A beautiful trend we are seeing now in our industry is the resurgence of popularity in the cement tile. Demand for authentic and sustainable products is increasing. The renewed enthusiasm for this ‘green’ product is partly that it is environmentally friendly and sustainable, just as it was many centuries ago when introduced by the Moors in Spain in the 700’s. The tiles are an ingenious combination of cement, marble powder, water, sand and pigments. The technique uses a mold to make designs in many colors and a press to harden the tiles without requiring heat. Cement tiles are therefore considered to be a ‘green’ or ecological product. That is why more and more professional designers and consumers like to use cement tile as a high quality and decorative element. Cement tiles are reminiscent of times gone by, full of beauty and less taxing on our environment than other industrial produced materials.
Important things to know about Cement Tile
There are some important things to know about this product. The cement tile is very different from either a porcelain/ceramic tile or a natural stone. While one would think cement to be a sturdy product, these are actually quite delicate and need to be handled appropriately. The handling and installation is specific and if ignored or not done properly, will cause the tiles to stain or crack or the installation to fail completely.
The first thing you need to know about cement tiles is that they are not approved for outdoor use in areas that are subject to freeze/thaw. While they really do make for a spectacular patio application, you pretty much have to be in south Florida or a moderately tropical climate.
Trying to use these outside in any climate where there are regular frosts will result in cracked cement.
The other limitation is use in a pool or spa. The chemicals in the water will damage the surface of the tile and cause the installation to fail, crack and/or stain.
As far as area restrictions, those are the only two. Cement tiles can be used in a shower and in wet areas but do need to be sealed well and annually to keep the surface protected from staining. A pH Neutral cleaner, like one recommended for natural stone, is best for regular cleaning.
The appeal of this style is the old world charm and character and part of that character is how the tiles age. If used on the floor in a high traffic area, over time the surface in some parts will wear differently than others and create an aged patina. This is an expected and desired process and, again, part of the charm and character of the tile. When used in lower traffic areas, like a bathroom with mainly barefoot traffic, it will be less likely to show that type of wear, or it will take longer for that to appear.
The preparation and installation of these cement tiles is precise, again, they are actually a delicate product and need to be handled correctly. This is a brief list of the most important things to be aware of when getting ready to install.
• Allow tiles being installed inside to season in their final environment for several days prior to installation.
• Do NOT allow boxes to get wet, stores in a dry environment (unsealed tiles are very porous and will absorb any moisture which can cause staining).
• Seal with a penetrating sealer PRIOR to installation to prevent staining from setting material.
• Tile backs should be thoroughly wet with clean water just prior to laying.
• Tiles from multiple boxes should be mixed due to color and tonal variations which are inherent in this product.
• Make sure adhesive is applied to the full back of each tile (100% coverage).
• Level tiles using hand pressure.
• Do not install during excessively hot weather or in full direct sun.
• Seal tiles again before grouting.
• Allow two (2) to three (3) days after tiles are laid before grouting.
• Recommended grout joint is 1/16” – 1/8”.
• Unsanded grout color should be lighter than the lightest color on the tile.
That may seem like a lot, but it really isn’t too different than a stone or glass tile which requires a specific set of installation instructions. For a complete list of installation guidelines and product specifications for cement tile, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your local Traditions in Tile showroom.