Tiles 101

The variety of materials used to manufacture tile — clay, stone, terrazzo, quartz and metal — give each type its own defining characteristics. The most commonly used types of tile flooring are ceramic and natural stone.

Ceramic tile is made from clay materials that are quarried, prepared and formed into moulds. Forming methods include dry press, extruded and slush mould. Ceramic tiles are best characterized as either porcelain or non-porcelain. Traditional ceramic tile is non-porcelain and made from clay and minerals, but contains 50% of a white dust or sand called feldspar, which bonds all of the moulded ingredients together during the kiln-drying process, resulting in variety and in the appearance and characteristics of ceramic tiles.

Natural stone tile is produced from natural materials that are quarried, slabbed, finished, and cut to size. Common types of stone used as flooring tile include granite, marble, limestone (including travertine), and slate. Where and when the stone was quarried alters the characteristics of the final tile.

Caring for your Tiles

Aesthetics aside, the durability of tile has long made it a popular option for flooring. A well cared for tile floor can last a lifetime. How long? According to a 2007 National Association of Home Builders study on the Life Expectancy of Home Components, the average life expectancy of a ceramic tile floor is 75 to 100 years while natural stone such as marble and granite can last more than 100 years.

Here are some tips for taking care of your tile:

> Sweep or vacuum floor areas prior to cleaning to remove any dust or debris.

> Test scouring powders and sealants on a small area prior to full application.

> Use a sealer on grout joints shortly after installation and use products compatible with cleaning grout joints.

> Rinse entire area with clear water after cleaning to remove any cleaning solution residue.

> Only have damaged or broken tile removed and replaced by a qualified tile contractor.
Glazed, unglazed, stone, glass and soft clay tiles may require different cleaning agents. Clean glazed tile products regularly with an all-purpose, non-oil-based household or commercial cleaner which is also grout-joint-cleaning-compatible. Multipurpose spray cleaners for everyday use will remove soap scum, hard water deposits, and mildew and can be used on wall tile areas in residential baths and showers. You should clean unglazed tile with concentrated tile cleaners that have a neutral pH for safe regular use. These are better able to removing grease, oils and normal spills from unglazed products (these products may also vary depending on application, use and amount of traffic). For routine cleaning of glass tile, use any non-abrasive cleaning compound recommended for either glass or tile.

Damp-mop your ceramic floor a minimum of once each week, more frequently for heavy traffic areas. (Wait at least 72 hours after initial installation before mopping or cleaning to so new tile and grout can dry adequately.) This will decrease wear and abrasion from grit and soil. Do not use detergents, soaps, or any of the chemicals listed above.

High-quality floor mats at entrances and exits are key to reducing tile wear. They collect and trap all the corrosive substances that can be tracked in from outdoors, including dirt, sand, grit, oil, asphalt, or even driveway sealer. Also use mats in areas of constant pressure, such as in front of vanities, kitchen sinks and stoves.

Attach felt or similar protective pads to all furniture legs, including outdoor metal furniture that rests on tile floors or patios, as it may rust and cause staining.
> Do not use cleaners containing acid or bleach for routine maintenance.

> Do not use wax based cleaners, oil-based detergents or sealants to maintain your tile (sealants may be used on grout joints).

> Do not harsh cleaning aids like steel wool pads or any scouring pads containing metal.

> Do not use a cleaning agent that contains colour (unglazed tile only)