Tile Dictionary




A treatment applied to the face of a stone to achieve a texture or finish that is distressed. Recently, the use of acid and other types of chemical treatments has decreased due to environmental and disposal concerns. Chemical processes have been replaced by mechanical methods that can texture the face of a stone.


A decorative corner piece used in floor installations. Often used in conjunction with a fascia to create a "rug" border effect. Some angolos may be used together to create a small rosone.

Abrasion Resistance

The degree to which a floor tile’s surface will withstand friction (the wear of foot traffic). Resistance is determined by abrasion tests. (AS 4459-7) classifies tiles from Group I (suitable for light residential traffic) to Group V (suitable for commercial traffic).


Used for bonding tile to a surface.


Bush Hammered Finish

A type of stone finish-A hammering process that creates a textured surface on natural stone. Bush hammering creates a non-skid surface that is typically suitable for outdoor areas.

Beating Block

A wooden block used to embed tiles in a flat plane. Method is called "beating in".


A corner piece for a quarter round.

Brushed Finish

A type of stone finish that is achieved by physically brushing the surface of the stone, evoking the look of natural wear over time.


Layer of mortar or other adhesive that covers the surface to be tiled and onto which tiles are set.

Balanced Cuts

Cuts of tile at the perimeter of an area which will not take full tiles. Also the same sized cuts on each side of a miter.


Fired clay that has not yet been glazed.


The area located between the countertop and upper cabinet in a kitchen.


Material used as a base over which a finished tile is to be installed.

Beveled Edge

An edge treatment done to tile and stone that slopes the edges all the way around the tiles surface.

Back buttering

Any tile larger than 6x6 needs to be back buttered during installation to achieve full coverage.  100% coverage of thinset is what every tile setter strives to achieve.  You can test this by pulling up a freshly installed tile and checking the thinset spread.  In installations where the installer did not back butter you can knock on the tile and it will sound hollow (this is a very bad thing).


One or more rows of tile installed above the floor. (see cove base)


Rounded top edge used as the last tile in a floor installation that is used as a base around a room.  Also known as a bullnose.


Term refers to structural portion of a ceramic product and to the material or mixture from which it is made, as opposed to the glaze.

Butt Joint

The act of placing two tiles together closely as to create the smallest grout joint as possible.

Box Cap

The cap trim that is installed around the edge of the kitchen countertop (popular back in the 50's). It is 'C' shaped with a shorter leg on the inside edge of the tile, raising the cap about 1/4" above the countertop level - allowing the countertop to be wiped down to the sink (often the countertop was sloped to the sink in historic homes). Box Caps were used up until the sixties and then discontinued when "drain boards" became "countertops." It is only available today from specialty companies and is made to order.


The spreading of a bond coat to the back of the ceramic tile immediately before tile is placed.

Brick Pattern

Tile is set in a staggered pattern similar to a brick wall. Also known as a running bond. Any shape tile that is square or rectangular may be set with a brick pattern.


Tile produced via a double firing process, where the raw clay tile is first fired, and then glazed, and re-fired. Bicottura glazes are not as scratch resistant and are now only used on walls.


Tiles featuring a rounded edge used to finish wall installations, turn outside corners or applied to the leading edge for some steps.  The size of a bullnose is typically 3x12 or 4x24 but can also be 6x6 and other various sizes. Some bullnose can be fabricated on the job-site from field tile (usually called an eased edge) but this should be confirmed with the installer.


Cross cut

A cut into quarried stone parallel to the natural plane, typically applied to Travertine. Cross Cutting provides a clouded appearance.

Chiseled Edge

A process of mechanically chipping the tile edge, thus giving the stone a rustic, aged appearance.

Cove Base

A base trim piece that curves concavely to join the floor tile, acting as a baseboard or sorts.  This is referred to as a sanitary cove base in commercial applications & is required in some states for commercial jobs.


A fine 45 degree bevel applied to the edges of a stone tile to minimize chipping during handling and facilitate installation.


A fine, hair-line cracking which sometimes appears on the glazed face of a tile. Usually caused by tensile stress between tile body and glaze. May be intentionally produced for artistic effect.

Calibrated Tiles

Calibrated tiles are sorted to meet a manufacturer’s stated caliber range.  These tiles have tighter requirements for dimensional variation than natural tiles but do not have mechanically finished edges. Due to the variation from shrinkage, even with the most modern equipment and technology, manufacturers must use a sorting process to makes sure that all tiles within a box are dimensionally consistent.  Once tiles are sorted, they are commonly grouped into two to four different calibers, depending on the size with which they most closely correspond.  This is a process called calibration and is performed to ensure that manufacturers meet strict sizing requirements.  These requirements typically allow no more than +/-0.5% variation from the average facial dimension of the corresponding caliber, never exceeding +/-2mm.

Chair Rail

Cap piece with a distinctive architectural shape. Used to cap a wainscot or as a decorative element. Sometimes also known as a "London."

Ceramic tile

Ceramic tiles are generally glazed. They can be used for both wall and floor applications.

Chemical Resistance

The ability of a tile surface to withstand damage from chemical, acids, alkalis and swimming pool salts.


Filling in a joint by sealing with an elastic, adhesive compound. Helps resist staining, mold and mildew as well as allowing movement between any adjoining surfaces.


An edge that has been chiseled by hand to give a distressed appearance.

Clinker tiles (also Klinker)

Natural clay tile, generally extruded and unglazed, vitrified or impervious to moisture and therefore suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

Crackle glaze

Special glaze featuring fine-line 'cracks' for antique effect. This tile must be sealed with a water based sealer. Crackle glazes are typically found on ceramic tiles and sometimes on specialty glass.


Simply describes the color or colors in which certain products are available.

Cleavage Membrane or Slip Sheet

These terms are synonymous and refer to the sheet used between the mortar bed and the substrate. This sheet prevents the mortar bed from bonding to the substrate and allows it to "slip" if there should be movement in the substrate.  Hydro-ban and Ditra are both considered cleavage membranes, anti-fracture membranes, or crack suppressants.

Counter Rail

V-or L-shaped tile for finishing the exposed edges of countertops.

Coefficient of friction also known as CoF

Wet & Dry Measurement to determine the different aspects of slippage on a tiled plane. These measurements are set into guidelines by ISO. The CoF has been replaced with a requirement of DCoF (Dynamic Coefficient of Friction) in 2014.



A tile's shade referring to the coloration and reflectivity which varies from batch to batch.

DCOF AcuTest

ANSI 137.1 now includes a method for measuring Dynamic Coefficient of Friction (DCOF) and a recommended value of 0.42 for interior, level floors that are likely to be walked uponwhen wet. DCOF AcuTest differs from SCOF (Static COF Wet and Dry) in that the shoe material moves across the flooring surface and the resistance to movement is constantly recorded and averaged. This test uses an automated device (the BOT 3000) instead of the human hand which reduces the variation in the test method from 30% in the SCOF measurement to less than 10% for DCOF AcuTest. According to this standard, tiles of a DCOF AcuTest value of less than 0.42 are only suitable for floor areas that will be kept dry. Tiles with a lower value are not restricted to dry areas only, but rather are restricted to applications where they are kept dry when walked upon. In the case of a residential bathroom, the common use of bathmats can accomplish this. Similarly, in entranceways, the use of entrance mats can accomplish the same. The tile industry expects this transition to be fully in place January 2014.

Deep abrasion tests

These tests are standardized in ASTM C-501. They apply to unglazed porcelain tiles only.

Diagonal Set

Tile set at a 45° angle to the wall.

Deco or Decorative

Tile with designs, pictures, or relief fashioned with artistic creativity. Decorative tiles are generally used as accents in a field of solid color.



A crystalline deposit appearing on stone surfaces typically caused by soluble salts carried through or onto the stone by moisture, which has sometimes been found to come from brick, tile, concrete blocks, cement, mortar, concrete, and similar materials in the wall or above.


A decoration in relief or excised on the wear surface.

Epoxy Adhesive

A two part adhesive system employing epoxy resin and epoxy hardener used for bonding ceramic tile to back-up material.

Expansion Joints

Separation provided between adjoining parts of a structure to allow movement at stress points to prevent uncontrolled cracking.  Nearly all installations require expansion joints (caulk every change in plane in residential applications & change in material & every X amount of feet based on square footage, & product type & size).

Extruded Tiles

Extruded tiles are formed by a process in which the wet clay or raw material is forced through a mold and then cut into shape before firing. These tiles are less dimensionally consistent than pressed tiles. Extruded tiles include rustic styles such as terra cotta and clinker. These tiles are often used where a rustic, handmade effect is wanted. Watch the process here.

Eased Edge

When referring to a slab material, the square edge profile normally has softened edges as opposed to sharp square edges for added safety. Stone tiles can also be eased on site by an installer in lieu of bullnose.

Epoxy Grout

Made from epoxy resins and a filler powder, the grout is extremely hard, durable, and nearly stain proof. Often times the bond between tiles is stronger than the tile itself. This grout is not used all the time for a few reasons. It has a more plastic appearance which, as with all matters of aesthetics, some people like and some don't. It is much more difficult to shape and slope then cementitious grout and is often needed to transition from one tile to another. It may also slump in the joint hours after the floor is finished because the grout becomes less viscous initially as it heats up and cures. Lastly, it generally takes days longer to cure and must be kept rigorously clean. And it can cost three to eight times as much as cementitious grout.

Exterior tiles

Tiles suitable for outdoor applications because of their frost resistance.



A decorative piece used in floor installations. Often used in conjunction with an angolo to create a "rug" border effect.

Frost resistance

Ability of certain ceramic tiles to withstand freeze/thaw conditions with minimal effect. Frost resistance of ceramic tile is dependent on the tile’s porosity and water absorption levels. Frost resistance does not guarantee 'frost proof.'

Floor Tile

Any type of tile designated for use on floors. It can generally be used for walls or countertops also.

Flamed Finish

Application of a propane flame to quartz-based stone, resulting in a rough texture, which is typically suited for outdoor areas.


Final step of tile manufacturing process when raw material is ‘baked’ at high temperature (up to 1250 degrees C for porcelain tiles) to harden the tile body and glaze (if present).


Modern terms that refers to size.

Frost proof

Product manufactured for use where freezing and thawing conditions occur.


Square tile of classic style with antique glazed or bas-relief decoration.


Textural or visual characteristics of a tile surface. For glazed tile this may be high gloss, satin or matt. Generally for porcelain tiles, finish can be natural, polished, semi-polished, honed, lapped. Other finishes mimicking stone such as bush hammered are also available.  Other effects include raised, embossed, dimpled, etched, scored, ribbed, etc.

Field Tile

The main tile in a tile design.


Used in reference to dimension stone, it means manufactured and ready for installation.


Grout Float

A tool that spreads adhesive or grout.


A very hard natural igneous stone that is usually stain and scratch resistant. Granites are the hardest architectural stone, making them ideal for counter tops and high-traffic areas.

Grout (cementitious)

Dry cement product that is mixed with water to fill grout joints. Un-sanded grouts are used for joints less than 1/8” in width, and sanded grouts for larger than 1/8”. Grouts may also be epoxy or urethane based however very few products will require urethane.


Glassy opaque or transparent coating fired or fused on to the ceramic tile body, creating a smooth, impermeable surface.

Glazed Porcelain

Now the most popular type of indoor tile.  This tile is made from porcelain clays, but glazed for aesthetic effect.  They are dense, strong, and best cut with a wet saw.  A colored, liquid glaze is applied to the surface of a porcelain body. The tile is fired in a kiln at approximately 2,000 degrees. The glazing process defines the color and surface texture and produces a hard, non-porous, impermeable tile with a water absorption rate of 0.5% or less.

Grout Joint

Space left between tiles to be filled with grout.  This space may be extremely narrow or wider depending on the required installation and/or aesthetics.


Hardy Backer

Made from cementitious material bonded over with fiber glass or resin fabric. It is attached to walls and floors in preparation for tiling


The treatment of a natural stone to provide a flat non-reflective surface. Honed surfaces are typically achieved via the use of diamond abrasives.


Insert or Inserto

A decorative tile that coordinates with a field tile and is the same size. For example, if a field tile is 4" x 4", an insert that coordinates is also 4" x 4", but is decorative.

Impact Resistance

Ability of ceramic tile to resist breakage – either throughout the body or as surface chipping – as the result of a heavy blow. In general, ceramic tile is not a resilient material, and care should be taken to avoid dropping heavy or sharp objects on its surface. Glazed tiles are more susceptible to surface chipping than unglazed tiles.

Impervious tiles

Dust-pressed ceramic tiles with water absorption levels, 0.5% and high mechanical and chemical characteristics. The surface of these tiles may be glazed or unglazed. Also known as vitrified or porcelain tile.



The space between tiles that is filled with grout or caulk.


Trim tiles mitered along one or two edges, used in corner and countertop installations. Also called angled 45 degree tiles.



An oven used for the firing of ceramic or porcelain tile. Kilns vary greatly in size, and may be fired using natural gas, electricity, wood or other combustible material.



A sedimentary stone primarily composed of calcium carbonate. Limestone is generally softer and less dense than granite and more homogeneous in appearance.


Cap piece with a distinctive architectural shape. Used to cap a wainscot or as a decorative element. Sometimes also known as a "Chair Rail."


The acronym stands for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design. The LEED Green Building Rating System was established by the U.S. Green Building Council. The system defines standards for environmentally responsible, healthier, and more profitable structures. Points are awarded to new construction and major renovation in five categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality.

Latex Modified Thinset

Thinset cement, to which polymers have been added, is commonly called latex-Portland cement mortar. In fact, this term is a bit of a misnomer. The original polymers used to modify thinset were based on latex and the term originates from their use. Today, there are over 10,000 polymers considered by cement chemists when formulating their products. Polymers such as EVA, PVA, SBR, and others are all commonly used in the industry. Many of these polymers are acrylics and not latex chemicals.


In finished installation, the condition where one edge of a tile is higher than an adjacent tile. May be unavoidable even for tiles that are within the tolerances of dimensional standards, seen especially in very large format tiles.

Listello (or Listel)

Italian word for a border tile used to add interest.

Lugged Tile

Tile produced with tabs on the edges for maintaining even spacing. These are usually wall tiles & are inexpensive.



When tiles are modular-it means that the smaller tiles are an equal division of the larger ones. Modularity allows for greater design flexibility, as the grout lines between the tiles will align whether the different tile sizes are used alone or in combination, both vertically and horizontally. The benefit of modular tile is that you can install multiple sizes in a random pattern with minimal grout lines.  Two vendor that have plenty of modular options are Artistic Tile and Florida Tile. Do not assume your tile is modular and keep this term in mind when you are mixing tile from more than one vendor.


A metamorphic rock possessing a distinctive crystalline texture. Marble is typically softer than granite, and available in a wide spectrum of color and veining.

Medium Bed Mortar

A setting adhesive used for the installation of large format tiles and tiles of irregular thickness when the required setting bed exceeds the workable range of thinset.  Thin bed and thick bed are two other options.


An organic pre-mixed adhesive typically used to install ceramic tile in areas of no moisture exposure.  Do not use mastic in showers!

Mud Cap

Mud Caps are not used very often anymore and are hard to find now.  They were historically used as a trim piece to cover the edge of backer boards in showers.  They have a slight curve on the finished edge to account for the backer board. You can purchase this piece today from Pool Tile Companies and possibly Dal Tile.


An ornamental block. A symmetrical design of multiple colors. Focal point in walls and floors.

Metamorphic Rock

Rock altered in appearance, density, crystalline structure, and in some cases, mineral composition, by high temperature or intense pressure, or both. Includes slate derived from shale, quartz-based stone from quartzitic sand, and true marble from limestone.

Moisture Absorption

As the density of the tile increases, the amount of moisture that tile can absorb decreases. Tile density and moisture absorption have an indirect relationship to each other. Tile density means that, as the weight or the density of the tile increases, it becomes a stronger tile. Tile density and moisture absorption is important to understand when selecting tile for different applications.

Moh's scale

Scale used to express the measure of a materials hardness. Talc's rating on Moh's is a 1 where a diamond is 10.


Single-fired tiles with higher porosity and water absorption levels than ‘monocottura’ tiles.


Small tiles used to make patterns or pictures on walls or floors. Mosaic tile can be made out of any material but not all are suitable for floor installation.


The setting material used to bond tiles to a given surface. Different types of mortar are suitable for different backing and conditions.

Mounted or meshed tiles

tiles assembled into units or sheets by the manufacturer for easier installation. Back and edge mounted tiles are bonded to material (mesh, paper, resin or other) that becomes part of the installation. Face mounted tiles are bonded to a material that is removed prior to grouting.


Tiles composed of raw materials that produce a yellow-pink body of relatively high water absorption level.


Tiles produced with only one high temperature firing, generally with harder glaze and denser body than wall tiles with moisture absorption below 3 percent.


To cut on an angle to meet on an edge or corner (similar to picture frame moldings or ceiling cove molding).


Natural Stone

A product of nature. A stone such as granite, marble, limestone, slate, travertine, or sandstone that is formed by nature, and is not artificial or manmade.

Nominal size

The approximate size of tile face or thickness used for general purposes.  Tile sizes can vary by up to plus or minus 3mm over a nominal 333mm long tile, depending on the batch supplied.


Out Corner

A trim piece with two connecting edges.


A typically translucent variety of calcium carbonate, often formed in caves in the form of stalagmites and stalactites.


Pressed Tiles

The majority of ceramic tiles made today go through a process known asdry pressingor dust pressing. This process requires much less labor and time than extruded tiles.  Ceramic tiles are primarily made of clay along with sand, feldspar, quartz and water.

Porcelain tile

A fine grained, specialized ceramic tile, pressed under extreme pressure and fired at extreme temperatures, producing a wear resistant product typically suitable for commercial and residential application.


Narrow/skinny rectangular tiles sometimes with rounded or squared surface used on walls as accent pieces or trim pieces.


Porcelain Enamel Institute, responsible for research, testing and analysis of ceramic materials in the United States. PEI is only applicable in terms of glazed ceramic and porcelains. Deep abrasion tests such as ASTM C-501 are standards for unglazed porcelains. Pencil: Thin tile of any length usually between 1/2" and 2" in width.

Polished Finish

The treatment of a natural stone to provide a light-reflective surface. Polished surfaces are typically achieved via the use of diamond abrasives. Not all stones can achieve a polished finish.

Portland cement

Type of hydraulic cement often used in tile installation.


Quarter Round or Bead

A narrow, convexly curved piece designed to create continuity where 90 degree angles occur.


Hard, dense, crystalline mineral often found in granite.


The location of an operation where a deposit of stone is extracted from the earth through an open pit or underground mine.

Quarry tile

Traditional term for single-extruded, natural clay tiles with a water absorption level not exceeding 6%. Very durable and normally used in commercial kitchens.


Quarzite) is a hard, non-foliatedmetamorphic rock which was originally purequartz sandstone.  Typically only available in slab format, this is the hardest stone material on the market, and is very expensive.


Rectified Tile

A process whereby porcelain tiles are trimmed to a uniform facial dimension, allowing for a minimal grout joint installation. Rectified tile is first baked in sheets, then cut to size AFTER coming out of the kiln. This is why it can be calibrated to exact specifications. Rectified tile can be installed with “credit card” joints as small as 1/16”. Most other tile is first shaped and then baked afterwards in a kiln, so it often has as much as a 1/16" or more difference in size between tiles in the same box.


A chemical product, clear to translucent, used in some coating processes.


A square or circle design used as a decorative piece in a floor installation. Rosones are often made of mosaics of stone or glass, sometimes in intricate water-jet patterns.

Running Bond

Tile is set in a staggered pattern similar to a brick wall. Also known as a brick pattern.


Surface Cap

Another word for bullnose.


A natural substance found throughout the world - typically excavated.


A sedimentary stone that is primarily composed of loose, rough grains of quartz sand. Sandstone typically has a rough texture and high porosity.


A variety of metamorphic stone, containing the mineral serpentine. Serpentine’s are typically green or gray in color, have high abrasion resistance making them suitable for exterior application, but may require the use of a specialized setting material.


A rough texture, achieved by hand cutting, chiseling or hydraulic guillotine. Split Face finishes provides textural interest for vertical applications.

Sanded Grout

Sanded grout means that a filler sand material is added to the grout, giving it a rougher texture and appearance. Sanded grout needs to be used with a grout joint 1/8” or larger.

Shade Variation

Range of color or shade in a stone or tile. Shade variation is inherent in all fired ceramic products and certain tiles will show greater variation within their dye lots The higher the shade variation the more range of color there is from stone to stone or tile to tile.Understanding the shade variation in the product you select is the most important aspect of your purchase!


Large, thin, flat pieces of stone, available in a variety of thicknesses, used for counter top, table, wall cladding and paving applications.


Raw terracotta is called Saltillo. True Saltillo tiles are handmade and fired at relatively low temperatures. Therefore, they are not flat or perfectly square. The colors vary considerably from beiges, yellows, and oranges. Saltillo tiles (also known as Mexican Tiles) do not get baked in a kiln at high temperatures. Instead, they are left to bake outside in the Mexican sun and if it is a cloudy day the temperature can fluctuate which increases the porosity of the tiles. This artisan process allows for unique characteristics.  If you’re lucky you will find coyote tracks on the surface of the tile.


Clear coating sometimes applied to unglazed floor tiles, natural stones, cement tiles, raw terracotta, and some specialty ceramics to protect the surface from water penetration, grease spills or staining material (also known as sealants).

Single-fired tiles

Glazed tiles produced by the single-firing method in which the raw tile body and glaze undergo a single pass through the kiln at high temperature. Also known as monocottura.


Leveling the mortar bed by dragging a screed across it. Sealers: Clear coating sometimes applied to unglazed tile floor to protect the surface from grease spills or to add luster.


Metamorphic stone composed of clay, quartz and shale, characterized by distinct layering. Slates are predominantly available in cleft-finished tiles; ideal for use in exterior, non-freeze settings in the proper thickness.

Soldier Joint

Oblong tile laid with the long side vertical and all joints in alignment to make a rectangular grid pattern.

Stacked set

Setting a tile in a stacked set just means to center adjacent tiles next to each other without any stagger. Any shape tile that is square or rectangular may be set with a stacked pattern.

Skim Coat

Skim coating involves the back buttering (application of setting material to the back) of a tile or stone and allowing the setting material (i.e. thin set) to cure and harden.

Saw-cut finish

Stone that has been sawed, without further refinement. This finish is common on Travertine.

Subway tile

The shape of a subway tile is rectangular and very flat, set with a tight grout joint, and often comes in sizes such as 3"x6", 4"x8", etc. Modern subway tiles tend to be beveled on the edge, allowing for a deeper grout joint. Subway tiles can be set in a brick pattern or stacked vertically or horizontally.

Straight Set

Tile set square to the wall.

Slip resistant tiles

Tiles treated to prevent slipping either by adding an abrasive grit to the glaze (R11) during manufacturing or a texture coating applied to the tile after installation.



A piece of wood or stone placed beneath a door; a doorsill. Tile door thresholds are 4x36 and shower curb thresholds are 6x72 and can be cut to the exact length needed by an installer.  Special thresholds are also available for commercial installations through special order (Sita).  Thresholds can also be used to trim off pony walls, window sills, and wall niches.


A decorative medallion or insert.

Textured Finish

A rough surface finish.

Through Body Porcelain

A porcelain tile that has no glaze applied. The surface and body material are uniform.


A type of limestone formed by water passing through the stone from hot springs. Some layers contain pores and cavities which create an open texture. Depending on the product selected, pores in travertine may be filled or unfilled. Travertine is available in warm, earth tones, making it one of the most popular stones for interior and exterior flooring. Some varieties of travertine take a polish and are commonly known as marble.

Tumbled Finish

A weathered, aging finished created when the stone is tumbled with sand, pebbles, or steel bearings.


Cement-based adhesive used to install stone or tile. Thinset is applied in a thin layer, typically having a maximum working thickness of about 3/8”. Thinsets are available with a dry polymer additive that provide increased bond strength and flexibility once mixed with water. Liquid Latex additive may also be available to mix with your thinset.

Thermal Shock Resistance

Ceramic tile’s ability to resist alterations when subjected to rapidly fluctuating extreme temperatures.


Finishing pieces used to cover an exposed tile edge (i.e. bullnose, out corners, step nosing).


The calculation only the installer should make to determine the amount of stone or tile to cover a given area. Many times we suggest adding 10% to 15 % to the take off to cover for items like cuts, breakage or the odd stone or tile the customer just may not want to lay. The amount of take-off varies from installer to installer. Usually the more tile used by an installer the better quality of workmanship.

Thick bed or mortar bed

(referring to thinset) Thick-bed installations are based on the traditional method (old school tile setters back when tile setting was an art form) of packing a mortar bed over a surface before installing the tile. The tile is adhered to the mortar bed either while the mortar bed is green (just beginning to dry) or after the mortar bed has cured. The mortar bed may be reinforced with wire and either set over a cleavage membrane (that allows the mortar bed to "float" free of the substrate) or bonded to the substrate; hence, the use of the terms "floating mortar bed" or "bonded mortar bed". For wall applications, metal lath is mechanically anchored to the substrate, and the mortar locks into the metal lath as it cures. The terms thick-bed installation, mortar bed installation, and thick-set installation are synonymous.  This type of installation is rarely done now and usually only done by tile installers with 20+ years of experience.


Tiles produced with only one high temperature firing, generally with harder glaze and denser body than wall tiles with moisture absorption below 3 percent. The most common terra cotta is a dark red-orange, but colors vary depending on the trace elements it contains.


Surface quality of stone independent of color.


Un-Sanded Grout

as a smooth texture and appearance and is used for joints less than 1/8” in width.

Unglazed Tiles

Unglazed tiles are a solid color all the way through and do not have a top layer of glaze. This is often referred to as through-body construction. They have no additional surface applications and are typically more dense and durable than glazed tile. Thus they are more suitable for interior and exterior applications. Unglazed tiles do have good slip resistance, however please note that they do require sealing to help prevent staining. They come in various surface treatments and textures.


Vein cut

A cut into quarried stone perpendicular to the natural plane, typically applied to Travertine. Vein Cutting provides a linear appearance.

Vitrified tiles

Vitreous tiles absorb less than 3 percent moisture whereas Fully Vitrified tiles are made from fine particles and fired to high temperatures (1250 degrees) which results in a denser tile with extremely low porosity (moisture absorption of less than 0.5 percent). Porcelain stoneware tiles are fully vitrified making a layer of glaze unnecessary for the tile to be impervious to water.


Water jetting or waterjet

A process performed by a highly pressurized and concentrated stream of water and mineral cutting abrasives. Water-jets are particularly useful in cutting elaborate curves and patterns.  A waterjet mosaic can expect a much higher price tag due the expensive machinery, tile wastage & required technical license to operate it.


Generally add 10 percent to the amount required for wastage due to cutting etc. For diagonal installations add 20% waste.  If the installation is complicated or a lot of cutting is involved, the amount for wastage may need to be increased.


The area of a tiled wall that is installed from the floor to the chair rail height, or slightly higher, with a border or cap finishing the installation.

Water Absorption

The quantity of water a tile can absorb expressed as a percent of the dry tile weight. High water absorption corresponds to a porous structure, while compact, vitrified structures feature low water absorption.

Wall Tile

Tile intended for use on walls. Generally thinner than floor tile. While it can sometimes be used on residential floors and countertops, it is best to consult manufacturer recommendations before installation.




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