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Ceramic tile questions

Ceramic tiles are thin slabs that are generally used to surface floors and walls.

They are made from clay compositions and other inorganic raw materials, that are ground and/or slipped, moulded and subsequently dried and fired at adequate temperatures to make them acquire the required properties in a stable way.

Ceramic tiles may be unglazed (UGL) or glazed (GL). Unglazed tiles undergo a single firing; glazed tiles have a vitreous coat applied between the first and second firing (double firing) or before the only firing (single firing).

What is the difference between glazed and unglazed tile?
Will ceramic tile break or chip?
Is ceramic tile cold?
Is ceramic tile slippery?
How durable is ceramic tile?
Can ceramic tile be used outdoors?
Does ceramic tile have shade variation?
What should I know about grout?
Does ceramic tile require a special floor construction?
Should ceramic tile be waxed?
Should sealer be used on ceramic tile?
How does the price of ceramic tile compare with other floor coverings, wall finishes and counter tops?

Question What is the difference between glazed and unglazed tile?
Answer Glazed tile is coated with a surface finish (glaze) fused to the body by firing at very high temperatures. Because of the ease of adding color, pattern and texture to the glaze, style, color and design are virtually unlimited. The color of unglazed tile results from the natural clay of the tile body or pigment added to the clay. The colors are more limited but because that color extends throughout the tile, wear is not visible. Unglazed tile is, therefore, an excellent choice for the most heavily trafficked areas. 

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Question Will ceramic tile break or chip?
Answer Ceramic tile is more susceptible to breaking before installation than after. After proper installation, it is very difficult to break or chip tile unless it is hit with a heavy object such as a hammer having a small impact area. Structural breaks can occur if there is movement in the substrate. If damaged, individual tiles can be replaced.

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Question Is ceramic tile cold?
Answer Tile is actually the same temperature as the surrounding air. It holds warmth in a sunny room or a cooler temperature in an air conditioned or cold room. Body temperature is usually warmer than the air, and this causes tile to feel cool.

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Question Is ceramic tile slippery?
Answer Slip-resistance will vary with the type of tile. Ceramic floor tile will have about the same slip-resistance as other hard surface floors such as vinyl or wood. Naturally, if there is liquid spilled on any hard surface floor, the slip-resistance will greatly diminish. Abrasive surfaces are available on many tiles. Keep in mind that the more abrasive a tile surface is, the more difficult maintenance will be. Consider using a mat at entrances and wet areas.

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Question How durable is ceramic tile?
Answer Ceramic tile, properly installed, should last the lifetime of your home with minimum care. Tile will not show wear when used on walls; unglazed floor tile also will not show wear. Glazed floor tile is dependent on the durability of the glaze and body and the amount of traffic to which it is subjected. Most manufacturers do classify the durability of their tile.
  • Rating O: Walls Only
  • Rating 1: Light Traffic (residential bathroom floors) and Counter Tops
  • Rating 2: Medium-Light Traffic (residential interior floors except kitchens, stairs, landings, and entranceways)
  • Rating 3: Medium-Heavy Traffic (all residential areas and commercial areas with similar traffic)
  • Rating 4: Heavy Traffic (all residential and most commercial areas)
  • Rating 5: Heaviest Duty Traffic (all residential and commercial areas)

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Question Can ceramic tile be used outdoors?
Answer There are numerous ceramic tiles that are frost-resistant and are excellent for patios, porches, pool decks, etc. Many unglazed tiles are suitable for exterior use. Their slip-resistance will be dependent on the surface texture, and slip-resistance is important! Glazed, frost-resistant tiles are recommended for vertical exterior surfaces only. The ceramic tile manufacturer will indicate if a participate type of tile is frost-resistant. A frost-resistant installation method is essential. <

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Question Does ceramic tile have shade variation?
Answer As is true with other quality decorating products such as textiles, carpet, wall coverings, and wood, ceramic tile does have shade variations. Hand-crafted tiles generally have the greatest variation, and this quality contributes to their unique beauty. Samples are meant to represent the tile as adequately as possible but may vary to some degree. Be sure to inspect your tile before it is installed to determine if it meets your approval.

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Question What should I know about grout?
Answer Grout, the colored mortar between tiles, has been drastically improved in recent years. It is available in numerous colors to coordinate with your tile choice. The actual finished grout color in an installation is affected by moisture, temperature and installation techniques. Because of these variables, the installed shade may differ from a showroom sample. Choose grout color to blend rather than match. Today, there are grout formulas that contribute to stain-resistance and mildew-resistance. Good maintenance procedures that remove surface soil always improve the appearance of any ceramic tile installation. Improved sealers can assist in keeping the grout at its best.

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Question Does ceramic tile require a special floor construction?
Answer Standard floor construction of 2" x 10" floor joists spaced 16" on center with 5/8" plywood subfloor and 3/8" plywood underlayment is suitable. However, more than 20 years' experience shows that a rigid, cementitious backer board is superior to plywood as an underlayment. A clean, structurally sound concrete slab is suitable and does not require additional underlayment. <

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Question Should ceramic tile be waxed?
Answer Sealer is unnecessary and should never be used on glazed tile. Sealer is often used on unglazed natural clay tile, pavers or unglazed porcelain tile. Some manufacturers of these products recommend a particular sealer. However, in most cases, a good penetrating sealer is advisable. It is usually invisible or provides a soft luster. Heavy sealers such as urethane are not recommended because of potential scaling or uneven wear.

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Question Should sealer be used on ceramic tile?
Answer The initial installed cost of ceramic tile may be higher than other finish materials. Today's improved technology, marketing and competitive pricing have decreased the margin of difference. When considering the true cost comparison, you must look at the life span of ceramic tile. Due to the fact that you probably will never have to replace your tile and the low cost and easy maintenance, ceramic tile is the least expensive of all finishes. Statistics show that an investment in ceramic tile will increase the value of your home.

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Question How does the price of ceramic tile compare with other floor coverings, wall finishes and counter tops?
Answer The initial installed cost of ceramic tile may be higher than other finish materials. Today's improved technology, marketing and competitive pricing have decreased the margin of difference. When considering the true cost comparison, you must look at the life span of ceramic tile. Due to the fact that you probably will never have to replace your tile and the low cost and easy maintenance, ceramic tile is the least expensive of all finishes. Statistics show that an investment in ceramic tile will increase the value of your home.

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