Tuesday, June 7, 2011

TILE QUIZ TIME: Fact or Fiction

In my last blog I talked about the misconceptions and misinformation that exist in the industry about ceramic tile and how and where it is appropriate for it to be used. If you read this blog all the way through, you understood that appropriate usage boils down to knowing a few facts and then using common sense. A lot like life, huh? But today, with all the information available, it is sometimes overwhelming and we forget to use that most efficient of tool: common sense. So, I’m going to continue to explore this subject and visit some more urban tile legends and see how they hold up to the Truthometer.


1. Most tile lines have white clay bodies or bisque. But some cheaper tile lines from other companies have red clay bodies. Is a white clay body superior to a red clay body?

Fiction! Let’s see if you know why:

  1. White clay is just red clay that has been bleached, so one isn’t better than another.
  2. In an effort to keep color purity when glazing over red clay, a layer called an “engobe” was applied. Eliminating this step by mixing a whiter clay not only made sense but helped keep production costs down.
  3. Red clay “bleeds” when cut with a wet-saw, therefore white clay is superior.

2. All tile is not made the same thickness, but most popular handmade tile lines are thicker than inexpensive tile lines. Are economy tiles always very thin because they use less clay to keep costs down?

Fiction! Let’s see if you know why:

  1. Inexpensive tiles are thin because they are easier to install and the manufacturer can fit more tiles in a box, thereby keeping shipping costs down.
  2. Inexpensive tiles are thin because clients for this product don’t like thick tiles which are often uneven in surface texture.
  3. Inexpensive tiles are thin because they are typically mass produced by machine, which allows the clay to be compressed into a dense but thinner tile size.

3. When purchasing handmade tile, surface glaze irregularities – such as pin-holes, occasional little specks, glaze build-up, glazed over nicks and chips – are not considered defects.

Fact! Let’s see if you know why:

  1. The hand of the ceramic artist is evident in the irregularities that will be inherent in a handmade and handglazed tile product and are part of their charm.
  2. These are not considered defects because purchasers of handmade tile don’t want tile that looks machine-made and with cookie-cutter sameness.
  3. All those irregularities are not defects because the Kiln God says so.

4. I’ve been told to NEVER mix white or off-white glazes from different tile lines.

Fact! Let’s see if you know why:

  1. Tile manufacturers don’t sell standard quantities per box, so figuring quantities needed would be too tricky if ordering from different suppliers.
  2. Factories use different bisque and glaze recipes and over the expanse of a wall or floor, they can look very different from one another. A sample cannot tell the whole story.
  3. 5. Tile showrooms discourage mixing whites, like a less expensive field tile with that beautiful but costly molding you love, because it makes the sales associates’ job too difficult.

5. Thick tile is stronger and, therefore, more durable than thinner tile.

Fiction! Let’s see if you know why:

  1. I think your answer is wrong. When I drop both a thick and a thin tile on the floor, the thin tile is the one that always breaks.
  2. A thinner tile is just as strong as a thick one after it is installed and is joined to the wall or floor with the appropriate adhesive.
  3. The thickness of tile has to do with the method of production and the type of clay body or bisque, not its strength and durability.

So how much common sense do you have?
The first three readers (US residents only) to respond with the correct answers to all five questions will win:
1st Place Price – $15 gift certificate to Starbucks.
2nd Place Prize – Hand painted tile Trivet and four tile coasters
3rd Place Prize – Four Hand painted tile coasters

Answers will appear in the next Sunny McLean Blog in Tile Talk.

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