Whether in the kitchen or in the bathroom, tiles offer a luxurious and clean appearance around the home. One of the biggest benefits of choosing tiles is that they come in all shapes, sizes, and colours. Therefore, it’s easy to find a style that matches the decor of the room. With this in mind, it’s the perfect way to bring a room back to life whether you’re making one change or a full renovation.
However, there’s one question that often causes confusion with tiles – how are they made? You’ll learn everything you need to know in this guide.
Ultimately, the way that tiles are made depends on the material itself. As you may know, you’ll find tiles for sale that are made from glass, porcelain, ceramic, marble, cement, granite, mosaic, and others. Since ceramic and porcelain are the two most common materials for tiling, these are great places to start when learning how tiles are made.
As a natural material, the process starts with a chunk of earth. Clay is normally the base ingredient but from here manufacturers go in different directions. After many generations, some producers keep their recipes a closely guarded secret even today. Commonly added ingredients include quartz, feldspar, water, and sand.
With the extra ingredients added to the clay, the makers create a body slip – a ball mill of the materials. The reason it has this name is that it differentiates this main part of the tile from the glazed topping. A significant amount of water in the mix allows the materials to blend together rather than falling apart. During the manufacturing process, this water evaporates and escapes.
Next, the mix is put into a dryer and then heated. After this stage, the mix has transformed from a soft texture to almost dust. Now comes the dust pressing stage, and this is where the mixture is pressed into a mould using hydraulics or electricity. Either way, pressure is important because otherwise, the end tile won’t have strength.
With the dust pressed into all sorts of shapes and sizes, all that’s left to do is make the glaze. Manufacturers use various pigments to produce colours and patterns for the tiles. Remember, this is an extra step, and you’ll find ceramic tiles with no glaze – this extra step isn’t necessary for a tile to be considered ceramic. The only thing a tile needs to hold the name ‘ceramic’ is a baking process.
On the other hand, porcelain differs from what we’ve just seen with ceramic because it uses denser and heavier clay. As a white clay, it’s mixed with feldspar and sand to make a great option for flooring. Not only do porcelain tiles resist stains, but they also absorb less water. The difficulty with porcelain tiles comes during the cutting phase because the hardness and density also create a brittle nature.
This time, the clay is collected and ground into a fine consistency. When in this state, it makes it easier to blend in the other ingredients. From here, manufacturers remove the air (to prevent bubbles and weaknesses in the tiles) and push the mixture through a metal die and this extrusion process generates thick sheets of the material.
Like a cookie cutter, tile-shaped pieces are taken from the sheets and go through a drying process. Now, it’s ready for a pattern with paint, primer, and a protective glaze.
With this, you now know how ceramic and porcelain tiles are made. As you can see, the process is slightly different for each and this is why they have different qualities!