Learn About Tiles

Below is a list of commonly asked tiling questions and simple tips for both indoor and outdoor tiles. We provide insight to a variety of different types in tiles including, ceramic tiles, porcelain tiles, mosaic tiles and much more.

If you are unable to find the answer you are looking for simply call us on 1300 265 678.


What are ceramic tiles?

Ceramic tiles are light weight clay-based tiles. They are pressed at a lower pressure rate and fired at lower temperatures than porcelain tiles. This manufacturing process means they are always finished with a durable glaze which carries the colour and pattern. This glaze can be either gloss or matte or in some instances, there can be an additive to the glaze that gives the tile an external rating. The edge of a ceramic tile is generally not rectified which means the tiles should not be laid any closer than 3mm-5mm, depending on the quality of the substrate.

Key benefits of ceramic tiles include:

  • They are used in both wall and floor applications.
  • They are great for walls in any area of the home as they are cost effective whilst still giving a superior look.
  • They are softer and easier to cut than porcelain which makes the installation cost more affordable.
  • They usually carry a PEI ratings 1 to 5. (See tile tile ratings for more info).
  • They are suitable for light to moderate traffic.

What are porcelain tiles?

Porcelain tiles are made using very fine, high quality materials with high silica content. Pressed at a high pressure rate and fired at high temperatures, they are typically much less porous than other tiles and do not always require sealing.

Porcelain tiles can either be glazed (with a gloss, matte or textured finish) or unglazed (with a natural, polished or textured finish).

To provide our customers with the best choice, ColorTile can offer all finishes for each range.

Typically large format porcelain tiles are rectified which means that the tiles are cut after manufacture to ensure that that they are square. This allows for the tiles to be laid with a minimal grout line of 1.5mm as per Australian standards.

As a result of manufacturers around the world embracing continuous improvements and progressive development in technologies used for unglazed porcelain, ColorTile also offers full-bodied porcelain, double-loaded porcelain and soluble salts.

What is full-bodied porcelain?

This has the same surface as the body. There are two main versions, the speckled (salt and pepper) version and the micronized grain version.

What is double-loaded (charged) porcelain?

This is composed of fine speckle biscuit and micronized topping. The two layers are pressed together prior to firing.

What are soluble salts?

These are composed of metal oxides and water which are spread through a screen on white porcelain. This then penetrates the body of the tile and releases the colouring during firing.

Key benefits of porcelain tiles include:

  • They absorb 0.5% water or less which makes them suitable for humid areas like bathrooms, terraces or kitchens.
  • Both glazed and unglazed porcelain tiles are extremely durable making them suitable for any application, from light traffic to the heaviest residential and light commercial traffic.
  • Full-bodied and double-loaded porcelain tiles carry the colour and pattern into the tile, making it far more durable. It is suitable for any application ranging from residential to high-traffic commercial and industrial conditions.

What are mosaic tiles?

Mosaic tiles are very small tiles, typically less than 100mm square and are most commonly known as splashback tiles due to their popularity as a finish for kitchen and bathroom splashbacks. They are available in many different materials including porcelain, ceramic, glass, natural stone and others. They also come in various finishes.

Commonly sold pre-mounted on mesh or paper sheets around 300x300mm in size, these sheets can be cut down to generate a pattern when mixed with other tiles. For example a 300x300mm sheet of 50x50mm mosaics could but cut down into narrower strips and joined together end to end to create a feature in a shower wall.

Key benefits of mosaic tiles include:

  • Mosaics are used generally as feature tiles to enhance a room.
  • They can be used as splashback tiles in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • They are bright and can add character without being over-powering.
  • They can be a bold and dynamic statement reflecting the home owner’s personality.
  • ColorTile mosaics are made from the highest quality products from around the globe.

What is natural stone?

As the name would suggest, stone is a natural product. Unlike the manufacture of porcelain and ceramic tiles (which takes a raw material and processes it into a new controlled material), the production of natural stone aims to preserve as much of its natural appearance (including naturally occurring faults) as possible.

Key benefits of natural stone include:

  • Natural stone has been a primary construction material since man first lived in a cave and painted on its stone walls.
  • Whil natural stone must be maintained to ensure that it continues to look as beautiful in the future as the day it was installed, it is possible to have stone floors resurfaced in years to come.
  • Natural stone gives any interior an element of style and refinement. The polished finish adds formality to a space while a honed finish provides a more organic look.

What is engineered stone?

This is a man-made product composed of a blend of natural minerals and man-made agents such as polyester, glass, epoxy, and other similar ingredients.

Key benefits of engineered stone include:

  • This product can give the appearance of a “stone-like” surface, but it does not possess the characteristics of a natural stone.
  • It is a cheaper alternative to natural stone.

What are border tiles?

Like mosaic tiles, border tiles can be manufactured from almost any material, from glass to porcelain and ceramic. ColorTile has a range of border tiles (200mm x 60mm) which can work well with many of our wall tiles.

Key benefits of border tiles include:

  • Border tiles are a cost effective way of adding a feature to a tiled area such as a kitchen splashback or shower recess.
  • Border tiles can be used as a capping tile when only tiling part way up a wall.

What is the difference between porcelain and ceramic tiles?

Both ceramic and porcelain tiles are produced the same way, but the difference can be attributed to the pressing and firing process which renders the porcelain tile a superior product. Porcelain tiles are denser, harder wearing and less porous, with a very low absorption rate of under 0.05% compared to ceramic absorption rate of 5% or less.

Porcelain tiles are generally not glazed over and colour runs right through them to be polished, honed or produced in a natural finish. Ceramic tiles on the other hand are almost always finished with a durable glaze which carries the colour and pattern.

As porcelain tiles do not have this protective glaze, most of these tiles require special maintenance.

Porcelain tiles can be used in almost any internal and external application and are available in many finishes and sizes in the same series and colour formats. A high percentage of new home buyers and renovators will choose a porcelain tile due to its strength and beauty.

Ceramic tiles are low maintenance, are available in an endless colour range and are produced at a low cost. They are more suitable for use in domestic areas although chips may be noticeable due to the interior of the tile being coloured differently.

A hybrid option is to have a glazed porcelain tile which is popular for time-conscious builders and home owners. If you are a Sydney or NSW resident looking for ceramic tiles, contact ColorTile for service and advice.

What is double loaded porcelain?

Double-loaded porcelain is manufactured with two layers of porcelain pressed together and fired. The top layer (approx 2-5mm thick) and base porcelain are pressed together under high pressure. The top layer is made up of porcelain clays that have been randomly infused with various dyes, which create a beautiful range of colour combinations and patterns similar to natural stones.

ColorTile has a good selection of double-loaded porcelain tiles which range in colour, size, design and price.

Do glossy tiles have to be porcelain?

Both ceramic and porcelain are available with a high reflection. Glazed ceramics and porcelains are referred to as gloss while full-bodied or double-loaded porcelains are referred to as polished. The name for the type of reflection indicates the method by which it is achieved.

“Gloss” refers to the type of glaze used. “Polished” refers to the mechanical polishing process which occurs after the tile is manufactured.

What is glaze?

Glaze is made up of ground glass and colour pigments which are used to create unique designs. It is a surface covering that is vitrified by firing and strongly adhered to the ceramic or porcelain body tile.

Can glossy tiles be used on wet floor areas?

For commercial application it is necessary that all materials comply with relevant standards (see wear resistance in the tile ratings section). Domestically, there is more scope for you, the consumer, to make up your own mind based on practical information and your own needs. However it is also wise to remember that polished porcelain or gloss glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles are more slippery than natural porcelain, or a matte glazed ceramic or porcelain tile.

Below are some of the points to consider when deciding if a polished or gloss floor tile is suitable for your project:

  • Does anyone in your home require care? Moving around and showering can be more difficult and dangerous on a reflective floor.
  • How stable are you on your feet?
  • Do you wear socks or stockings when getting yourself organised in the morning?

    • It is important to think about how you live and who will be living on the new floor, both now and into the future. This will help you make the right decision about the most appropriate tile finish for you.

What are economy grade tiles?

Economy grade tiles are generally priced in the cheapest price bracket as they are a mixture of first and second quality products which are graded by the factory at the time of manufacture. In most cases people buying economy graded tiles should expect some slight colour and size variations along with some small surface imperfections. Laid using some basic knowledge the end result will still look great.

What are the most common shapes of tiles?

ColorTile stocks the most popular shapes of tiles which are square and rectangular but you can also find tiles that are hexagonal and octagonal.

What are the most common ways to lay tiles?

The four most popular ways to lay your tiles are:

  • Brick pattern (not recommended for tile sizes larger than 300×600 due to the natural cupping and bowing of the tiles during firing)
  • Stacked pattern
  • Diamond pattern
  • Herringbone pattern (not recommended for tile sizes larger than 300×600 due to the natural cupping and bowing of the tiles during firing)

For most tile patterns we suggest you order 10% more tiles than you think you might use due to the wastage generated by cuts and breakages. This extra order should be increased to 15% if laying a diamond pattern of tiles.

What is a rectified tile? Why do tilers charge more to lay these?

A rectified tile is a tile that has been cut after manufacture to ensure that it is truly square. For example, a production batch of ceramic tiles which have been manufactured at 305mm x 610mm will all be re-cut to 300×600 at the same time to ensure they are all the same size and are truly square.

The reason why tilers charge more to lay a rectified tile is that typically they are laid at 1.5mm spacing (minimum allowed by Australian standards) to provide a beautiful finish. This is more difficult to lay than wider spacing as wider grout lines give more room for movement during installation. If the tiles are rectified and the grout line is 1.5mm then the tiler must ensure that the substrate is as level and perfect as possible. The thinner grout lines also mean that there is less room for error. This is time consuming work and so the installation cost reflects the extra time and care required for the job.

What is a vitrified tile?

Vitrified means that the tile does not absorb water. Glaze vitrified means that the tile has been glazed.

What is a non-vitrified tile?

A non-vitrified tile is considered non-vitreous when water absorption exceeds 7%.

Why do tiles from the same batch vary in size?

Floor tiles can vary by 0.75% and still be within the Australian standard. A 400mm x 400mm floor tile can vary from 397mm to 403mm. Tile sizes are only ever given as nominal measurements.

What is the difference between indoor and outdoor tiles?

Outdoor tiles are exposed to harsher conditions and therefore need to be resistant to the elements, such as rain and frost.

ColorTile has a wide selection of tiles designed specifically for indoor and outdoor use.

What is absorption and how does it relate to purchasing tiles?

Absorption is the ability of the tile to take up liquids or vapours. Absorption plays a key role when it comes to outdoors, kitchen and bathroom tiles. Ceramic tiles absorb 5% or less while porcelain tiles normally absorb less than 0.5%.

What is a nano finish?

Nano finishing is a pre-seal which eliminates the need to seal polished porcelain tiles after they are installed.

Key benefits of sealed tiles include:

  • It increases water and dirt resistance
  • The lifespan of a nano sealant lasts between 6-10 years.
  • The sealant is anti-bacterial
  • The anti-sticking technology prevents dirt from adhering to the surface and so the tile is easy to clean and stain free.
  • Tile surfaces are no longer prone to mouldy growth.
  • Sealed tiles are ideal for bathrooms, kitchens and any other wet area in the home.

Want to know more?

Talk to your ColorTile consultant or visit a ColorTile Showroom near you
Contact ColorTile