Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Cement and Concrete Tiles

Welcome to Granada Tile Cement and Concrete Tile Frequently Asked Questions section. If you don’t find the question or answer you seek, please send us an email at or call us at 213-788-4238 so we can help resolve your question. We look forward to working with you!

A. Choosing Cement or Concrete Tile

1. What is the difference between Granada tile, encaustic tile, hydraulically pressed tile, mosaic, French tile, Belgian tile, Spanish tile, Moroccan tile, Cuban tile, Vietnamese tile, Mexican tile, cement tile, concrete tile, carreau de ciment, mosaico, ladrillo colonial, piso de pasta?
These are all names in circulation that refer to tiles made by the same artistic process.

2. How do I know what cement or concrete tiles to choose?
Not all cement and concrete tiles are created equal. Cement and concrete tiles are typically hand made in small factories. Conditions, materials and quality control vary significantly from company to company. Granada Tile works hard to bring you the best quality tile. If you are comparing tiles across companies, here are some of the things to watch out for:

Visible problems in cement tile and concrete tile:

  • Varying thicknesses of tile that makes it hard to lay as a flat surface - from lack of consistency in production process
  • Pattern is blurry - from pouring pigment sloppily
  • Major variations with the same color - inaccurate measuring of color pigments or poor quality pigments
  • Chipping around the edges - weak mixture or poor quality control
  • Crumbly on the back (weak tile) - from inconsistent hydraulic pressure or too much sand in the mixture

Invisible problems in cement tile and concrete tile:

  • Ratio of cement to sand - without the right ratio, the tile will not be strong and durable
  • Quality of the pigments - if cheap pigments are used, colors may fade (even high quality blues and greens will fade in direct sun)

When in doubt, ask for the engineering test reports. These are tests that are performed based on uniform standards by an outside engineering firm. They are a good objective way to insure that specific standards are being met.

For a more detailed description, please consult our Guide to Selecting Hand Made Cement and Concrete Tile.

B. Colors and Designs

1. Are the cement and concrete tiles painted?
No, they are not hand painted, but rather hand-poured. This means that the color layer is significantly thicker and will therefore last much longer than that of a hand painted tile. (More about the process of making hand crafted cement and concrete tile.)

2. How many colors can I use in a design cement and concrete tile?
As many as you want, but the standard price includes up to 5 colors. Additional colors are $.50 each.

3. Will the colors run?
No. However, during the installation process when the tiles are being polished prior to sealing, the rinse water will carry a small amount of pigment from the very top layer of the tile. Once dried and sealed, the concrete tiles will not release any more pigment.

4. Does the design ever wear off?
No. The color layer is 1/8" deep and basically never wears off. There are historic installations of cement tile that are over 100 years old and are still in very good shape.

5. Can you make custom colors?
Yes, we can match most colors. Typically, the client provides a small sample of the custom color. Our Research and Development department experiments with a variety of formulas to find the closest match. We then send a sample of the match back to the client for approval. Because of this process, getting a custom color will take a bit longer and there may be an added cost.

6. What types of tile designs do you offer?
Our current selection includes geometric, floral, modern, contemporary, stylized floral, solid / single color, multicolored, decorative, simple, and ornate designs.

7. Can you make custom cement tile designs?
Yes, we can make custom cement tile designs. This requires making a custom "cookie cutter" mold (also called a divisional). The historic cement tile molds were made of cast bronze, but current molds are made of carefully formed and welded steel strips. Getting a custom cement tile design will take a bit longer and there may be an additional cost.

8. What sizes and shapes do you offer?
For the Echo Tile Collection, we currently offer the following squares and rectangles: 4" x 4", 4" x 8", 6" x 6", 8" x 8", 10" x 10", 8" x 12", and 12" x 12". (Our other concrete tile collections come in many other sizes and shapes.)

9. Can I get tile designs in a non-standard size or shape?
You can get tile designs in different sizes or shapes, but there will be an additional mold production cost. Depending on the complexity of the design (and the size of the order), it will generally range from $300-$500.

C. Applications of Cement and Concrete Tile

1. Where can I use hand made cement and concrete tile in a residential setting?
In houses and condos, hand made cement and concrete tiles can be used throughout the home in the entryway, living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, hallways, laundry room, stairs and, of course, bathrooms. It can also be used outdoors in patios, verandas, porches, and stairs.

2. Where can I use hand made cement and concrete tile in a commercial project?
Because of its durability and sensational appearance, hand made cement tile excels in restaurants, bars, cafes, bakeries, clothing boutiques, jewelry stores, clubs, hotels, spas, and resorts.

3. What design style do they go with?
Because the color combinations and designs are virtually limitless (with our current colors and design offerings, one could produce over 20,000 different tiles), hand made cement and concrete tile compliments many different aesthetics including Modern, Traditional, Hacienda, Colonial, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Mexican, Spanish, Craftsman, Revival and Mission.

4. Where should I not use cement tile?
We do not recommend using it outdoors in places that freeze in winter. Care must be taken when using it in areas that will get wet and might cause a slip hazard. Cement and concrete tile is not made to withstand the weight of vehicles and therefore should not be used in driveways. At present, we do not recommend using our tiles in pools because some pools chemicals interact with the cement in the tiles.

5. Can this tile be used on the walls?
Yes. Cement and concrete tiles can be used on walls, from a full wall to a backsplash to a wainscot. Cement and concrete tiles have even been installed on ceilings.

D. Installation and Maintenance

1. Do hand made cement and concrete tiles have to be installed on a cement subfloor?
No, they can be installed on cement and wood subflooring. The former is preferable as it is a more stable surface for the tiles. Special care should be taken if installing over a wooden subfloor so that the tiles don’t crack as the subfloor expands and contracts. (Also, the wooden subfloor needs to be strong as the tiles are heavy.)

2. What do you use to glue down the tiles?
If the subfloor is even and in good condition, the tiles can be affixed with thin set. If the subfloor is uneven, a thicker mortar bed might be specified.

3. Can hand made cement and concrete tile be installed without leaving any gaps or grout joints between tiles?
No, it is best to have at least 1/16" of a grout joint. Still, that’s a much tighter grout joint than is typical with ceramic tiles, so the visual effect is more like a carpet.

4. What should the grout joints be filled with?
Since the grout joints are very narrow, unsanded (also known as non-sanded) grout is typically recommended.

5. Does the floor need to be polished after tile installation?
The hand made cement tiles must be cleaned with a fine sand screen disc before sealing and buffed with a white pad after sealing. For more details, see Cement and Concrete Tile Installation Instructions

6. Do I need to seal my floor?  What type of sealer should I use?
Yes, cement and concrete tiles do need to be sealed. Like natural stone, cement is a porous material that absorbs stains and dirt if not sealed. There are two general types of sealers: penetrating and topical. Penetrating sealers are absorbed into the cement and make it more difficult for the stain to adhere to the cement.

Topical sealers sit on the surface of the tile and do not let the stain through. Among topical sealers, there are shiny and matte. The shiny sealers last longer than the matte sealers. Topical sealers are not generally recommended for exterior use as the sun will degrade them and they will need to be replaced more frequently. They will also make the surface of the tiles more slippery.

There are many different manufacturers of sealers. Consult with your installer regarding the best sealer for your project.

7. How do I maintain my hand made cement and concrete tiles?
The tiles should be cleaned with pH-neutral soap and water. Do not use any acids or bleach on these tiles! If sealed with a topical sealer, they may need to be resealed every couple of years.

8. If something drops on the tile, will it break?
Cement and concrete tile is strong - especially when fully cured (a month after it was made) and should not break easily. However, if it does chip, it will generally not be apparent because the color layer is 1/8" thick.

9. Will the floor be stained by soda, wine or acids?
If it is correctly sealed, it will not absorb stains. Soda, wine, acids, etc. should not be left to sit on the tile as they will eventually eat through the sealer and stain the tile.

10. Can I store the tiles for a while before installing them?
As long as they are kept in their boxes and away from moisture, they will be fine. They may show efflorescence (white film caused by salts in the cement drying on the surface) when they are taken out of the boxes, but that will come off during the installation process.

11. What is the white powder that sometimes appears on the tiles?
The white powder or film is called efflorescence and is produced by lime in the cement rising to the surface of the tile and reacting with carbon dioxide to form calcium carbonate. The efflorescence can typically be removed by lightly sanding the surface of the tile. Sealing the tiles usually prevents efflorescence from appearing.