It is probably the most used and overlooked piece of interior design in the home and office. It is found in residential settings from apartments to private houses, schools, government buildings, and places of worship such as churches, synagogues and mosques. To step on it is to literally walk on process that has survived for centuries.
It is the ceramic floor tile.
From Europe to America
The first records of ceramic tiles are from the Orient around the 4th century B.C. The science of tile making would be introduced to Europe by the Romans and later, reintroduced by Cistercian monks in the 12th century. Dust-pressed tiles became popular during Victorian England and soon the production of decorative tiles reached North American shores in the 1870s.
Tiles are popular in American homes, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. Ceramic, marble, terracotta, limestone and granite floor tiles lent a rich, textured elegance to living and dining room floors. Flooring Trends labels calls them “great transitional flooring” from the outdoors into hallways of the home. Water resistant, durable and easy to clean, this flooring material will always be a favorite.
The most popular floor tiles are ceramic tiles and porcelain tiles. True porcelain is composed of finely ground sand treated under high temperature and pressure. The end product is similar to glazed ceramic in terms of density, water resistant property and smooth, glassy appearance. Its very low water absorption rate (normally 0.5% or less) will protect it even during the winter season. Porcelain is denser and stronger than ceramic. This inherent strength requires special tools to cut, shape, and install it.
Porcelain is priced slightly higher than glazed and are best suited for bathrooms. A “through-body” porcelain tile has the same color from the surface to its inner layers. The color will not change when chipped, cracked or scratched. On the other hand, a glazed or “design layer” tile has a colored coating on the surface. If a porcelain tile is cracked or chipped, the underlying layer will reveal a different color. The difference is important especially if the warranty covers tile replacement.
Ceramic tiles are still constructed the way it was thousands of years ago, using clay, minerals, water and heat. Ceramic tiles do not burn. They are durable, easy to clean and replace, and exude a quality of luxury. The great thing about clay is its abundance in different parts of the world. It is moldable when mixed with water and becomes dense and hard when baked. This transition from plasticity to permanent hardness, while remaining lightweight and decorative made it perfect flooring material.
Glazed, as the name suggests, have a thin veneer of vitreous material fused on the tile’s surface to strengthen its structural integrity and add a decorative polish. This coating over the tile body, or bisque, is a liquid glass material that is brushed on and fired or baked. The baked patina is responsible for its tactile texture, color and protection from staining. It also seals the porous surface that is the result of the tile-baking process. Glaze ceramic flooring is fire and scratch resistant. Dirt, odors and stains can easily be removed with a mop or damp washcloth.
Unglazed tiles have no coating. The bisque retains the same color from surface to the inside. They must require a sealant to cover the pores during the manufacturing process.
Ceramic tile trends include those with a metallic finish that contrasts with its natural earthy tones. Slate is porcelain stoneware that has metallic traces naturally incorporated during its formation.
Coffee or mocha colored tiles is also becoming a favorite for the homes. Aeria Country Floors’ Mocha Tumbled French pattern is a popular choice for indoors and outdoor settings. Area rugs or small carpets contrast the hard tile appearance with warm, soft fabrics.
Geometric mosaic patterns are created using the dust-pressing method. The designs are pressed or laid into the tile directly, in contrast to surface decorated or embossed designs. Floor tile cuts are also becoming larger ranging from 24” x 12” to 18” x 18” to as large as 18 “ x 36.”
Ceramic tiles are popular for walls and floors because their modular nature and ability to be coated with any design offers unlimited decorating options.
The line between outdoor and indoor tiles is also blurring as slate, granite and limestone are now appearing in dining and living rooms. Credit this trend to stone tile’s long lifespan and virtually no-maintenance factor.
The mention of the world “marble tiles” already conjures images of centuries-old grandeur and majesty. Marble slabs are very rarely the same. This distinct natural feature and natural stone origin make it a beautiful option to ceramic tiles. Marble is naturally expressive and can immediately give your home or office a cool, rustic or even minimalist ambience.
Granite is also appreciated for its hardness and random colored specks that are scattered throughout its surface. Granite is a magmatic rock, formed when molten rock solidifies. Quartz and crystal granules are some of the components of granite rock. This makes no two granite pieces alike and adds to its distinct appeal. Marble and granite must be polished or honed so that natural light will bounce and provide a lustrous sheen to the tiles.
Granite’s chemical and mechanical characteristics make it a strong flooring material, especially for areas of high traffic.
Turkish stone, travertine and cobblestones give kitchens and dining room space an earthy, rustic feel. Swirling beige tones mingle with creamy textures to create a soft contemporary amgience.
Italian ceramic tiles are one of the most famed and sought after from all over the world. Innovative manufacturing processes, diversity of materials and craftsmanship has made Italy a beacon in the global ceramic tile industry.
Bettini Stone (Pietre) porcelain tiles are slip resistant and frost-proof, exceeding the standards as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This makes it an optimum tile for kitchen and bathrooms, countertops, hallways, foyers and entrances. In addition to its anti-slip property, Pietre tiles are resistant to smoke, fumes, acids, liquids, stains, dirt, grime, scratches and scuffing. The tiles can also withstand extreme temperature changes, from snow to sunlight, wind and rain.
The Granitifiandre line of Industrie Ceramiche has some of the finest indoor tiles available in the market right now. The Pure PlatinumWave collection features iridescent shades in a “wavy line” effect that produces a three-dimensional metallic appearance.
Light and shadow is the theme of its Luminar Optoblack series. The surface design is key. The porcelain stoneware is engraved with a series of swirling concentric circular. A special coating is applied to create a shimmering effect that expertly interplays light, reflections and shadow.
Office Floor Tiles
Floor tile development has taken a quantum leap since the 13th century. Technology has now created an entire industry on flooring solutions, treatments and coatings. Tiles for different purposes are now everywhere: retail stores, school gymnasiums, sports centers, badminton and tennis courts, swimming pools, warehouses, garages, factories, shops, libraries, hospitals, spas, patios, balconies, cellars, helipads and garages.
Office flooring requires materials that are non-slip to prevent injuries. They must also be immune to normal wear and tear. U.K.-based TactTiles specializes in industrial strength flooring that is portable, anti-slip, fully interlocking, space fitting and durable. Its Elite and Piazza lines are suited for the office environment. The Piazza’s perforated lines lock to create a diamond effect on the floor. Tiles are sectioned at the corners so that lines run to the center of the tile. The configuration allows air to circulate and creates a gripping effect for the feet. Safety Edges along doorways prevent tripping.
The Elite tiles have a textured surface and matching cabling strips and squares underneath to house cables and wires. This provision for cable management will keep the floor area uncluttered.
Sweden’s Bergo Flooring specializes in injection-molded flooring. Their tiles are flexible, durable, interlocking plastic tiles that are gaining international prominence. Its non-slip surface, easy installation and minimal maintenance make it a floor tile of choice for commercial purposes. It has been used for factories, workshops, ocean liner decks, exhibition space, basements, laundry rooms and terraces.