Ceramic Tile Flooring
Stone and ceramic tile flooring
products are available in a wide
variety of materials, sizes,
colors, and prices to fit every
need. "Enduring" perhaps best
describes ceramic tile. Not only
is it a surface that endures heavy
traffic beautifully, but, as one of
the earliest manmade building
materials, it's a product that has
endured the ages.
Tile is popular for several
reasons, not the least of which
is the almost endless sea of
options available. Just about any
color, pattern, and texture can
be found. In addition, tile is almost impervious to water, making it a great choice for bathrooms and kitchens.
Tile may be machine-made or, in the case of high-end custom tile, handmade. Common sizes of square tiles are 4, 6, 12, and 18 inches. Specialty tiles, decorative strips, and mosaics pre-arranged on a mesh backing (typically 12 by 18 inches) add to this mix.
When shopping for tile, you'll
discover two distinctive types:
ceramic and porcelain. Ceramic,
the most common, is made of
clay baked in a conventional
kiln. Porcelain, made from fine
white clay fired at an extremely
high temperature, is much
harder and often has the luster
of stone; it is quite resistant to
Ceramic tile may be either
glazed or unglazed. Unglazed tile,
such as quarry or terra cotta,
has an earthy, natural look.
Glazing gives a tile better resistance to water and stains and makes the surface look brighter and more vibrant. But glazing can also make tile slippery. When tile is intended for an area where this might be a problem, it pays to choose a texture that is slip-resistant.
Tiles may be given any of several ratings, and it pays to check these specifications when making a selection for specialized use. If your floor will be subject to impact or abrasion, check the tile's hardness rating. Choose heat-resistant tiles for a fireplace hearth.
Because tile is heavy and brittle, it can crack unless properly supported. Before installation, a rigid, sturdy base must be prepared. This base must be very strong, flat, and inflexible. Floor joists must be able to support the load--and any additional live load--on the floor without deflecting.
Wood subfloors are either reinforced with a secondary underlayment of plywood, cement backerboard, or for a more durable application a bed of mortar. Tile may be laid on a concrete slab using a thin-set adhesive. Conventional mortar-bed installation is the method used by most professional tile installers. Tar paper and reinforcing wire mesh are installed over a 3/4-inch plywood subfloor. A 3/4-inch (or thicker) mortar bed is laid, sometimes in two coats, and then the tile is adhered to this base with thin-set adhesive.
Cement backerboard provides an easy-to-install and relatively sound alternative backing for tile. It is applied to a 5/8-inch plywood subfloor with adhesive and screws, and then the tile is bonded to the backerboard with thin-set adhesive.
Last, grout is added between the tiles. The type of grout most commonly used is a very fine, thin mortar that is sometimes colored, but epoxy-base grouts are also used on occasion; silicone grout is often used in mildew-prone locations. Grout is porous and will absorb water and stains unless it is sealed.
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Tile Floor and Walls
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