Tiles Terminology / Let's Talk Tiles

by FINN Tile Project

Most tiles terminology can be confusing for beginners! Tiles are one of the most understated element but can have a powerful statement within your space, yet some of the terms can eluding to most of us. It's a bonus to know some of the basic vocabulary that can assist you in shopping or simply browsing for tiles. 

Why Tiles?
Tiles are one of the durable materials that are used to decorate homes and other ancient buildings for thousands of years. Tiles are low maintenance and versatile, in which they available in a wide variety of textures, sizes and finishes to suit any interiors style. It is also one of the oldest forms of decorative art. together with architecture, they have been used widely due to its durability and visual appeal. 

The word 'tile' originates from the French word 'tulie' and Latin word 'tegula'. It means a roof tile of baked clay. The word 'ceramic' comes from the Greek word 'keramikos' which means pottery and is related to the Indo-European word 'cheros' which defines as heat. 


Ceramic tiles are defined as both non-porcelain and porcelain. It is a confusing term to get mixed up. For a typical ceramic tile seen in the tiles shop, it usually means non-porcelain ceramic which is suited mainly for walls. They also have a lighter wear than porcelain tiles, is softer and less durable. We don't recommend using these ceramic tiles for flooring unless stated otherwise.

They are fired at a much higher temperature and more compressed than regular ceramic tiles. This process yields a porcelain tile which is vitrified, highly durable, scratch resistant, strong and resistant to extreme temperatures. It is also non-porous, making it stain resistant and has low water absorption ratings. They are perfect for both wall and floor, inside and outside, as well as in heavy-use and commercial applications.

These tiles are created with continuous coloured stains from the glaze surface throughout the body of the tile. the colour of the body is similar to the glazed surface, which lessens the visibility of any impact in which chipping may occur. to clarify, it means the colour is consistent in the body but the glazed surface design does not continue throughout.

Unlike the colour-bodied tiles, the decorative surface of the tile runs half-way deeper into the tile. It is considered as an upgrade from glazed porcelain tile in terms of durability as the crazing resistance is typically higher. The result is that if the tile was to chip, the colour and design below the surface is the same as on the top. In this case, a chip in this double-loaded tile would be less obvious and visible than a tile that is glazed on the surface with a different colour-bodied.

Full-body tiles are considered as superior to both colour-bodied and double-loaded tiles, in which the surface of the design pattern is carried through the entire thickness of the tile. If a full-body tile is to be worn down, the colour and pattern will not change. In other words, it is known as through-body tile. They are strong and dense tile, making it suitable for commercial and heavy-use applications.

Finish / Appearance of Tiles

A decorative glazed appearance in which the tiles are treated to provide an aged look.

Crackle Glaze
A type of popular glaze that features fine-line 'cracks' throughout the surface (usually inside) for an antique appearance. If used in wet areas, it is recommended that those tiles should be sealed with an impregnator to stop moisture from penetrating inside the body of tile and cause discolouration. 

Also means pressed edge (or soft, round edge). Cushioned-edge tiles are manufactured using standard pressing processes in mould that will result in a slight curving on the sides. The amount of rounding on the edge will vary between manufacturers and processes implemented.

Tiles with patterns, designs, photos or relief with raised images. They are generally used in complimentary with other tiles in solid colours. Decorated tiles can be used to create a bold statement in a room.

Glazed Surface
A liquid glass is applied to the surface of the tile and where specified the edges of the tile. They are fired at high temperatures in a kiln. The firing of the glaze enables the surface to become hard and non-porous, resulting in a stain and fire resistant surface. It is easy to clean and any design on the tile does not wear.

Honed finish
A machine process which results in a smooth, matt finish. They have little or no reflective gloss and are less shiny than fully polished tiles. Honed tiles are a popular choice for commercial and high-traffic areas.

Lappato or Lightly Polished
an Italian word for semi-polished finish on porcelain tiles. Has a softly reflective sheen rather than a high gloss. The amount of polish varies on each factory.

Matt Finish
Unpolished tiles with a matt sheen finish. Ceramic tiles can also be glazed with a matt, un-glossy finish. 

Natural Finish
Natural describes a matt tile surface and intimates a natural surface or finish. A natural finish typically means either matt or satin tile surface.

Opaque Glaze
Non-transparent colourless or coloured tile glaze on the surface.

The surface is buffed by the machine, which results in an even and smooth surface. A high-gloss finish can be reflective but also brings out the full colour and character of the tile appearance.

Rectified Edges
Rectified tile is a fired tile (either ceramic or a porcelain tile) that has been mechanically cut. An extra step is taken on all sides to achieve uniformity and precision of dimensions. Having rectified edge mean the tile will have near-perfect straight edges with exact dimensions.

Similar to lappato, it also means a semi-reflective surface on the tiles. Semi-polished tiles are achieved by polishing the surface with an abrasive wheel but not long enough to attain the typical luster of a polished tile. 

Slip Resistant or Anti-Slip
A tile surface with a higher than normal of friction, reducing the likelihood of a slip. There are slip grades given in areas used commercially, hospitality or public institutes. a slip resistance surface is usually created by adding abrasive particles to the surface or grooved patterns into the surface. Tiles are categorized with different levels of slip resistance. 

Surface with a tactile finish.

Unglazed Surface
Some tiles do not require a glaze; they gain their colour and design from the body of the tile. This also means that the design or pattern is carried through the body, making it a full-body tile. This makes them suitable for high-traffic areas.

a common natural coloured markings in stone, typically in limestone or marble.

Other Important Terms

A lot of identical tiles from the same production run or fired in a kiln at the same time. it is important to use the same tiles from one batch and keep some leftovers for future repairs for identical match. it is not recommended to combine tiles with different batches as the differences may arise after laying tiles. 

3D Tiles
A three-dimensional tile with a sculpted appearance as a result of new tile technology. The effect can be either subtle or dramatic and is typically used as a feature wall.

Refers to the size and shape of a tile, in which they can range from tiny mosaic pieces to large format tiles, in which we have 1200 x 600 range. Deciding between formats can affect the impression of size and shape of a space. Large format tiles used in small zones can create an illusion of large space.

Processing of a tile to achieve surface appearance in which there are various ways that manufacturer create. There are many available finishes, in which they range from matt to semi-polished, honed and textured. Finish is an important element which determines the tactility of a space. It is best to buy a sample before purchasing to get a feel of the finish. 

Inkjet Printing
This recent technology has opened up a huge diversity of tile options, in which a timber or a marble look on a tile can be created. The benefits of using tile instead of actual timber or marble is paramount. Tiles are low-maintenance, durable and simply easy to clean. They are resistant to stains and chipping. 

A decorative form of tiling, in which they come in a variety of shapes and materials, size and finish. They are mounted on a mesh backing for the ease of application and laying. Mosaic tiles are a perfect addition to a feature wall or a kitchen splash back, which emboldens a space. 

Standards that tiles measure up to rating code given by Australian standards and Australian building code. The ones to be aware of are slip rating and wear rating. To make sure you choose the right tile for the space and purpose, always ask us where you intend to use a tile and the amount of wear it will get.

Is a penetrating substance applied to porous tiles and grout to reduce staining from spills. Glazed tiles don't need sealing as the glazed surface is already provides a strong resistant to water (non-porous) and wear. It is best to consult a tiler in considering a sealant.

It is essential to add between 10% and 15% to avoid running out of tiles on the site. As a general rule of thumb: the larger the tile or more cutting for awkward angles, the greater the wastage you will have to add on top of existing measurements. This will allow for breakage and cutting. It is recommended that you should buy an extra box of tiles for storage so that batch is identical to the existing tiles for repairs that you may need in the future.