Ceramic flooring terms

Ceramic flooring terms

ASTM: American Society for Testing & Materials. Most ceramic tile manufacturers use a rating system based on or supported by this group. Ratings are typically found on the tile sample or in the product catalog. The most common system rates ceramic tile abrasion resistance or its overall durability. Other ratings may include: scratch resistance, moisture absorption, chemical resistance and breaking strength.

Biocuttura Tile: Ceramic tiles are fired in a kiln at temperatures of around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. These tiles are first fired after the green tile dries and then again after glaze is applied. Also call Double Fired.

Bisque: The larger of a tile’s two layers. The top layer is called the glaze.

Bullnose: A ceramic floor tile trim that features a single rounded finished edge. Sometimes used as a substitute for a cove base.

Ceramic: A natural product extracted from the earth that is shaped into tiles and then fired in kilns at extremely high temperatures.


Cement backer unit. Provides a supportive and water resistant layer between the porous substrate and the mortar and tile applied on top of it.

Classes of Ceramic Tile

Class 1: No foot traffic. Suggested for interior wall applications only.

Class 2: Light Traffic. Suggested for interior wall applications and residential bathroom flooring only.?

Class 3: Light to Moderate Traffic. Can be used for residential floor and wall applications, including bathrooms, kitchens, foyers, dining rooms and family rooms.

Class 4: Moderate to Heavy Traffic. Recommended for residential, medium commercial and light industrial floor and wall applications, including shopping malls, offices, restaurants and showrooms.

Class 5: Heavy/Extra heavy Traffic. Can be installed anywhere. Will hold up in floor and wall applications at airports, supermarkets and subways.

COF: Coefficient of Friction. The higher the COF, the more slip resistant the tile is. Important when selecting a ceramic tile for wet areas, such as a shower or bathroom floor. Other ratings listed by the manufacturer might include scratch resistance, moisture absorption, chemical resistance and breaking strength.

Corner Bullnose: A ceramic floor tile trim with two rounded finished edges. Used to complete a corner.

Extrusion: A process in which clay material is forced through a mold for the desired shape versus pressing the tile.

Field Tile: In a pattern, the tile that is most prominent across the largest area.

Firing: The fifth step in the process of manufacturing ceramic tile. Tiles are fired in a kiln at temperatures of around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Frit: A glass derivative that is applied to ceramic tile as part of a glaze liquid, along with colored dyes, by a high pressure spray or is poured directly onto the tile.

Glazed: Glass-forming minerals and ceramic stains that are applied to the body or bisque of a ceramic tile in a matte, semi-gloss or high-gloss finish. Offers better stain and moisture resistance than unglazed tile, as well as a hard non-porous, impermeable surface after firing.

Glazing: The process of applying a liquid prepared from frit and colored dyes to ceramic tile either by high-pressure spray or direct pouring. The fourth step in the process of manufacturing ceramic tiles.

Green Tiles: Clay pressed or formed into a tile shape. The third step in the process manufacturing of ceramic tile.

Grout: A type of cement used to fill the space between and provide support for ceramic tile. Comes in two types: Portland cement based and epoxy based. Both compounds may have sand added to provide additional strength. Pigment is added to the cement at the job site during the mixing process.

Impervious Tiles: Have less than .5% moisture absorption. Frost proof and can be used in outside or on building facades.

Moisture Absorption: As the weight or the density of a tile increases, it becomes a stronger tile and absorbs less moisture.

Monocuttura Tile: Single fired ceramic tile.

Mosaics: Intricate patterns of ceramic tile, often created with 2”x2” tiles or smaller.

Nominal Size: A reference to an idealized tile size vs. its actual size, which is typically about 10% smaller due to shrinkage during the firing process.

Non-Vitreous Tiles: Absorb 7% or more moisture.

Porcelain: Tile comprised of 50% feldspar and fired at a much higher temperature than standard ceramic tile, resulting in a much harder and more dense product that is resistant to scratches and can withstand temperature extremes. Also, stain resistant with very low water absorption.

Pressing: The process of forming clay into a tile shape, called green tiles. The third and most common step in the process of manufacturing ceramic tile.

Sanded Grout: Grout with sand added to provide additional strength to the tile join. Recommended for tile joints 1/8” and larger.

Sanitary Cove Base: A ceramic floor tile trim with a rounded finished top like a bullnose, used to cover up the body of the tile.

Semi-Vitreous Tiles: Absorb from 3% to 7% moisture.

Shade Variation: Inherent in all fired ceramic products. Certain tiles will show greater variation within their dye lots. Typically listed on the back label of each sample with a low, moderate, high or random rating. Low: Consistent shade and texture; Moderate: Average shade and texture variation; High: Extreme shade and texture variation; Random: Severe shade and texture variation

Substrate: The tile foundation. May include concrete, plywood and/or drywall.

Thickset/Mud Set: A classic method of tile installation in which a thick layer of mortar is applied to a waterproofed and steel reinforced substrate. This provides a strong, flat base onto which the tile can be installed. Effective, but labor-intensive.

Thinset: An industry accepted and more efficient method of tile installation in which tile is adhered directly onto a backer board that is nailed to a plywood or concrete substrate using a much thinner layer of mortar.

Through Body: Unglazed tiles that are a solid color all the way through and do not have a top layer of glaze.

Tile Density: The weight of a tile. As it increases, the amount of moisture that tile can absorb becomes less.

Unglazed: Solid color tile without a top layer of glaze, often referred to as through-body construction. Typically more dense and durable than glazed tile, thus more suitable for interior and exterior applications. Have a good slip resistance, but require sealing to help prevent staining. Come in various surface treatments and textures.

Un-sanded Grout: Portland cement based or epoxy based grout without sand as an ingredient. Typically used in joints that are smaller than 1/8th of an inch.

Vitreous Tiles: Absorb less that 3% moisture. Referred to as frost resistant tiles, but cannot be used in exterior areas where freeze-thaw conditions may cause tile cracking.