Up to date knowledge on how this ancient product is created
This section is for those of you, who couldn’t help but wonder how these ceramic tiles are manufactured. It’s an ancient process, the basics of which we still use today. Regardless of which floor covering product you eventually decide on, it will be constructed or manufactured in some manner.
Ceramic tile is a work of art you walk on -- a spectacular entryway, a refreshing bath/spa surface, a gourmet kitchen’s feast for the eyes. Ceramic tile is art underfoot that you admire as owner and covet as visitor.
It’s good to know how the tiles you’re walking on were created, as you’ll be living with them for years to come. It’ll help you to understand and evaluate the performance of your floor. You’ll discover why some ceramic products are easier to clean than others and why some are more durable. Also, if you know everything about them, you will find it a lot easier to shop for tiles.
In this section, we’ll tell you about how ceramic is made. Also we’ll cover the various steps involved, discuss alternate types of ceramic, and offer you an easy to understand abrasion rating system.
Ceramic production unites earth and fire
Just like the ancient times, we use pretty much the same materials for tile manufacturing. In a nutshell, ceramic tiles are created from natural products extracted from the earth that are shaped into tiles and then fired in kilns at extremely high temperatures.
A guide to the two classes of ceramic tile
There are 2 main types of tile construction: glazed and unglazed.
When you look at a glazed tile from the side you can see 2 layers. The body of the tile, or largest layer, is called the bisque. The top layer is called the glaze, as in glazed donut.
Glazed ceramic tiles have a top coating of glass applied on them, which makes them smooth, shiny and prevents it from scratching. The applied glaze works well to protect the tile from water, and to also add colour to the tile. They are available in an eye catching glossy finish, or a matte finish.
The best advantage they offer is a high resistance to stains and moisture. Also, if you wish for a non-slipping glazed tile, you should for the matte finish. Glazed tiles are offered in many colours and patterns.
Unglazed ceramic tiles are basically outdoor tiles and come with special surface treatments and textures. They differ from the glazed tiles in that they lack the reflective glass-like coating. They, however, are very hard and dense. The advantage they offer is good slip resistance, and their strength. Since they get stained easier than their glazed counterparts, they require sealing to prevent them from staining.
If your home has areas of heavy activity or kid “zones,” unglazed tile may be just the answer.
There are 5 steps in the ceramic tile manufacturing process:
Mining: The process begins with the mining of the raw materials, which is a mixture composed of mostly clay and minerals.
Blending and Mixing: This process transforms the mud into fine sand. The clay and mineral mixture is blended and mixed into a semi fine powder. Slurry like substance is obtained by adding water, which is then pumped into a large dryer. The resulting substance is a fine clay powder that feels like warm, fine sand.
Pressing: During this process, the clay is pressed into a tile shape, which is known as green tiles at this stage.
There is also another method called extrusion which can replace the pressing step. Extrusion is a process of forcing the clay material through a mold to form a desired shape. Tiles hence formed are called extruded tiles. However, pressing is the more common method used today. And after the green tiles are formed they are dried to remove some of the moisture.
Glazing: If glazed tiles are being manufactured, this is the next process in queue. The glaze liquid is prepared from a glass derivative called frit and coloured dyes. The glaze is applied by either a high-pressure spray or is poured directly onto the tile.
If the tile is to remain unglazed it skips this step and goes directly to the firing kiln.
Firing: The ceramic tiles are now fired in the kiln at temperatures around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tiles that are fired once after the glaze is applied are called Monocuttura tile or single fired, while Biocuttura tiles are those that are fired twice. Biocuttura tiles are first fired after the green tile is dried and then fired again after the glaze is applied.
This actually is a third type of tile, apart from glazed and unglazed tiles. Porcelain tiles offer a host of benefits over the other types and also are beautiful and elegant.
Porcelain tiles are much harder and denser than other tile types. This makes it one of the most useful of tiles, and can be used both indoors and outdoors. They have a different manufacturing process; they are made of 50% feldspar and are fired at much higher temperatures. Other benefits of porcelain include scratch resistance, stain resistance, low absorption rating (less than 0.5%). Also they do not get ruined by small chips or scratches because in these tiles, the colour goes all the way through. They are perfect for heavy use, and come in brilliant colours and designs for both, indoor and outdoor application.
After the finished tiles have been inspected for quality assurances, they are packaged, crated and ready to be shipped.
Understand this to be a savvy tile shopper
You should be aware that there are different types of tiles for different areas of your home. You cannot install a single type everywhere. For example, kitchen wall tiles cannot be applied on the floor, and tiles that have high water absorption cannot be installed in your bathroom.
Then how do you tell which tile is suitable for which area? Fortunately, there is a rating scheme to help you out. All tiles are rated according to the system developed by the American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM), based on the abrasion resistance and the overall durability of the tile. The five classes are explained below:
Class 1: These are pretty much wall tiles, and provide the least amount of durability. This makes them unsuitable for use on the floor.
Light traffic tiles.
Class 2: Light traffic tiles. These types of tiles are mostly found on bathroom walls and floor, and are not recommended for areas which experience heavy walking.
Moderate traffic tiles.
Class 3: Moderate traffic tiles. These are the tiles that you should use for all of your residential flooring needs. Considerably durable and stylish, they will look good everywhere including bathrooms, kitchens, foyers, dining rooms and family rooms. To put it simply, they are all-round performers.
Moderate to heavy traffic.
Class 4: Moderate to heavy traffic. These tiles are recommended for residential, medium commercial and light industrial floor and wall applications including shopping malls, offices, restaurant dining rooms, showrooms and hallways.
Heavy/extra heavy traffic
Class 5: Heavy/extra heavy traffic. These tiles can be installed anywhere. They will hold up in floor and wall applications at airports, supermarkets and subways.
You may also see a rating for Slip Resistance, which is measured by its Coefficient of Friction (COF). The higher the COF the more slip resistant the tile. This is important when selecting a floor tile for areas that get wet, such as your shower or bathroom floor.
Other ratings listed by the manufacturer might include: scratch resistance, moisture absorption, chemical resistance and breaking strength.
This concludes our section on how ceramic is made– its different types of construction, its manufacturing process and how tile is rated in terms of activity.
The knowledge you have just gained from this article is bound to help you in making your decisions easily. Also, we hope you have a great time shopping for tiles.