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Stuff to know about tiles

18th Aug 2020

Stuff to know about tiles

Many tiles are designed to replicate natural materials like stone or marble. In nature, you will see infinite variation, and that is part of its charm. Most tiles are now digitally printed to feature the characteristics and vein patterns found in natural materials. As digital print technology advances, manufacturers are producing tiles with unique pattern and less repeat. Global Italian companies put more money towards research, design and production. This results in a tile that is well thought out, has a more accurate design and is an excellent replica of natural materials such as marble or stone. All of our tiles have a 10-year guarantee, however, high-quality tiles have many different faces and variation, therefore, the pattern is less likely to be repeated, making them look more realistic and natural.

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Our Waterfall range pictured above has subtle differences between pieces for a natural look. 

What are tile 'faces'?

The number of faces refers to how many different patterns are printed on the tiles. This can vary from just 1 on basic tiles to 30+ on premium ranges. A tile with 20+ faces will look extremely realistic when laid, as it is less likely to see two tiles that look the same. A tile with fewer faces will repeat the same pattern over and over and when a pattern is noticeable it will look more artificial. A high-quality tile will have a degree of variation between the tile faces to make it look more authentic. The below photo on the right shows a tile with just 5 faces and a repeat pattern, in comparison to a tile with 30 faces (left) where the marble looks more realistic.

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Marvel Calacatta Made in Italy | Absolute Carrara Made in China

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Top Tip: Discuss tile faces with your tiler and encourage them to separate matching faces for a more realistic look. A tile with 5 faces can look great if it is well laid. 

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What does tile variation mean?

Another thing to note is how much variation tiles have. A low variation tile means there is limited variation between each tile and when the tile is laid the finished result will look extremely similar to the sample you saw in store. A good example of a uniform tile would be a white wall tile. Whereas, a high variation tile will deliver the complete opposite look. Each individual tile is different and when laid together will show a variety of colours and textures.

To make this clear all our tiles have a V rating from 1 to 4.

V1 – Uniform – minimal differences between pieces of the same production run.

V2 – Slight - clearly distinguishable differences in texture and/or pattern, with similar colours.

V3 – Moderate – the number of colours on each piece vary greatly significantly, but they do not differ greatly between pieces.

V4 – Substantial – random colour differences from tile to tile so that one tile may have totally different colours from another tile.
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The Artisan Rose Mallow pictured above is a good example of a tile with a high variation rating of 4. When laying this type of tile, we recommend mixing up the different shades to ensure it looks completely random.

Context White (above) is a 453x758 stone look tile with a moderate variation rating of 3. You can see that when laid the individual piece has a lot going on and varies significantly but overall the tiles look similar.

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While the difference in variation and tile faces doesn’t determine the quality of the tile, it does have the most impact on how the end result will look. Italians are leading the way with new ideas, they have design teams who study the natural product for beautiful replica’s and are at the forefront of innovative designs.

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Know your tiles true size

When purchasing tiles it is vital you know the "true size" in comparison to the "nominal size". The nominal size is what you will see in stores and online, this is the expected production size e.g. 600x600, not necessarily the exact size. The actual measurements (true-size) refers to the exact size of the tile, meaning that a 600x600 tile displayed is, in fact, 598x598 (for example). This is the result of the manufacturing process, where product sizes vary or machining to a set size takes place. While these variations in size may not seem that important, when it comes to laying your tiles it can have a profound effect on the finished result. In some cases, you may have chosen a tile to fit an exact space, like a kitchen splashback, without knowing the actual measurements you may end up with a few mm gap or too much tile that needs cutting down. Or, you may be mixing tiles with the same Nominal Size but different True Sizes, resulting in the grout joints not lining up between walls & floors.

Waterfall Dark | Waterfall Silver

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Top Tip:If you decide to continue your tiles from the floor to the ceiling make sure you check the true size of both of the tiles if you want the lines to match up.

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Rectified or Cushion Edge Tiles?

There are two types of edges that tiles can have; Cushion Edge or Rectified.

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All tiles start out with a cushion edge, this is straight out of the press, the edge is formed in the mould and it will have a slightly rounded edge so that it releases from the mould. Depending on the look required they will either be packed and sold as cushion edge or rectified. Rectification is the process of machining the edges, producing a very square edge.

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Cushion edge tiles will be sorted into matching true sizes (calibrations), normally 5mm+/-, this means the sizes will vary within a calibration by up to 1mm, or more if a larger +/- is used. To allow for this, wider grout joints must be used; 3 to 5mm.

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Rectified tiles are machined to an exact size resulting in one or maybe two calibrations for that tile. The edge is very square, almost sharp, the size will be precise, there is minimal variation of the tile within its calibration, due to the exactness of the tile a smaller grout joint can be used. When installing Rectified tiles it’s important to get them very level, cushion edge tiles are more forgiving, if there is a slight height difference it’s not very noticeable due to the edges being slightly round and the extra width of the grout joint. 

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Height difference in rectified tiles can be exacerbated if the surface that they are laid on is not level. The term for this is lippage. With care lippage can be kept to the minimum, leveling spaces are very useful, they can almost completely eliminate lippage.

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Artisan Colonial Blue - this cushion edge tile has a wavy edge for a more natural look but the grout joins need to be larger to accommodate this. 

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Top Tip: Talk to your tiler about using a leveling system when installing tiles to ensure the end result is straight and level with no lippage. 

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What is batch, tone and calibration? 

The batch number is the production run that the tile came from, tone is the colour of the tile and calibration is the thickness and size of the tile. There are always differences in colour and calibration between batches, more expensive tiles will have smaller differences as they use state of the art technology to reduce the tiny differences in the amounts of raw material, humidity and kiln temperature that make it so hard to make one batch exactly the same as another batch. A bit like baking a cake, it's very hard to make two different cakes on different days and have them be exactly the same. 

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It is very important to have enough tiles from the same batch for your job as it is never a good idea to mix batches on one job as the differences may be notable. This is also why we recommend keeping a few leftover tiles in case you need to do any changes to your space later on. 

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Still got questions? Find your nearest Tile Space store to talk to one of our expert design consultants or check out our Tile Advice page for more tips