Tile | All About The Terminology

Tile is a tricky business.  There are a ton of different kinds of tile out there which means different applications, different product to go with it, and different terminology.  As a homeowner, you may have a little knowledge of tile from your own home projects or maybe even just reading up on things, but there's a whole lot of secondary terms that can be associated with tile and tile installation...just talk to a tile installer.  Once they get into a space and start pulling the tile out and have a better idea of what's behind the walls, all sorts of things start coming up.  So today, we're here to inform.  We found this great article on Houzz that breaks down a number of different tile terms (along with their definitions) and we think it's pretty much genius so we're sharing.

Common types of tile include ceramic or porcelain and natural stone

Ceramic Tile is "classified as nonporcelain and porcelain. Nonporcelain, usually with a decorative glaze, is softer and less durable than porcelain, which has a slightly different composition and was fired at higher temperatures. For the tile shopper, “ceramic” usually refers to nonporcelain ceramic. It’s suited to walls and floors and lighter wear than porcelain" according to Houzz.

Natural stone tile is something made of, just that, natural stone.  It may be travertine which is very common, marble, or granite.  Travertine and marble are two of the most common.  Natural stone tiles are often very porous and require additional sealant.

To install tile, there are a number of different products that can be used: epoxy grout and cement grout are options to finish the tile once it's laid.  Mud and thinset are the two products used to adhere the tile to the floor.

According to Houzz, epoxy grout is "a durable, stain- and chemical-proof, resin-based grout. It’s costly, has a plastic-like look and requires extensive cleanup of residue, but it sets faster than regular grout and means no more scrubbing."

Cement grout, however, is made from a cementitious powder mix.  It is not waterproof however it is easier to work with than epoxy grout.  It also looks somewhat plastic-y so it could look odd when used with a natural stone tile.

Mud-set is a term derived from setting tile in a mud-bed.  Instead of using a thin layer of setting material when laying the tile, the installer will create a thick bed of setting material.  This adds water resistance to the tile base and stability to the floors since they are on a much thicker layer of mud that separates them from the sub floor.  This type of setting helps prevent tiles from cracking.  Mud-setting tile is still recommended for certain types of tiles but is very labor intensive so it isn't done as often anymore.

Thin-set is a tile installation method where the setting material is laid very thin.  In this scenario, the installation is much less labor intensive.  It is a commonly used method of installation because there are so many improvements in tile products to help prevent water damage and cracking that the setting method isn't the only way to prevent that.

Mosaic tile is a small version of the tile (often 1/2"-2") that comes on a sheet and is sold by the square foot. A pencil tile is a 12" long, thin (usually 1" thick) piece of tile that can be a finishing piece for the tile edge.  Subway tile is a rectangular tile that is usually laid in a brick pattern.

Tiles can come honed or polished.  Honed tile is less slippery than polished tile because it does not have the full polish applied.  It often has a smoother, softer look and is appropriate for high-traffic areas where someone might be at a higher risk of slipping.

Tile is complicated.  There's a lot to know and subsequently, a lot that can be accomplished!  Get to know tile.  It can definitely work for you!