Nuts & Bolts: What to Look for When Choosing Cement Tile?

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Let’s talk about the nitty gritty of concrete tiles. Every week, we share with you Granada Tile‘s cement tiles—giving you tile installation ideas and tile design tips and showing you some truly stunning tile photos. Doing this, we often point out why cement tiles are a great long-lasting choice for your next tile installation. But what makes concrete tiles so tough—and maybe more importantly—what should you look for when choosing cement tiles for your next tile project?

solid tiles
 Cement tiles are a great choice for high-traffic spots such as shops and restaurants, such as the Bedhead Pajamas store in Manhattan designed by Hope Alexander. Tile photo, Granada Tile.

To begin with, it’s always best to see the concrete tiles you’re interested in up close and personal. It gives you the best possible sense of the look and feel of the product. (Don’t forget, you can order samples of some of our bestselling tile designs, as well as an Echo Collection color palette box.) When looking it, be sure to check and see if the tile’s thickness is uniform. Uneven tiles stem from inconsistencies during production and create uneven surfaces once installed. The design should be clear too—no smudging between areas of pattern, which happens when pigment is poured sloppily or into an improperly calibrated mold.

Bad tile
 Inconsistencies in the production process can lead to design and structural flaws in cement tiles. Tile photo, Granada Tile.

Colors should be consistent from tile to tile. Given their handmade nature, some slight variation is normal, but big differences aren’t. Major differences come from using poor-quality pigments or measuring the pigments inaccurately. The color layer should also be thick. If it’s not, it means that not enough color paste was poured into the mold. Uneven or chipped edges means the mixture was weak or quality control was poor—to keep the grout where it belongs (between the tiles not on top of them) the edges should be straight and clean. Finally, the cement tile should feel strong and solid. If it feels crumbly, it probably is, due to too much sand in the mixture or inconsistent hydraulic pressure.

high-quality cement tile
 High-quality cement tiles will have crisp edges and an equally crisp design; the color layer will be thick. Tile photo, Granada Tile.

A couple of factors are hard to determine on sight. The wrong ratio of sand to cement will result in weaker cement tiles that won’t be nearly as durable, and cheap pigments may cause colors to fade. If you’re in doubt, be sure to request engineering test reports, including Abrasion Resistance, Absorption, and Coefficient of friction. These are performed by outside companies and are based on uniform standards. Of course it pays to bear in mind that cement tiles are handmade and not mass-produced. As a result, there will be slight variations from tile to tile and from high-quality producer to high-quality producer. That’s what makes handcrafted cement tiles so special and so unique.

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