Basic Tile Dictionary

Words in the tile industry can be confusing if you are not familiar with them. At SAVU LLC we put together this basic tile dictionary to help you. So if you are shopping for tile materials, looking to hire a tile contractor or even start a tile business I hope this will be useful.

Here are a few basic terms that are commonly used in the world of tiles:

  • Tile: A thin, flat piece of material (such as ceramic, stone, or glass) that is used for covering surfaces, such as floors, walls, and ceilings.

  • Grout: A thick, porous material that is used to fill the gaps between tiles. Grout is typically made from a mixture of cement, sand, and water, and comes in a variety of colors to match the tiles.

  • Mortar: A mixture of cement, sand, and water that is used to bond tiles to a substrate (such as concrete or drywall). Mortar is typically used in thicker layers than grout, and is also used to level and support the tiles during installation.

  • Thinset: A type of mortar that is specifically designed for use with ceramic and porcelain tiles. Thinset is typically made from a mixture of cement, sand, and a polymer-based admixture, and is known for its strong bonding properties and ability to hold tiles securely in place.

  • Subway tile: A rectangular tile with a length that is twice its width. Subway tiles are often used on walls, and are named after the tiles that were commonly used in the subway systems of New York City in the early 20th century.

  • Mosaic tile: A small, decorative tile that is typically made from ceramic, stone, or glass. Mosaic tiles are often used to create intricate patterns and designs on floors, walls, and other surfaces.

There are a variety of tools that are commonly used in the installation and maintenance of tiles. Some of the most important tools include the following:

  • Tile cutter: A tool that is used to cut tiles to fit around corners and in tight spaces. Tile cutters come in a variety of sizes and designs, and can be used to cut tiles made from different materials (such as ceramic, porcelain, and stone).

  • Wet saw: A tool that uses a rotating blade to cut tiles. Wet saws are typically used to cut tiles that are too thick or hard to be cut with a tile cutter. The saw is equipped with a water-cooling system to keep the blade from overheating and to prevent the tiles from cracking.

  • Notched trowel: A tool that is used to apply mortar or thinset to the substrate (surface) before installing tiles. Notched trowels have a series of grooves or “notches” of different sizes and shapes, which are used to create the right amount of mortar or thinset for different types of tiles and installations.

  • Grout float: A tool that is used to apply grout between tiles. Grout floats are typically made from rubber or sponge, and have a flat, rectangular shape that allows the user to spread grout evenly and smoothly over the tiles.

  • Sponge: A tool that is used to clean excess grout from the surface of tiles. Sponges come in different shapes and sizes, and are typically used in conjunction with water to remove grout from the tiles without damaging them.

  • Sealer: A liquid or spray that is applied to the surface of tiles to protect them from stains and water damage. Sealers are typically applied after the tiles are installed and the grout has had time to cure, and should be reapplied periodically to maintain their effectiveness.

Terminology about tile underlayment:

Tile underlayment is a material that is installed beneath tiles to provide a smooth, level surface for the tiles to adhere to. Tile underlayment can help to prevent the tiles from cracking or shifting, and can also provide additional insulation and soundproofing.

There are several different types of tile underlayment available, including cement board, foam board, and backer board. Cement board is made from a mixture of Portland cement and reinforcing fibers, and is a durable and water-resistant option. Foam board is made from a lightweight and insulating material, and is a good choice for areas where weight is a concern (such as on a second floor). Backer board is made from a combination of cement and a fiberglass mesh, and is a versatile and affordable option.

Tile underlayment is typically installed over the subfloor (the surface that the tiles will be adhered to) using thinset mortar or construction adhesive. The underlayment should be level and smooth, and should be checked for any gaps or irregularities before the tiles are installed.

Terminology about types of tile:

There are many different types of tiles available, and they are made from a variety of materials including ceramic, porcelain, stone, and glass. Each type of tile has its own unique characteristics and properties, and is suitable for different applications and environments.

Ceramic tiles are made from a mixture of clay, sand, and other natural materials that are fired at high temperatures. They are available in a wide range of colors, styles, and sizes, and are a popular choice for both wall and floor tiles. Ceramic tiles are relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain, but they are not as durable as some other types of tiles.

Porcelain tiles are made from a type of ceramic that is fired at even higher temperatures, which makes them denser and more durable than regular ceramic tiles. Porcelain tiles are also more resistant to stains and water damage, and are a good choice for high-traffic areas and wet environments. Porcelain tiles are generally more expensive than ceramic tiles, but they can last longer and require less maintenance.

Stone tiles are made from natural materials such as granite, marble, and slate. They are available in a wide range of colors and patterns, and are known for their durability and timeless beauty. Stone tiles are a popular choice for flooring, countertops, and other surfaces, but they can be expensive and difficult to install.

Glass tiles are made from transparent or translucent glass that is cut into small pieces and mounted on a backing material. Glass tiles are available in a wide range of colors and styles, and can be used to create unique and eye-catching designs. Glass tiles are relatively easy to clean and maintain, but they can be fragile and may not be suitable for use in high-traffic areas.

Terminology about types of tile design:

Tile design refers to the way that tiles are arranged and laid out on a surface. There are many different tile design styles and patterns to choose from, and the right design can help to create a cohesive and attractive look for any space.

One of the most basic tile design styles is the straight lay, where tiles are arranged in a grid pattern with the edges of each tile aligned. The straight lay is a simple and versatile design that works well in many different spaces.

The diagonal lay is another common tile design style, where tiles are arranged in a diagonal pattern. This creates a more dynamic and visually interesting look, and can make a small space appear larger.

The basketweave pattern is a tile design that uses two or more colors of tiles to create a woven, basket-like effect. This design is often used for floor tiles, and can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to a space.

The herringbone pattern is a tile design that uses rectangular tiles arranged in a V-shaped pattern. This design is named after the bones of a herring fish, and creates a zig-zag pattern that is both eye-catching and stylish.

Overall, there are many different tile design styles to choose from, and the right design will depend on the space, the tiles, and the overall aesthetic of the room.

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