What gives ceramic tiles its enduring appeal around the home? Square slabs of clay and minerals; dried and baked at high temperatures have always been a staple of any type of construction or remodeling project.
History shows that the tiles’ durability and versatility are its main strengths. From ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China to the modern world, tiles have become such an indoor and outdoor construction staple that it is hard to imagine a world devoid without them.
The history of tiles reflects contribution from different cultures and is one of the earliest examples of technology transfer.
The ubiquitous ceramic tile has been a household construction material for thousands of years. The earliest records show Egyptians baked clay bricks during the fourth century BC and used it to decorate their houses. Tiles were even used to beautify parts of the ancient pyramids. By the 10th century, the people of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) were applying blue and white glaze patterns on their tiles. Tile production and decoration techniques were perfected in Persia (modern day Iran) before Moorish conquests, the Roman occupations and the Renaissance spread them to Italy, Turkey Spain, Portugal and eventually all of Europe.
Pottery and tile making were family crafts handed down through generations. These specialized skills formed a cultural legacy when the Arabs invaded the Iberian Peninsula. Thus, from Tunisia, tile making was introduced to southwest Europe. The Spanish fortress of Alhambra in Granada is the greatest epitome of the Moorish influence on Spanish architecture. This Red Fortress bears Arabic inscriptions on its glazed wall tiles.
China had evidence of glazed stoneware circa 1523-1028 BC, showing an early mastery of this decorative art. They were also moving into pottery and ceramic production by 1622-1796 AD.
The 19th century would usher the modern tile industry. A gentleman named Herbert Minton resuscitated the encaustic (dust-pressing) method in England in 1843. Dust-pressing involves the designs being incorporated into the bisque or tile body, rather than just applying it on the surface. Tile production became mechanized and more standardized because of industrial kilns. Mass production of ceramic tiles made them more affordable to the ordinary homeowner.
The methods would find its way to the United States and by 1870 decorative tiles were being produced in America and being used in entrance halls and vestibules. In 1876, the Pittsburgh Encaustic Tile Company became the first company to commercially produce ceramic tile. More factories expanded westward to decrease the dependence on English imported tiles.
Today, the ceramic tile industry has products for floors, interior and exterior walls, columns, countertops, tabletops, bathrooms, shower walls, kitchens, fireplaces, fountains and monuments.
Here are the most common types of ceramic tiles in the market today:
Ceramic is virtually maintenance-free flooring material. A damp cloth, sweeping or mopping is all it takes to keep the tiles looking new. Grit can be reduced by vacuuming or mopping with warm water. Liquid-based household tile cleaners are also available in the market. Acid-based cleaners and abrasive powders or creams are harsh and can damage the silicates in ceramic tile glazes. Mild solutions such as diluted bleach are the best for cleaning. Always test it first in a small, isolated spot before using it on the entire tile surface. Rinsing must be done with clean, clear water and the tiles be dried immediately with cloth towels.