All About Tiles
First Tiles Date Back 2600 BC!
Tiles are categorised technically by how they are made. The two main methods of making tiles are by pressing clay powder or extruding wet clay. To find out the nitty-gritty of how tiles are made, read on!
Take a sneak peek into our supplier, Florim's factory to see how tiles are made.
How Pressed Tiles Are Made
The most common method to make tiles is by pressing clay powder into compact tile shapes at very high pressure. Pressing clay powder results in a more dimensionally stable product rather than the alternative methods of slip casting liquid clay or extruding wet clay to make tiles like quarry tiles
While most industrial tile manufacturing still involves pressing clay powder or “clay dust” into metal cavity moulds, new forms of pressing, without a mould on a belt in a continuous layer have enabled the production of tile slabs bigger than 1.2 x 3.6 metres or any size up to that, in any thickness of between 3mm and 30mm. These modern slabs can be used on benchtops, floors and walls as a replacement for natural stone.
Stage 1 Raw Materials
Different types of clay, feldspar and silica are blended together with water to create a liquid clay ‘slurry’. By blending the materials in water, the mixture is homogeneous, which makes the fired tiles more consistent.
A continuous stream of this thick clay liquid is pumped into a spray drier which dries it to a granular form with a moisture content of approximately 7%. This clay powder or “dust is stored in large silos ready to send to the presses.
Stage 2 Pressing
The clay powder for the tile body is loaded into hoppers and fed into a hydraulic press. Each press will produce multiple tiles (depending on the tile size) at a pressure of between 1,000 and 10,000 tonnes Some porcelain tiles have different coloured clays loaded into the hoppers to give a pattern that can run all the way through the tile. Structured surfaces can also be formed in the pressing stage.
Stage 3 Drying & Glazing
Because the tile has been formed at such high pressure, it will hold together and can be dried in a continuous drier. If the tiles being produced are to be glazed, this happens on a conveyor line. If the tile is unglazed porcelain, for example, it is directed to the kiln for firing.
The glazing line deposits a liquid glaze over the tile surface. Many different effects and finishes can be produced on one glazing line. Most categories have at least 2 lines feeding each kiln. More coloured glazes are applied through printing or more commonly now via digital glazing machines. The digital printer deposits various coloured glazes, much like an inkjet printer, which can produce photorealistic decoration effects on the ceramic tile.
How Natural Stone Tiles Are Made
Nature ‘makes’ natural stone of course, below is how we cut natural stone blocks into tiles ready for use in your renovation.
Natural stone tiles are cut from larger blocks of natural stone that are quarried around the world. Usually sourced from areas where the stone is close to the surface, the top surface of the earth is removed and large blocks of marble or natural stone are cut from the ground or side of a hill.
The blocks are either processed nearby or shipped to a stone processing centre, sometimes halfway around the world. The large blocks of stone are sawn or cut with diamond-blade saws into slabs or smaller blocks that can be cut down further into stone tiles.
Some natural stone is weak along veins and fissures in the surface. Stone of this type is typically reinforced by applying epoxy and a mesh to the back to reduce the risk of breakage.
The cut stone is put through a polishing machine and polished to the desired finish - either honed (which is semi-polished) or fully polished. Further processing can include mechanical brushing or tumbling the tiles by placing the tiles in a large vibrating drum with a hard medium to gently knock against the sharp edges.
Natural stone continually varies as it is taken from different depths and different parts of the quarry. No two pieces are generally the same. Stone tiles can be taken from one block or much more likely from various blocks that are then blended.
And without speaking the obvious, as it’s all-natural, variation is a huge part of the look, that’s why you should always dry lay before you install and of course, when deciding that natural is for you, you need to commit to sealing them and then on-going maintenance to keep them looking stunning.
Our Hot Tip: If you decide upon a stunning natural tile, you have to also commit to the on-going care and maintenance to ensure they are always looking amazing.