Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Saltillo Tile's Centuries-Old Allure

Saltillo tile exudes Old World charm
Coupled with decorative ceramic tiles, Saltillo tile exudes Old World charm.

Hand-crafted from natural clay deposits, authentic Saltillo tile can only come from one place in the world - Saltillo, in the state of Coahuila in Mexico. The process of turning this special Mexican clay into tiles has remained unchanged since 1577.

Saltillo tiles are shaped either by pressing quarried clay with a wooden frame, or by carving out the desired shape. After they spend some time drying in the sun, the tiles are moved to the kiln.

Now, depending on where the raw tile is positioned within the beehive-like kiln, the tile can take on hues ranging from yellow to a rich orange to dark terracotta. Coupled with hand-painted decorative ceramic tiles, such as our Barcelona, California, Malibu, or Spanish collections, a walkway, stairs, steps or risers could easily be transformed into a Mediterranean landscape, Spanish Villa or Mexican Hacienda.

Saltillo tile pavers look great with Spanish-style homes.
Saltillo tile pavers look great with Spanish-style homes.

Traditionally, Saltillo tiles are left unglazed, although some manufacturers sell them pre-treated or pre-sealed in order to increase their durability. According to the John Bridge Forum:

"Saltillo tile floors must be sealed with a penetrating tile sealer, and usually a top finish is applied to act as a sort of glaze. The tiles must dry a minimum of three weeks after installation before the sealer is applied. It usually takes at least two applications to completely saturate the tiles. The sealer is applied with a paint roller. A brush is used at the edges.

The final finish coat will probably be an acrylic, obtainable from either tile or paint stores. This also is applied with paint rollers and brushes and may require two coats to do the job.

Eventually, this finish will wear off in areas of traffic and will have to be replaced. The floor will be chemically stripped of the old finish before the new coating is applied. It is best to have this done by professionals."

Moreover, it should be noted that unglazed Saltillo tile is highly porous; it soaks in liquid easily. Because of this, it's difficult to install as it will absorb water from the thin-set mortar, grout, grease pencils, etc. Once it is placed, it will stain and scuff easily if not properly sealed and maintained with a quality sealant.

Saltillo tile is popular in Mediterranean-like climates where freeze/thaw cycles are non-existent.
Saltillo is popular in Mediterranean-like climates.

Lastly, Saltillo is not recommended for outdoor installation in freeze-thaw climates, although it is a popular choice in warmer climates, such as the American Southwest and Mediterranean countries.

Next time, we'll discuss the advantages of using Rustic Cement Tile Pavers as a better alternative to Saltillo Tile.

In the mean time, visit our dedicated Saltillo page for more background and information about this handmade tile.

Designing with Tile

Avente Tile's Saltillo Tile Pinterest board

"Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!" ‒ Sitting Bull

Creating something from so little is not only ingenious; it's a testament to the determination and creative needs of ancestors. Such is the case in the creation of Saltillo tiles. With the help of ample sun and regional clay earth, two perfect, coexisting ingredients were combined to create long-lasting tiles that have graced homes, missions, and palaces over several centuries.

Now that Spring has arrived, it's time to spruce up the outdoors. As an alternative to Saltillo tiles, our Rustic Cement Tile Pavers offer a year-round solution. With a wide variety of colors and shapes available, your design is only limited by your imagination.

Make sure to check out the complete collection of Rustic Cement Tile Pavers for a wide variety of color, glaze, shape and size options.

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