Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

Hello everyone. My name is Todd Vendituoli and I will be posting as a contributor to this blog on a monthly basis. I am looking forward to writing about tile from a builder's perspective and thank Bill Buyok of Avente Tile for the opportunity. If you would like to have a look at my blogs they are: http://www.thebuildingblox.com/ where I look at everything concerning construction and the many aspects of your home. I also write  http://www.socialmedia4builders.com/ which is all about social media and not just for builders.

I have been a builder for 27 years mostly in New England and more recently in the Bahamas and have done an array of projects in that time including new homes, remodeling as well as commercial renovations. On this blog we will be looking at tile, of course and I look forward to hearing from you and discussing any aspects that may be of interest to you. So don't be shy- suggest a topic, ask questions and enjoy.

Today I thought we would start by looking at the difference between "ceramic" and "porcelain" tile and as I recently heard - I know there’s a difference but what is it?

Ceramic tiles are made from red or white clay and fired in a kiln. These tiles are usually glazed and are good for low to moderate traffic but they will absorb more water than porcelain tile and are not suitable for frost areas.

Source: bhg.com via Shellie on Pinterest

Yet there are many areas that ceramic tile works beautifully such as counter tops, back splash areas and lower traffic areas. They can easily be used in baths too.

Classic Subway Tile Bathtub Surround traditional bathroom
traditional bathroom design by minneapolis showroomClay Squared to Infinityhttp://st.houzz.com/simages/571214_0_8-9173-traditional-bathroom.jpg

Porcelain tile are made by using a dry press method under high pressure and then fired in kilns so they are much denser and when glazed, they are highly resistant to water absorption. They are suitable for high traffic areas and are frost resistant.

Grant Park Kitchen Remodel modern kitchen
modern kitchen design by portland architect Giulietti Schouten Architects http://st.houzz.com/simages/91561_0_8-4420-modern-kitchen.jpg Surely a high traffic area with accent pieces to pick up the back splash of the stove.

So you may be wondering why I decided to open my first post here and discuss the differences between ceramic and porcelain tile and the reason is that it is important to know where each can be used properly. As a builder using tile in the Bahamas, it isn't too hard as there is no freeze/thaw cycle here. However in New England it becomes a different story all together. I recently wrote about this difference in an article for the Coverings Trade Show blog, Tile from north to south: a builder’s perspective. Hope you'll take a look.

For an example: 
A client may want a certain tile but their choice is a ceramic tile that will be used on a patio in Maine. Yes it will work for that first season and if you haven't informed them that their choice is ill advised, you will more than likely be hearing from them again next spring. Ceramic tile is not suitable for frosty areas. Sadly I doubt it will be a happy conversation or an invite to have a cookout on their patio.


There are many components that should be considered when choosing tile such as water absorption, wear rating, slip resistance and to throw in a new term, vitreous. "Vitreous tile absorbs only 0.5% to 3% of its weight in water and it's a rating you want to see if you're using a tile outdoors or in an area where there's a lot of moisture present." For some further reading have a look at this article in Houzz.com by Paul Anater that's loaded with information on choosing tile: How to Shop for Tile.

If moisture and/or freezing conditions are issues that you need to consider, its not always safe to assume that porcelain is the solution versus ceramic tile. The important factor should be whether the tile you will purchase and use is a vitreous tile.

Are you hoping to use a cement tile that can withstand a freeze/thaw cycle for your project? You may want to have a look at the Yucatan tile line that Avente Tile offers as it is a vitreous ceramic tile and has many color choices for you to consider.

A vitreous tile like the Yucatan Balboa can be used in freeze/thaw locations.

Knowing the difference in the characteristics and suitable uses of the tile that a client chooses can make the difference between a successful project and a happy client or a project that comes back to haunt you. Knowledge is the key!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tile Talk Newsletter - February 2012

Find your Inner Piece

Don't miss our newest addition of hand-painted art tile, Inner Piece. This unique collection of tile includes bold 6"x6" tiles that captivate the eye with their rich use of texture, contemporary patterns and warm, bold Mediterranean colors.

Rippling Water Orange Lantern Sunset Estrella B Malibu Tile
Rippling Water Orange Lantern Sunset Four Blue Suns

>> See the collection of Inner Piece Tiles

The line also includes an extensive collection of 2"x2" mosaic tiles or dots representing the artist's interpretations of the elements of Air, Earth, Water and Fire. There is also a collection for the seasons of Fall, Summer and Winter.

Fire Water Fall Winter
Fire Water Fall Winter

>> See the collection of Inner Piece Tiles

The 6"x6" patterns are also available in a 4"x4"format. Currently, only the 6"x6" tiles are available on our online catalog. Experience this unique collection of art tiles and find your Inner Piece.

>> Read Our Blog Post about Inner Pieces Tiles

Project Pick: San Juan Cement Tile Patio

Terrace with San Juan & Solid Color Cement Tile
Terrace with San Juan & Solid Color Cement Tile

Our Traditional Cement Tiles are a classic collection of historical cement tile patterns available in the standard 8"x8" format. The San Juan pattern in this month's project pick breaks with tradition. It creates a grid of patterned tiles instead of the common carpet design in the center of the room. The effect provides a traditional look reminiscent of Spanish Colonial designs, taking its cue from terra cotta colored pavers and decorative accent tiles. The group of four pattern tiles are separated by a row of solid color tiles on each side to create a grid.

Traditional San Juan Cement Tile Pattern
Traditional San Juan Cement Tile Pattern
Field & Border 8"x8"

If you think a pattern is too busy or too much, this is a great way to simplify it and still maintain a traditional feel. "Breaking up a pattern" works well in large spaces. It also is a great choice for open patios because the eye naturally extends the grid pattern and makes the open space part of the room. To create the effect of pavers, only two basic colors were used with an accent color in the center of the medallion. Cement tiles are great choice for outdoor patios. Cement tiles are not resistant to freeze/thaw cycles and should not be used outdoors where freezing temperatures may exist.

Tile Tip:

Use decorative tiles to create interest on an arch. You can run a solid row of tiles for a dramatic effect or space them out as shown here. In this installation, San Jose 3" x 3" deco tiles from our Barcelona line add charm to this door arch and introduce the San Jose Quarter Design 6"x6" tiles used in the backsplash.

Decorative tiles work well as accents in an arch.
3"x3" Deco Tiles are Used in an Arch

See other great ways to use decorative tiles in our recent post about Four Ways to Use Hand Painted Tiles.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Inner Piece Art Tiles

I'm excited to share our newest addition of hand-painted art tile, Inner Piece. This unique collection of tile breathes life into the ancient art form of tile making. Inner Piece tiles are created with rich texture, bright colors and contemporary patterns.

Inner Piece Rippling Water Handpainted Tile
Inner Piece Rippling Water 6"x6" Hand Painted Tile

The Inner Piece Collection includes bold 6"x6" tiles that captivate, add interest and allow the mind to wander. Scaled versions of these patterns are also available in a 4"x4" format.

Inner Piece Rippling Water Handpainted Tile
Inner Piece Sunset 6"x6" Hand Painted Tile

Inner Piece Orange Lantern Hand Painted Tile
Inner Piece Orange Lantern 6"x6" Hand Painted Tile

The line also includes and extensive collection 2"x2" mosaic tiles or dots representing the artist's interpretations of the elements of Air, Earth, Water and Fire.

Inner Piece Water Hand Painted Mosaic Tile
Inner Piece Water Elements 2"x2" Mosaic Tile Dots

Inner Piece Fire Hand Painted Mosaic Tile
Inner Piece Fire Elements 2"x2" Mosaic Tile Dots

There is also a collection for the seasons of Fall, Summer and Winter.

Inner Piece Winter Hand Painted Mosaic Tile
Inner Piece Winter Season 2"x2" Mosaic Tile Dots

Inner Piece Fall Hand Painted Mosaic Tile
Inner Piece Fall Season 2"x2" Mosaic Tile Dots

Where to Use Inner Piece Tiles

Inner Piece tiles are high fired and created from stoneware or porcelain using lead-free glazes. The tiles are intended for decorative uses and ideal for kitchen backsplashes, bathroom walls, fireplace surrounds and mosaic murals. Avoid using these tiles on floors; the relief on these tiles presents a tripping hazard.

Lead Time

Avente Tile maintains some sample stock to assist in color, texture and finish of the initial design. However, these items are hand crafted and made-to-order. Allow four to six weeks for manufacture and delivery of most orders.

About the Tile Artisan

Leah Shafir Zahavi is the creative force behind these tiles and founded the Inner Piece design studio in 2008. These hand crafted tiles honor the ageless tradition of tile making but breathe new life into the art form with a creative and modern approach to stylized design. Zahavi is a professional member of the Society of American Mosaic Artists and the Tile Heritage Foundation. Her mother, Ilana Shafir, is an internationally recognized mosaic artist that dedicated the last 20 years to the creation of architectural mosaics.

The Secret Life of Raindrops - The handmade ceramic tiles of Leah Shafir Zahavi provides a wonderful introduction that explains Zahavi's journey to become a tile artisan. And, you will be fascinated by the experiences of Leah's mother in Ilana Shafir: Spontaneous Mosaics. Both articles are written by JoAnn Locktov and part of her monthly column, Tileista, that explores the beauty of artisan tile. JoAnn is no stranger to mosaics and tile. She is the author of two books and numerous articles on contemporary mosaics.

Find Your Inner Piece with these Tiles

Inner Piece is a unique collection of art tiles. Explore the Collection of 6"x6" and 4"x4" tiles. Play with the elements of Air, Earth, Water and Fire. Bask in the joy of the seasons of Fall, Summer and Winter. Feel the texture and experience the patterns, imagery and ornamental forms of these handcrafted art tiles and find your Inner Piece.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Love Affair with Tile

Happy Valentines Day! This is a day dedicated to love and today I discuss My Love Affair with Tile.

Bird of My Heart Tile
Bird of my Heart Tile

Hand Painted Tiles Kindle the Flame

I love tile. Even as a kid I was fascinated by their bright colors, patterns and shapes. I admire tile for its ability to transform a home. Tile can create texture or depth. Tile can add a splash of color for an accent or create visual interest with patterns. The enormous variety of tile also allows you to be creative.

In a quest to find hand painted tiles with an old world design similar to some I had seen from Spain, Avente Tile was born. I couldn’t find any designs in local showrooms, tile stores or online. Once I found the right tiles, I fell in love with them. It was then I decided to start a company to sell hand painted tiles. These niche tiles were ideal for a web-based company. I’ve always enjoyed learning about art and architecture, history and culture, and tile is a great connection.

Colorful Tiles
Color & Bright - Tiles Delight

Love What You Do

I started the company in 2003 as way to share my enthusiasm about artisan and hand-crafted tile. I believe that you need to love what you do. If you have a passion for something, you’re bound to do it well. I spent ten years in corporate America working as a mechanical engineer. I did well; but, my heart wasn’t in it. People that love what they do, do it with passion. Money is never the driver – it’s the joy you get out of what you do. I probably work twice as hard as I did as an engineer; but, I enjoy every day and look forward to the challenges I face. I am surrounded by people I admire and respect and who respect me. Don’t get me wrong we all encounter days filled with frustration or disappointment. The key is to find something you love (or let it find you) and make it your own creation.

Tile Artisan Glazing Tile
The Hand of an Artist Touches Every Tile

Keeping the Passion Burning

Now you know about me and my love for tile. How has it evolved or changed? Or, perhaps the quintessential question, how do you maintain passion? Anyone who has been in a relationship for more than five years asks the same question. It’s great to have that impassioned night of discovery; but, it can easily become a tepid relationship or chore. You have to learn to grow, change and embrace the differences. And of course, you have to share some common values. Tile started as a passionate love affair with color, design, and pattern.

Amazing how an object, a piece of clay, makes us share this world in wonderful and unique ways.

I maintain the passion when a customer tells me how thrilled they are with their new installation that includes Avente Tile. I cultivate passion with knowledge and understanding. The ways in which a tile are made are varied and unique. My passion is fueled by knowing a piece of clay sculpted into a relief tile and touched by the hand of an artist in Guatemala will be part of an architect's inspired Beverly Hills bathroom. It’s the story of legends and it happens every day. It makes me feel so connected to the world and people in a very special way. Amazing how an object, a piece of clay, makes us share this world in wonderful and unique ways.

Hand Crafted Tiles Create Stunning Installations
Hand Crafted Tiles provide Inspiration for Design

That’s how my passion for tile started and evolved. Never forget how much beauty there is in the world and enjoy it every day. May you also find your passion and make it something you can cherish and cultivate.

Portions of this post were published on JB Bartkowiaki's blog, Building Moxie. JB wondered how my passion for tile evolved and I was thrilled to have an opportunity to write a post about something I love. If you are not following JB's blog or Twitter feed,I recommend that you do - especially if you are a DIY! His fun and quirky perspective is fun and helpful. I met JB through Twitter and he continues to provide great tips and make me laugh. JB's Twitter handle is @BuildingMoxie . You can read the post in it's original form Bill Buyok :: Finding Passion in Life with Tile.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cement Tile and Efflorescence

I’ll admit it; today’s post is a little dry and somewhat technical. But, if you're going to have a cement tile product installed, it is required reading. Today’s post is about a physical phenomenon called efflorescence and how it relates to cement tile. Hopefully, by the time we’re done you’ll understand what is it, where it comes from, how to remove it or stop it.

Efflorescence on Pavers
Efflorescence on Pavers
Photo via The Brick Paver Dr.

What is Efflorescence?

Efflorescence is a powdery substance or incrustation the sometimes forms on cement tiles. It’s important to remember that efflorescence is a normal physical phenomenon. It can occur in any material containing Portland cement including clay, terracotta, and concrete. It commonly looks like a white powder or salt on cement tile. The word, efflorescence, has French origins and means to flower.

Efflorescence does not damage the tile or cause structural problems. But, it's pretty darn ugly to look at.

Where does Efflorescence come from?

Efflorescence occurs when when soluble salts and materials come to the surface of concrete and mortars. Ever boiled a pot dry or rinsed your car with a hose in full sun? Notice how there is salt ring or residue left? As the water leaves and evaporates, it leaves the salt behind. Efflorescence is a similar phenomenon. As cement or cement tiles dry, the lime in the cement rises to the surface with the water and reacts with carbon dioxide in the air to form calcium carbonate. In this case, a white powder or film forms on the tile's face. It's induced by low temperatures, moist conditions, condensation, rain and water. It can occur very soon after exposure to moist or cool conditions or more gradually in sub-grade concrete installations (like a subterranean parking garage).

Cement tiles are hydraulically pressed and then placed in racks. The tiles are soaked in water baths in order to achieve water saturation and guarantees proper cement hydration. Then tiles are left to dry for 10 days and cure before shipping.

Racked Cement Tiles Await a Water Bath to Cure the Cement
Racked Cement Tiles Await a Water Bath to Cure the Cement

Water Bath for Curing Cement Tiles
Water Bath for Curing Cement Tiles

Because of how they are made and shipped, efflorescence may be present when cement tiles are taken out of the boxes. More commonly, it may occur right after installation especially when installed on cement subfloors.

Efflorescence like I described above is sometimes referred to as 'powdery' efflorescence and is the most common. However, there are two types of efflorescence. The other type is called 'crystalline' efflorescence. When powdery efflorescence goes through cycles of being deposited on the surface it can form larger crystals that strongly bond to the surface. It is important to note since different cleaning treatments are designed to work on a specific type of efflorescence.

If there is no water source, to create capillary water flow through the tile, efflorescence can't occur. An ounce of prevention...

How do I Prevent or Stop Efflorescence?

In laying cement floor tiles, be sure to install over a stable cured cement subfloor. It is critical that the cement base be completely cured before laying floor tiles. If the concrete subfloor is not, moisture may seep up into the tiles and cause efflorescence to appear on the tile surface. If there is no water source, to create capillary water flow through the tile, efflorescence can't occur. An ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure.

How do I Remove Efflorescence?

Efflorescence that appears on the tile before installation will generally come off during the installation process. You may be able to sand small localized areas. Use a piece of wet sandpaper (200 grit), wet the tile, and sand the area.

When efflorescence occurs after installation, first try to remove the efflorescence by cleaning the tiles thoroughly. Use a floor polisher with green pad, a neutral soap and plentiful water. Remember, you'll need to let the tiles thoroughly dry to confirm the efflorescence has been removed and stopped.

We are told that penetrating sealer in fact stops efflorescence from resurfacing. So if you are still having a problem area, this is the next step. I would suggest you do a small test portion of the tiles in the least noticeable area and make sure to use a high quality penetrating sealer. Read our post about Sealing Cement Tile.

Additionally, efflorescence cleaners are available. I have no experience with the products so make sure to test them on a loose tile or hidden area to ensure the results. Carefully follow the directions provided by the manufacturer and avoid any acid-based products that will damage the concrete tile.

Other Good Resources on Efflorescence

To find out more about this topic, I recommend these articles. Remember, these posts discuss efflorescence with respect to masonry or ceramic tile and may not directly apply to cement tile.