Technical Talk - Breaking It All Down

6 min read

Technical Talk - Breaking It All Down - Architessa

Last week, I interviewed Phil Purgason, our Richmond, Virginia A&D sales rep, with questions about commercial tiles and the technical information needed to choose the perfect one for any specific project. Phil gave us great insight into the commercial design experience by sharing his perspective on how technical ratings affect his client proposals and why continuous education is necessary for new, innovative products.

According to the TCNA, specifications serve as a reference standard for buyers, specifiers, installers, building owners, and users of porcelain and ceramic tiles.  They also guide manufacturers on product usage delineation. It is important to note that data is often not universal. Different areas of the world may have different standards and therefore factories located there may or may not have certain data available.

Today, I will dive deeper into some of the standard technical verbiage used in the United States, with references to ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials), ISO (International Organization for Standardization), and ANSI (American National Standards Institute).

Let's take a look at one of our latest collections called SHERWOOD and the data we show on our website and brochure:


Type – This specifies the body and surface type of a material. Differences in manufacturing, whether slight or dramatic delineates the product type. Some examples are glazed porcelain or ceramic, color body porcelain, unglazed porcelain, through body, and double loaded.   

Edge – This is important to know as it dictates the size of your grout joint. Some examples are rectified, pressed, extruded, and chiseled. The TCNA dictates acceptable grout joint sizes and should be referenced before installation.

Thickness – Installers and designers use specified thickness to ensure a proper installation given the substrate, water proofing medium, and general design. Not all tiles within a collection will have the same thickness as large format tiles can be thicker.

Shade Variation – Gauged Porcelain tiles and tile panels/slabs may vary in color, texture, or appearance according to the manufacturer's design for that particulate tile or tile panel/slab series or product line. The following aesthetic class designations have been provided, so that the manufacturer may communicate the aesthetic characteristics of a particular product.

V1 = Uniform Appearance - Differences among pieces from the same production run are minimal.

V2 = Slight Variation - Clearly distinguishable differences in texture and/or pattern within similar colors.

V3 = Moderate Variation - While the colors and/or texture present on a single piece of tile will be indicative of the colors and/or texture to be expected on the other tiles, the amount of colors and/or texture on each piece may vary significantly. It is recommended that the range be viewed before selection.

V4 = Substantial Variation - Random color and/or texture differences from tile to tile, so that one tile may have totally different colors and/or texture from that on other tiles. Thus, the final installation will be unique. It is recommended that the range be viewed before selection.

Surface Abrasion ASTM C1027: (Scale of 0-5) not to be confused with "Deep Abrasion" for non-glazed tiles

Glazed ceramic tiles used for floor coverings are evaluated in this test method. Resistance of tile surfaces to visible surface abrasion measured. Color body tiles are glazed but may or may not be tested for Surface Abrasion depending on the manufacturer.

Abrasion Resistance ASTM C1027: this test is for Glazed tiles.

The test requires 11 test specimens and 8 separate test specimens used for visual comparison assessment. There are 8 stages of abrasion consisting of 100, 150, 600, 750, 1500, 2100, 6000 and 12,000 rotations using an abrasive load on the surface of the glazed specimen.

Each stage requires a different specimen and the tile is measured on the lowest number of rotations that show abrasive wear.

1) After each cycle of rotations, the tiles are rinsed under running water and dried in an oven.

2) For visual comparison, the abraded tile is viewed in a light box with the 8 unabraded samples.

3) For any tiles that pass 12,000 abrasions, they will be tested for stain resistance. Tiles will be rubbed 3 to 4 times with a staining agent paste and allowed to stain for 24 hours. The stain is then removed, and the tiles cleaned. If the stain can be removed, it will be classified at Class V. If the stain cannot be removed, it will be classified as Class IV, per the chart below.

4) The test specimens are classified according to the following table: Abrasion Stage at Which the Failure is Visible Class 100 Class 0 150 Class I 600 Class II 750 Class III 1500 Class III 2100 Class IV 6000 Class IV 12000 Class IV >12,000 and pass staining test Class V It is important to note that this test needs to be done per color, as darker colors tend to wear easier than lighter colors.

Traffic Rating

This classification is provided by the manufacture of any given tile. It is the decided first by material type, and then by analyzing the testing data to determine suitable applications.

DCoF ANSI A326.3: (Minimum to pass ≥ .42)

This standard describes the test method for measuring the dynamic coefficient of friction (DCoF) of hard surface flooring materials under the wet condition using the BOT 3000E device. The passing threshold is an average score of ≥ .42. However, this score should be used in conjunction with other information to determine whether a tile is suitable in a specific area, whether wet or not.

Breaking Strength ASTM C648: 

This test method determines the breaking strength of glazed ceramic wall tile, ceramic mosaic tile, quarry tile, pressed floor tile, and porcelain tile. The tile specimens are evaluated for meeting requirements that may appear in tile specifications.

Water Absorption ASTM C373: 

The purpose of this test is to determine how much a ceramic or porcelain tile will absorb when immersed in water. Tile samples are first weighed to calculate the mass of the sample. They are then boiled in distilled water for 5 hours (+/- 5 mins) and then soaked in the same water for another 24 hours (+/- 30 mins). After this time, they are weighed again to determine what percentage of the tile’s original weight in water was absorbed during the boil and soak process. Once the weights are calculated, the tiles are categorized into one of following ratings:

• Non-vitreous (Low density) – Water absorption of tile between 7.0% to 20.0%

• Semi-vitreous (Medium density) – Water absorption of tile between 3.0% and 7.0%

• Vitreous (High Density) – Water absorption of tile between 0.5% and 3.0%

• Impervious (Extremely dense) – Water absorption of tile 0.5% or less

The ratings above directly associate with how a tile can be used; either in interior or exterior applications.

Ceramic tiles, which tend to fall in the Semi-Vitreous or Vitreous range, should not be used in exterior applications that may be subject to multiple cycles of freezing and thawing. This is because the ceramic will absorb enough water that when it freezes, the water within the body of the tile could expand and therefore crack the tile. Porcelain tiles fall into the Impervious range, which have a very low rate of absorption. Because of this, porcelain tiles can be suitable for use in exterior applications subject to multiple freeze/thaw cycles.

Stain Resistance ISO 10545-14: (Pass/Fail reported as Yes/No)

In this test method, surfaces of ceramic tiles are tested for resistance to stains. Resistance is assessed after the staining agents are in contact with the tile surface for 24 hours.

Frost Resistance (Freeze-Thaw) ASTM C1026: (up to 300 cycles) (Pass/Fail reported as Yes/No)

This test method evaluates the resistance of tile specimens to repeated freezing and thawing cycles. The test functions as a guide for selecting tiles for exterior installations and suitability to environmental conditions where freezing and thawing may occur.

*Environment: This is where we report many sustainable aspects of a collection or manufacturer. Luckily, tile is sustainable by nature, so we like to brag about that in this section. We report on:

*Recycled content: Pre and post-consumer recycled content will be reported if provide by the manufacturer.

*Certifications: The product or manufacturer has achieved such as Greenguard, Green Squared, Red List Declaration, or Cradle to Cradle.

*Declarations: Here we list if the product is covered under an EPD (Environmental Product Declaration), HPD (Health Product Declaration) and if they have a SDS (Safety Data Sheet or Material Safety Data Sheet) available.

*We are currently updating our website and datasheets to add this data to each collection.

 If you learned something and enjoyed this brief explanation of technical tile information, comment below! The next blog will be another interview with one of our very own tile experts. 

A 2021 copy of the TNCA Reference manual can be purchased through this link and it is a 2022 copy will be ready later this year. 

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