Ceramic Questions

What is porcelain tile?

Porcelain tiles are also made of clay and fired in the manufacturing process. Porcelain tiles generally have a lower absorption rate than ceramic tiles and can have a more durable wear-rating for applications like commercial floors.

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What is ceramic tile?

Simply defined, ceramic tile is tile made of clay. What is cement tile? Well, you get the picture. Ceramic- and cement-based tile are similar in at least one respect: they both are often formed by similar means. That is where the similarity ends. After the formation of the tile body, ceramic tiles go through a firing process. Cement tiles are not fired.

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How are ceramic tiles made?

All tiles start out in the earth. Raw materials are quarried and refined. In the case of ceramic tiles, this includes clays, talc and other minerals. Obviously cement-based tile includes cements and sands. Great care is taken in the proper mixture of these materials, as each one is critical to the success, quality and characteristics of the product produced. Once the raw materials are quarried, prepared and properly mixed, the tiles may now be formed.

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What are the procedures for testing ceramic tiles?

Whether the tile is fired once or twice or not at all in the case of cement tiles, each type of tile has certain characteristics. These characteristics determine what application the tile should be used for. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) together with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has established a method for testing ceramic tiles, which is found in ANSI 137.1 1988.


ANSI 137.1 1988

The results of this testing procedure establish minimum standards for the various types of tile and trim. Also, the testing reveals certain characteristics of the tile such as:

  • water absorption
  • abrasion resistance
  • impact resistance
  • breaking strength
  • stain resistance
  • visual quality 
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How do I clean/care for my STAINMASTER™ ceramic tiles and STAINMASTER™ grout products?

Even though the tiles are a durable option for floor and wall surfaces, most require the periodic use of sealers and potentially harsh chemical cleaners. Surfaces covered with STAINMASTER tile and grout system are different.


Keeping your STAINMASTER system surfaces beautiful is easy. Built-in barrier technology delivers surfaces that can be easily cleaned using soap, clean water and a damp cloth or mop. In the event of spills, the prompt use of soap and water will keep surfaces looking their best.

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Do I have to seal the tile?


Glazed porcelain tiles do not need to be sealed


Generally, all stone must be sealed. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the product you choose. -  Know what the surface preparation (polished, honed or natural) coupled with the density and porosity of the stone will determine the best type (petroleum or water based) of sealer to be used. The other consideration is that you use the best product the budget will allow.


Generally, glazed tile requires no sealer. Some unglazed tile requires sealer. Know the type of tile you are installing. Test it with a small amount of water. If the surface darkens, it absorbs water and needs to be sealed. - Generally cementitious grouts require sealing while specialty grouts like epoxy and furans do not. If the grout darkens with water, it needs a sealer. When using the STAINMASTER Enhanced Grout Mix you do not need to seal your grout—the seal will be built-in when dry.

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Do I have to seal the grout?

With STAINMASTER Enhanced Grout Mix you do not have to seal your grout after installation—the sealant is now built-in and will perform for years as a stain repellent and make it easier to clean than unsealed grout.

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What does the water absorption characteristic tell me about the tile?

The water absorption characteristic is of particular importance as it places the tiles into one of four types of tile.

      Type of Tile Water Absorption Potential

non-vitreous tile: +7.0%

semi-vitreous: 3.0–7.0%

vitreous: .5–3.0% (Ceramic Tiles)

impervious: less than .5% (Porcelain Tiles)

The testing will result in the tile being placed in one of three categories.

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What are the Grade ANSI Requirements?

Standard tile that passes all the minimum standards and will pass the visual examination at a distance of 3 feet.

Seconds will pass the minimum standards and visual exam at 10 feet.

Culls tiles that do not pass at all and are discarded or not used for their intended purpose.

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What types of kilns are used today?


Oldest and slowest kiln in use today. The stacking of these tiles in beehive kilns makes the parallel lines you see on the edges of modern Mexican paver tiles.


Modern, faster kilns in which tiles are placed on setters or kiln carts and paraded through the kiln in 8–10 hours.


These are the fastest kilns in use today, in which tile is routed on ceramic rollers through a kiln in 45 minutes to 1 hour.

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What should I know before shopping for tile?

First, let’s focus on ceramic and porcelain tile. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) together with the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) establish guidelines and minimum performance levels for the manufacture of ceramic tile here in the United States. These standards can be helpful in choosing the right tile for our projects. The characteristics these guidelines establish are found under ANSI 137.1 (1988).

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