guastavino, Guastavino tile is a technique for the construction of self-supporting arches and architectural vaults. Still in use today, the technique consists of layering thin ceramic tiles on top of one another and resulted in stunningly beautiful arches and vaults. If you’ve ever traveled to the famous Bilmore Estate in Asheville, NC and looked up in the main entrance hall, you’ve seen a Guastavino vaulted ceiling.

    There are scores of undiscovered public and private spaces that have Guastavino vaulted ceilings, and Ochsendorf is crowdsourcing the effort in conjunction with NPR to make the work of Rafael and Rafael Gaustavino better known outside of architectural circles. If you discover a Gaustavino vault in your travels (and there’s lots of them out there), here’s how you can help document them:

    • Take a photo. Even a smartphone photo will do.
    • Submit that photo to NPR’s Flickr pool and John will add to the master list.
    • Join the conversation on FLickr to discuss potential finds.

    Now, get searching!

    Photo credit: City Hall subway station in NYC, MIT Architecture School

  • Know Your Ceramic Tile Types

    Date: 2013.04.17 | Category: History of Tile | Response: 0

    We introduced you to a brief history of tile and an explanation of how tiles are manufactured in last week’s post, but we did things a bit backwards.

    Ceramic tiles are generally manufactured by a process called dust-pressing where nearly dry clay powder is compressed between two metal dies. Commonly available ceramic tile types used in residential and commercial installations manufactured using dust-pressing are: encaustic, geometric, and mosaic.

    Encaustic feature a pattern inlaid into the body of tile using a variety of different colors of clay. They may be glazed or unglazed, with the inlay ranging in depth from 1/8″ to as deep as 1/4″. They were immensely popular in the 13th century and experienced a renaissance during the Gothic Revival era. A number of companies in the United States were producing encaustic tile during this period, including American Encaustic Tiling Company. The company closed its doors in 1935.
    Minton Encaustic Tile
    Geometric tiles are actually a single-colored variation of encaustic tiles. Based on the geometric segments of a six-inch square, they are typically rectangular, square or triangular in shape, assembled together to form often elaborate repeating geometric patterns. They are well suited for decorative borders, but can be used in floor designs as well. The variety of designs that can be created by mixing colors, sizes, and colors of geometric tiles is quite dizzying!
    Tile patterns
    Mosaic tiles Smaller versions of geometric tiles, typically no larger than 2.25″, and available in a wide selection of shapes: square, oblong, pentagonal, and trapezoidal, for instance. They are available as unglazed (in either solid or variegated colors, often with a matte finish) or glazed in virtually any color imaginable. Occasionally, single tiles are fabricated using a mold to imitate the mortar lines separating traditional mosaic tile.
    Decoupage and Mosaic Tile

  • How Ceramic Tile Is Made [Video]

    Date: 2013.04.09 | Category: Custom Tile, History of Tile, Ideas and Inspiration | Response: 0

    The process for making ceramic tile hasn’t really changed much in over 4,000 years. Beautiful and intricate tiled surfaces have been discovered in the oldest Egyptian pyramids, in the ruins of Babylon, and across the ancient world, a testament to the durability and longevity of fired tile. Ceramic tiles are nothing more than clay that has been fired at extremely high temperatures in a kiln, a technology that was first discovered by ancient Egyptians and refined over the centuries. Each type of clay possesses a unique combination of special properties such as plasticity, hardness and lightness, as well as color and texture, which makes some clays better suited for one kind of ceramic than another. The correct clay mixture needed for a particular purpose can be created by blending clays and adding other materials, but using the wrong type of clay can result in expensive production problems such as crazing (the formation of tiny cracks in a tile glaze) or warping of the tile itself.

    There are several methods used for making ceramic tiles: extrusion; compaction or dust-pressing; cutting from a sheet of clay; or molded in a wooden or metal frame. Quarry tiles are extruded, but most ceramic floor tiles, including traditional encaustic, geometric and ceramic “mosaic” tiles are made from refined and blended ceramic powders using the compaction method, known as dust-pressing. Once formed, tiles are dried slowly and evenly to avoid warpage, then fired in a special kiln that controls high, even heat at temperatures up to 1200°C (or approximately 2500°F) for 30-40 hours. Higher temperatures produce denser tiles with harder glazes. Most ceramic tiles require only one firing to achieve low porosity and become vitrified or grass-like, but some, especially highly decorated tiles, are fired more than once. Non-vitreous and semi-vitreous tiles are fired at lower temperatures and are much more porous.

    The modern tile industry was advanced by Herbert Minton in 1843 when he revived the lost art of encaustic tile-making in England. The industry was further revolutionized in the 1840s by the “dust-pressing” method which consisted of compressing nearly dry clay between two metal dies. Dust-pressing replaced tile-making by hand with wet clay, and facilitated mechanization of the tile-making industry.

    In the days since, most of the tile-making process has been further mechanized and industrialized, but the foundational techniques of firing clay are still very much the same, as you’ll see in the video below:

  • Six Principles of Designing With Tile

    Date: 2013.03.21 | Category: Ideas and Inspiration, Tips and Advice | Response: 0


    Color is always a designer’s best friend. Color choice sets the mood and tone of a room’s design and aesthetic and reflect our lifestyles and sensibilities. Bold to soft e. Do you want to make a modern statement? Use modern color treatments. More traditional? More muted, natural earth tones and pastel colors. Mixing colors in the same room can have an incredibly dramatic effect.
    Colored Tiles

    Direction and Pattern

    A block or grid pattern can be static and sensible; turning the tile to a 45 degree angle in a diagonal pattern can again add interest and the suggestion of movement. From herringbone to basketweaves, insets to more elaborate inlays, even the ubiquitous 4 x 4 inch tile can have a dramatic and sustaining effect on a room’s overall design.
    Tile Pattern


    Choose your grout carefully. There are a variety of grouts available, specific to installation needs. A grout in a contrasting color will emphasize the tile pattern, a grout in a complimentary colors to the tile will emphasize the tile itself.
    Kitchen Remodel - Nov.  2007


    Don’t underestimate the importance of the size of an individual tile itself! The size of the tiles will affect the perception and appreciation of a design. Small tiny 1″x1″ tiles have a much different look than 24″x24″ tiles. The 13″x13″ tile is the ‘standard’ size for tile. Using larger or smaller tiles and combining them will effect the look will achieve. Too large of a tile overpowers the design, as can too small a tile.


    There are decorative tiles available — listellos, corners, insets and mosaics, for example. Create medallions or an area rug look on a floor or build visual interest with horizontal lines of listellos on a wall.
    Decorative mosaic tiled walls in the Mexuar


    You can use various textures together for unique effects. Insetting river stones into heavy grout lines or creating patterns using small pieces of broken and mixed tile, for example, or using rough, rustic textured tile with polished glass tile or a heavily-glazed ceramic.
    tile texture background pattern

  • Care and Feeding Instructions for Ceramic Tile

    Date: 2013.02.18 | Category: Tips and Advice | Response: 0

    Tile is well known for being durable, virtually stainproof, and easy to clean and maintain, but a little practical know-how will take you a long way in keeping your ceramic tile floor looking its best.

    While cleaning ceramic tile flooring is a simple and straightforward affair, there are some things to look out for so you don’t mar the finish or otherwise damage the finish.

    A few pointers for tending to your ceramic tile:

    • Never use harsh abrasive cleaners that might scratch the glaze.
    • Avoid cleaning unglazed ceramic tiles with acids, strong soaps, or abrasives.
    • Mop ceramic tile with a damp mop and a gentle all-purpose cleaner. Dry the floor with a soft cloth to avoid streaking.
    • Ceramic tile walls and countertops can be brought to a high-sparkle sheen with car wax. Apply as recommended and buff after ten minutes.
    • Strip wax buildup on unglazed tile floors yearly and rewax. Be sure to rinse thoroughly after applying the stripper to flush away excess product.
    • Need some more tips?

      Check out this great video from the World Floor Covering Association:

    • 10 Tips for Installing A Ceramic Tile Floor

      Date: 2013.02.10 | Category: Tips and Advice | Response: 0

      Porcelain Floor Tiles installation

      Getting ready to tackle a ceramic tile installation? Here’s 10 tips to make sure you get the results that you’re shooting for:

      1. Mise en place. When you’re working with tile or any home improvement project, keep materials and tools within reach, as you need them. Efficiency is your friend.

      2. Larger tiles are much easier to install than small ones. Larger tiles are commonly used for bathroom walls, but are great for kitchens and other rooms too. The smaller 1x1s are going to take longer to set, so choose a small pattern. Those small tiles are going to take considerably longer to place and install compared to larger ones.

      3. Make sure you level the subfloor before you start laying tile. Self-leveling subfloor compound is a popular choice among DIYers and easy to install. For optimal results, the subfloor should be at least 1″ thick.

      4. Squaring a room is as easy as 3-4-5. The best method to squaring a room is using a 3-4-5 Triangle. Measure 3 feet against one wall, 4 feet to the center of the room and connect the two lines to make a triangle with a 5 foot line. If the room is larger, use 6, 8, and 10foot lines. Snap a chalk line along the measurements to mark the lines.

      5. If cutting corners, rent a wet saw. Renting one will save time and frustration. Unless it’s a perfect house with perfect rooms, you will have to cut the tiles. The time saved in cutting all of the tiles perfectly will pay off immediately.

      6. Don’t rush yourself into a poor job. Always take your time and work in a small area to ensure you get everything right. Behind every quality tile job is an installer that chose to take his time.

      7. Butter the tiles. When working in tight corners or edges, the trowel won’t be able to fit.

      8. Don’t rush the cure. Allow the thin-set the proper amount of time to dry or you’ll just wind up damaging the work.

      9. Trowel it diagonally to ensure an even application, never in a straight line.

      10. Want perfect gaps? Use plastic spacers. This will ensure the same exact space between each tile, every time.


      : Seal before tiling. Always waterproof showers and wet areas before tiling them. Tile installations do not act as a 100 percent moisture barrier. They are designed to protect the waterproof surface below them.

      Save the extra tiles. Keep spares for patch repairs.

    • A Simple Guide to Choosing The Right Tile Cutter

      Date: 2013.01.30 | Category: Tips and Advice | Response: 0

      Choose the right tile saw for your DIY project can mean the difference between a problem-free installation and a disaster. You’ve chosen the right materials — tile, grout, beckerboard — for your project and invested in the cost of those materials, so make sure that you’ve choosen the right tools for the job.

      Unless you have incredibly good luck, most tiling jobs are going to require some cutting. But all tile cutters are not created equal. Some tile cutters are designed for making designer and custom cuts and others are made specifically to make straight line cuts only. So how do you choose the right one for the job?

      Start by considering the size of the job and the specific type of materials that will need to be cut — both in terms of thickness and the square footage of the installation area. For relatively small projects using ceramic or porcelain title, a simple snap cutter might do the trick. But if the project is a large one and requires multiple or detailed cuts, a specialized tile saw will make the job easier.

      Snap or Rail Cutter

      A snap or rail tile cutter is a manual cutter. The tile is placed directly on the cutting surface and a scoring wheel is run along the length of the tile. They are an ideal choice for smaller DIY project where simple straight cuts are the norm, and are rated by the size of tile they’re best suited to cut. Be sure to select an appropriately sized snap cutter for your job.

      Note: snap cutters are not suited for stone tiles.

      Handheld Wet Tile Saws

      Combining portability and a powerful self-contained motor, handheld wet tile saws use a cutting wheel impregnated with diamond particles to cut thick and otherwise tough natural or manmade tile material. Corded and cordless models are available, depending on manufacturer. You’ll need to safely secure the tile to ensure clean cuts and prevent injury. Water is used to keep the dust generated by the cutting action out of the air.

      Table Top Wet Tile Saws

      Very similar in construction to a table saw, table top wet tile saws are probably more tool than the occasional DIYer needs, but they are more powerful than handheld units and available in a wider range of styles. The cutting wheel rotates through a water reservoir to eliminate flying particles and keep the wheel itself cool.

      General Tips

      • Purchase a few extra tiles to familiarize yourself with whichever cutter you purchase or rent. You’ll probably break a few as you learn how each tool cuts.
      • The quality of your cuts will improve as you go from snap cutters to handheld cutters to tabletop models
      • Always follow manufacturer’s safety instructions and gloves and eye protection.
    • Choosing The Proper Grout

      Date: 2013.01.22 | Category: Tips and Advice | Response: 0

      For the home DIYer, there are three basic types of grout available, each of which have specific uses and applications. It is important to select the correct grout for your particular installation to cut down on maintenance and potential replacement costs. Grout, properly installed and sealed, will last for the lifetime of your tile.

      Non-sanded (or Unsanded) Grout Specifically made for finer grout lines (less than 1/16″), unsanded grout is especially well suited for use on vertical surfaces as it is stickier than the sanded variety. As unsanded grout cures, it will shrink, so only use it for applications with small grout lines. If you try to fill grout lines that are too large, the grout will shrink enough during curing to pull away from the sides of the tile, leaving gaps.

      Sanded Grout Designed for grout lines 1/8″ and larger, sanded grout has, as the name suggests, been amended with a fine sand to prevent excessive shrinkage during curing and to give more body to the grout. It is the grout of choice for the majority of tile installations. A word of caution if you’re using polished stone tiles like granite, marble, or limestone: sand is an abrasive and could mar the finish during grout installation. Epoxy grout may be a better choice.

      Epoxy Grout Durable, waterproof, and stain-resistant, epoxy grout is the most versatile kind of grout. It can be used in place of both sanded and unsanded grout in nearly every application. The two parts of epoxy grout – the base and the activator – grout must be mixed before application, triggering a chemical reaction. Some brands of epoxy may contain a third part – the pigment – to match the grout to the tile. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely when preparing your epoxy grout for application.

      Choosing the proper grout for your installation will prevent problems and headaches down the line.

    • Tile: Not Just For Bathrooms & Kitchens

      Date: 2013.01.08 | Category: Ideas and Inspiration, Living Rooms | Response: 0

      Impervious to moisture, tile is the building material of choice for high-humidity environments like the bathroom or kitchen, but designers are beginning to embrace the versatility of tile’s color, texture and finish when decorating other rooms in the home.  By combining varied textures and color schemes, you can create visual interest and dramatic effect.  Accent tile mosaics can spice up a monochrome wall with a burst of color. Unglazed earthenware tile makes an excellent fireplace surrounds or entryway flooring, for example.

      If you’re stuck for inspiration or just want to check out some fantastic project ideas, here’s a few for you:

      Photo courtesy of Stagetecture

      Photo courtesy of Stagetecture

      Photo courtesy of Beinteriorsonline.com