Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Polished Cement Tile Benefits a Kitchen Backsplash

Last week, I received a wonderful email from Interior Designer Eugenia Triandos in Montreal, Canada. She shared an installation photo from a recent project that showcases Avente's popular Cuban Cement Tile!

A recent kitchen remodel in Quebec used Cuban Cement tiles.
A recent kitchen remodel in Quebec used Cuban Cement tiles.
Design by Eugenia Triandos of Triandos Creations.

She also included this kind note:
I just wanted to let you know that my project was completed and my clients are very happy with their backsplash.

Eugenia Triandos
Triandos Creations

Thanks, Eugenia!  I have to compliment you on this beautiful kitchen design. The color choices really stand out. Everything works together using the same color palette as the tiles. Nothing makes me happier than seeing an installation photo and hearing customers that are thrilled about their tile!

Now, on to this week's topic. Last week I discussed some important points about grout and cement tile for backsplash design. This week, we'll discuss why polished tiles are the best choice for a cement tile backsplash.

Benefits of Polished Cement Tile 

One subtle and widely misunderstood aspect of cement tile is the finish. Usually, cement tile is supplied in a raw, or unfinished state. For now, one Western Hemisphere manufacturer allows you to purchase cement tile with a "polished finish," while another will be offering this service in about one year. It's important to know what polishing is, what it does, and why it is so beneficial to have polished tiles for a backsplash application. If polishing is a new term or confusing, start by reading my post that answers the question, What is Cement Tile Polishing?

As I mentioned above, most factories only manufacture unpolished or raw cement tiles. Currently, only one manufacturer, Aguayo Cement Tiles, provides the option to receive factory-polished tiles. Polished tiles have a satin sheen that simulates the finish all cement floor tiles achieve over time with care and use. This sheen develops from abrasive forces acting on the tile from everyday use. Although raw tiles can be polished with a floor buffer and green pad after installation, the sheen won’t develop immediately. Buffing will also remove any surface color bleed on cement tile; but, you won’t be able to use a floor buffer on a vertical backsplash installation.

Color bleed is common on high contrast tiles, such as patterns that use black and white. Color bleed occurs when cement tiles, placed in racks, are removed from a water bath that is necessary to strengthen the tiles as they cure. The water picks up trace amounts of pigment and drains down the tile. The dark pigments wash over the lighter areas of the tile, leaving a faint discoloration. This is a normal  part of the manufacturing process; but not desirable for backsplash tiles that are in the limelight.

Cement tiles are placed on metal racks to dry after made
Cement tiles are placed on metal racks to dry after they are made.

Color bleed can occur when the tiles are removed from water bath to cure.
Racked cement tiles are lowered into a water bath to cure for 24 hours.
Color bleed can occur when the tiles are removed.

Finally, polished tile are usually easier to install because grout doesn't stick to the slightly smoother surface. In general, a grout release is not required for polished tiles. Whereas, on raw cement tile, I think it is a good precaution. As a side note, Cuban Heritage cement tiles are only sold with a polished finish.

The only time I don't recommend polished tile is for exterior patio applications. Quite simply, the polishing benefit is lost quickly over time to the elements of wind, wear and weather.

Cement Tile Backsplash: 7 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy

We came up with the 7 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy guide to help answer any questions you may have about a cement tile backsplash. Within this guide, you'll find that polishing is discussed on Point 6 with very straightforward advice:
  1. Purchase polished tile, if available.
Want to find out more? Learn what you need to know before installing a cement tile kitchen backsplash. Download and read, 7 Things You Need to Know about Cement Tile Backsplashes. You'll find answers on polishing, sealing, grout, and much more.

Do you have a question about using cement tile that we didn't answer here or in our free guide, Cement Tile Backsplashes: 7 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy? No problem! Leave your cement tile question in the comments on this blog and we'll happily answer any questions you may have.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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