Tile Terms & Glossary

Throughout the website we have tried to use language that is easy for you to understand when making your decision on which tiles will best suit your project. To aid you with any industry terms we have used, we have put together a handy table below with an explanation of that that term means.

Abrasion Resistance This refers to how a tile or surface stands up to wear and tear caused by friction. For floor tiles, this is graded using the PEI rating.
Absorption The amount of water absorbed by a tile. Described as the ratio of the weight of the water absorbed by a tile versus the weight of a dry tile (expressed as a percentage).
Adhesive An adhesive or glue is a solution (usually in a liquid or semi-liquid state), that adheres items together. Tile adhesives usually comprise of aggregates and bonding agents derived from either natural or synthetic sources.
Antique Finish When tiles comprising of natural materials are first cut they have a specific textured finish, either riven, bush-hammered, or tumbled. Through the course of the life of the tiles natural foot traffic and general wear and tear, wears down the surface texture. An antique finish tile goes through a grinding process to artificially reproduce this effect.
Backer Board (Cement Board) Normally, a 12mm thick cement backerboard for tile and stone, to be used as an alternative to plasterboard for tiling on walls.
Bevelled Edge A bevelled edge refers to an edge of a tile that is not perpendicular to the face of the tile. A bevel is typically used to soften the edge of a tile for the sake of safety, wear resistance, or aesthetics.
Biscuit The main base structure of a glazed tile, generally made of clay or porcelain.
Bonding Agent A substance applied to a suitable substrate to create a bond between the substrate and a succeeding layer.
British Standard There a number of British Standards that are used in the tile industry, these include standards which govern ceramic and natural stone tiles, tile fixing, tile adhesives and grouts. The British Standards are written by tile industry specialists and are available to purchase from British Standards Institution.
Ceramic An article that has a glazed or unglazed body of crystalline or partly crystalline structure, made from inorganic non-metallic materials and formed by the action of heat. The most common ceramics are traditional clays, which are made into tiles, bricks, pottery and the like, along with cements and glass.
Crackle Glaze A crazed or aged effect, made by deliberately having the glazed cracked. To achieve this finish specific glazes are now made to shrink in the drying process. However in the past, it was made by causing thermal shock. That means that when the tile was fired, the glaze would expand. Immediately after being removed from the kiln, the tiles were subjected to freezing temperatures which caused the glaze to rapidly shrink, forcing it to crack.
Crazing The cracking that occurs in fired glazes or other ceramic coatings due to critical tensile stresses normally caused by temperature changes and vibration.
Cure Time The time period that a tile installation setting material must be undisturbed and allowed to set for it to reach full strength. The cure time varies widely and is dependent on the type of compounding used and the thickness of the tile.
Diamond Saw Blade A diamond blade is a saw blade that has diamonds fixed on its edge. Used for cutting hard or abrasive materials, there are many types of diamond blade with specific blades designed for cutting stone, concrete, asphalt, bricks, coal balls, glass, and ceramics.
Drilling Drilling or boring holes into tiles is a common requirement for certain projects. We would generally always recommend that a Diamond Tip Drill bit is used, especially when drilling porcelain tiles, for the cleanest cut.
Full Bodied Porcelain / Fully Vitrified Made from a single layer of porcelain, for which the pigmentation used to create the face pattern is present through the full depth of the tile. Full-Bodied Porcelain / Fully Vitrified tiles generally have a water absorption rate of 0.5%
Glazed Porcelain Tiles that have a porcelain base that is primed and printed before a layer of hardening glassware is coated over the top and is fused to the body. These type of tiles are also referred to a Semi-Vitrified tiles.
Grout A silica sand, cement and chemical mix for filling tile joints. As it is not recommended for tiles to be butt jointed, a grout joint is put in place around the tiles. The purpose of grout joints are to prevent the flow of moisture from reaching the back of the tiles and act as a buffer to limit the effects of vibration and the expansion/contraction caused by temperature change. Grout is available in many colours, formats (powdered etc.), and with many special properties (anti-mould etc.).
Heavy Duty Tile Especially hardwearing tiles suitable for areas where heavy foot traffic is expected. This type of tile is usually deployed in settings such as shopping centres, airports, railway stations, and hotel lobbies.
Iridescent Tiles A tile that has a main base colour but that will appear to display other colours when looked at in different lights or from alternative angles. These tiles are usually constructed from glass and are most commonly mosaics.
Lappato (or Semi-Polished Finish) When first made, most tiles have a slightly textured surface. To create a Lappato finish, tiles are then partially polished with an abrasive diamond wheel, just enough to give approximately 50% of the surface an evenly spread polished finish (whilst the other 50% will remain textured).
Mapei Founded in 1937 in Milan, Mapei today is the world's largest producer of adhesives and grout. Keracolor Water Repellent Grout, Keraquick Fast-Setting Adhesive, Kerapoxy Design Grout, MapeGrip Ready Mix Adhesive, and Ultracolour Flexible Grout are just some of the excellent Mapei products that are stocked by Tile Mountain.
Matt Finish A tile with a dull surface offering virtually no reflection.
Nippers Special pliers that nibble away little bits of ceramic tile to create small, irregular, or curved cuts.
Nominal Sizes Used to describe the approximate thickness or facial size of a tile for general reference.
Non-Vitreous The degree of vitrification evidenced by relatively high water absorption. The term typically signifies more than 10% water absorption, except in the case of wall and floor tiles which are considered non-vitreous when water absorption exceeds 7%.
PEI Rating The PEI system is used throughout the world for grading floor tiles according to the resistance to wear and tear of their finishes. PEI stands for Porcelain Enamel Institute.
PEI Grade 1 - Light domestic use - tiles suited to areas of the home where you are barefoot or soft footwear is worn such as bathrooms and bedrooms.
PEI Grade 2 - Moderate domestic traffic - tiles suited to use in the home except in areas where there is direct access to outdoors such as hallways and kitchens.
PEI Grade 3 - All domestic use - suitable for all areas of the home including kitchens and hallways.
PEI Grade 4 - Tiles suitable for domestic and public use where moderate to heavy traffic occurs such as hotel lobbies, restaurants and supermarkets.
PEI Grade 5 - Tiles suitable for all types of use whether domestic or in public areas of very heavy foot traffic.
Polished Finish A polished finish is most commonly found on porcelain or natural stone and is mechanically created with a fine abrasive diamond wheel to give it an extremely high shine. Be sure not to confused this type of finish with high glazed tiles that have the glaze coating layered over the surface.
Porcelain A glazed or unglazed vitreous ceramic white-ware made by heating raw materials, often including clay in the form of kaolin, to high temperatures in a kiln. Porcelain tiles are dense, usually impervious, fine-grained, and smooth with a sharply formed face.
Pot Life The period of time during which a material maintains its workable properties, after it has been mixed. This term is usually used when referring to grouts or adhesives.
Rectified Tile A product that has undergone a further machining process , where the tile is cut after the baking process, to produce clean edges on all sides. Rectified tiles make for smaller and cleaner grout lines.
Rustic Edge A non-uniform and fairly random edge that is designed to give a tile a handmade, almost artisan aesthetic.
Satin Finish Satin finish tiles have a slight sheen which, when viewed a certain angle, will offer a small amount of light reflection.
Screed A thin, top layer of material (traditionally sand and cement), poured on top of structural concrete or insulation, on top of which other finishing materials can be applied.
Sealant A continuous film or penetrant used to prevent the absorption of liquids or other debris. Sealants are not necessary for glazed ceramic tiles, but should be used with porous materials such as quarry tiles, grout, or natural stone products.
Shade Variation The difference in colour or texture from one tile to the next, inherent in all tile products. In most cases shade variation deliberate for the creation of textures that mimic natural materials such as wood or marble wood or stone effect tile. Due to the calibration of machinery between printing runs, one batch of tiles may also contain variation in colour or pattern to the next.
Shelf Life The maximum period of time that a material may be stored and remain in a usable condition. This term is most commonly used when referring to grouts and adhesives.
Silicone Beading A soft, plastic based material (Caulk) applied to finish projects to a professional standard. The beading prevents water penetrating into joints around wash basins, bathtubs, or shower trays.
Slip-Resistant Tile (or Anti-Slip Tile) A tile that has greater slip-resistance characteristics than a regular tile. The anti-slip qualities are generally due to abrasive particles in the surface, an abrasive admixture, or patterns or grooves in the surface. Anti-Slip floor tiles are given a resistance rating (R9 to R13) to help grade the non-slip level of particular tile. This is known as the ‘R’ value. R13 is the resistance recommended by many professionals for public wet areas such as showers in a public changing room. R9 and R10 values are often used and recommended for domestic bathrooms or kitchens (where there is less risk of slipping).
Spacers Plastic pieces that are used in installation to evenly separate tiles. All manner of sizes and shapes are available to suit your tiling project. The most commonly used however are ‘T’ spacers.
Splashback A panel or area behind a sink or cooker that protects the walls from being stained by food and liquid splashes. These can take the form of singular products such as Glass Splashbacks, or created using smaller tiles - mosaics and Metro tiles being particularly popular choices for splashbacks.
Split face Split face tiles are medium to large tiles that are made from smaller rectangular pieces of natural stone (usually slate or quartzite). The pieces are glued and butted together to form a single tile that does not require grouting. As a result, it’s not advisable to use this type of tile in an areas that is subjected to direct water such as a shower wall or wetroom.
Substrate The underlying support for a tile installation e.g.: floorboards, concrete, or plaster.
Tanking A waterproofing membrane applied to a shower enclosure before tiling in order to protect the underlying substrate from water penetration. Wet rooms are usually totally water sealed by the application of special sealing tapes, waterproof underlays, or membranes and ‘tanking compound’ which, when fully cured, creates a fully water tight area. Tiling and panelling alone will not create a wet room since some tiles and grout may be porous.
Vitrified A highly compressed porcelain tile that is highly impervious to water penetration. A tile that is vitrified has a moisture absorption rate of less than 0.5%. Semi-Vitrified tiles are also referred to a Glazed Porcelain tiles, whereas Fully Vitrified refers to a full-bodied porcelain tile.
Wet Area or Wet Room A shower area that is created where the use of a shower tray or screen is not required. The floor is angled to improve water flow to a drain system that is situated within the floor.