Materials

Glaze Application and Dye Lots

Glazing methods have advanced as the technology has evolved.  While screen printing used to be the primary mode of transmitting the images and color onto tile, the introduction of digital imprinting has revolutionized the industry and provided boundless opportunities for patterned tile.

Even though the patterns are consistent, it’s inevitable that as different batches are produced certain factors vary slightly.  Each different manufacturing run is called a dye lot, and it refers to the tone as well as the sizing of each individual unit of tile- these factors can vary up to 10%.  Acknowledging this is important: the cartons are marked with dye lots (usually abbreviated with a T and a C for tone and caliber) and each individual order will be pulled from the same dye lot.  We advise that you keep the dye lot number handy in case you need additional tile so we can try to provide an exact match.

For reference:

  • Screen printed tile has a “frame” effect, as they are imprinted per individual tile:

Image

Our Westport Marron is a screen printed tile.

  • Digitally printed tile goes right to the edge and continues to other tiles. This is how wood-look tiles are able to look more realistic; the pattern varies on each tile, which helps them look more authentic.
Our Castle Antic is a digitally-printed wood look tile.

Our Castle Antic is a digitally-printed wood look tile available through the Home Depot.

When making your tile purchase, be sure to look at this detail! It’ll be helpful to tell exactly what type of pattern you’ll have.

For Your Consideration: Picking a Tile for Outdoor Installation

It’s no secret: as the weather gets warmer, outdoor home improvement projects dreamed up in the dark recesses of winter start to take shape and become a reality.  Gardens are almost in bloom, lawns begin to grow, and outdoor entertaining becomes an option.  A patio becomes so much more welcoming when it’s given custom touches to make it feel more like a home and less like an appendage onto the house.  Tile is a perfect choice for an outdoor space, as many varieties are durable, frost proof, and slip-resistant.

Durable tile comes in so many designs that it’s easy to get that perfect look.  But what factors should determine whether a tile is suitable for a patio?  Here are some tips on picking the right product.

Make sure it’s suitable to your climate. As previously discussed, ceramic and porcelain tiles differ in the amount of harsh weather they can stand.  In milder climates, either ceramic or porcelain will do- it’s entirely dependent on your taste.  In extreme climes, however, porcelain is denser and more impervious, making it frost resistant.  When choosing the flooring for your space, think carefully about where it will be installed and the weather it will be exposed to.  Your design options are not limited, as both materials offer a wide range of looks.

Check for a high PEI rating. A tile’s PEI rating determines how well the glaze will stand up to dirt and wear.  The higher the rating, the more scratch-resistant the tile.  For patio installations that will be getting foot traffic, we recommend a tile with a PEI rating no lower than IV- this is a good way to ensure it can withstand the dirt and foot traffic standard (consider the possibility of pets, kids, and guests) for an outdoor application.

Research slip resistance. Depending on where this tile will be installed, slip resistance can be a huge factor in your decision. Assuming there will be slippery conditions outside (rain, a pool, spilled margaritas), it’s important that you set up a space that’s safe for you and your guests. You can find slip resistance information on the product overview section of any given item on the Home Depot website. See the below screenshot from the Home Depot page for Attica Gris indicating the location of whether an item is slip resistant or not:

Pick one that suits your style! Are you going for a rustic or natural look? Or something sleek and modern? Through tile, any look is possible. Whether you’re building an outdoor retaining wall, lining a pool, or using this as a major focal point and social center for your home, loving your tile is of utmost importance!  Tile lasts a long time (possibly centuries) so if you’re not absolutely positive it’s for you, keep looking.  It’s imperative to love your home- from the ground up.

 

Sources: here, here, and our resident experts.

 

The Elusive Clean Gleam: Soap & Water Edition

Spring is upon us- and with it, that uncontrollable urge to open all your windows and clean every surface of your house. But while you’re vacuuming your window screens, polishing the silver, and trying not to be too grossed out while purging your pantry, there’s one surface a lot of people overlook: the walls.  Do you have a tile backsplash in your kitchen? Chances are you clean it when you remember to, but it’s been a long time since your tile has gotten a good scrub.  For those of you with an aversion to strong chemicals, fear not: the best way to keep your installation looking fresh is simple, cost-effective, and innocuous.

Tile generally doesn’t require a whole lot of heavy cleaning, which is one of the many reasons it’s such a popular choice for homes and heavy-duty areas.  Sweeping it free of dirt and dust (or in the case of backsplashes/wall installations, wiping with a dry cloth) every day is incredibly helpful. If you can’t do it daily, try to do it at least twice a week.  Dust and dirt are the top offenders when it comes to scratching tile, and getting rid of them on a regular basis will preserve its luster.  However, sometimes a deeper cleaning is necessary.  In this case, soap and warm water is best- that’s it.  As many products as there are marketed as tile cleaners, we have found that the best way to keep your tile looking brand new is with the ages-old soap and water formula. Other products can dull the glaze, which is probably one of the reasons you purchased the tile in the first place! Take good care of your tile with these regular maintenance steps and you’ll get the long-lasting beauty your home deserves.

Keep the Fronda Perla wood look tile looking new for years with a simple scrubbing.

Keep the Fronda Perla wood look tile looking new for years with a simple scrubbing.

Cleaning the grout lines

Grout is a bit porous and usually a lighter color.  As a result, stains and dirt tend to appear much more quickly and require a little more diligence than cleaning the tile.

Bob Vila’s website has an excellent mildest-to-strongest list of cleaning methods for grout, but we stand by the soap-and-water method.  Warm water with a lot of suds, elbow grease, and a toothbrush will help you get the mold, mildew, and soap scum out of your grout until it’s as clean as the day it was installed.  If you need something a little stronger, you can always turn to the refreshingly dependable household staple of distilled white vinegar. Vinegar is lauded for its versatility, but it’s still highly acidic and must be watered down for this particular application.  A common ratio is one part vinegar and one part water. Put the mixture into a spray bottle, grab a stiff-bristled toothbrush, and get to it! Spray directly onto the grout and scrub it. If need be, briefly leave the mixture on the grout line before cleaning.

Our Metro Lantern Glossy White can be shiny forever!

Our Metro Lantern Glossy White can be shiny forever!

Everyone wants their home to be clean, but that doesn’t mean it has to be toxic.  Your tile can stay looking great for years using these practices on a regular basis (we stress the “regular” part!)- simple household products that won’t emit hazardous fumes or compromise the integrity of your tile are the best approach after all!

Quick Reference Installation Guide

Need some quick pointers but don’t feel like digging through the great wide Internet? Here are some concise tips covering everything from prep to post-installation maintenance.  The tips provided above are suggested guidelines and do not imply warranty.

Our Galan Iris series.

Our Galan Iris series, available through HomeDepot.com.

Tools: Have the right tools and installation products before you begin your mosaic tile installation.  Some of the supplies you may need are a wet saw, tile nippers, trowels, sponges, grout, tile spacers, thinset, gloves, and a few buckets.

Thinset: Be sure to select the correct type of adhesive or thinset suitable for your installation.  Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer of your chosen adhesive.

Cutting Tile: If you need to cut the tile, use tile nippers, tile cutter, or a diamond-tipped wet saw to cut it to a desired size.  Not all cutting tools are suitable for every purpose; please read on for specifics about cutting stainless steel and metal mosaics.

Mesh Backing: Our mosaic tiles have a mesh backing that ensures appropriate bonding during installation.  For optimal performance, avoid exposing the mesh to excessive moisture before installation, which could result in the tiles falling off the mesh backing. For this reason, it may be beneficial to remove the tile from the mesh and cut them individually with tile cutters or nippers rather than with a wet saw.

Stainless Steel and Aluminum Mosaics: You can prevent scratches on these surfaces by using a clean sponge, keeping the protective cover on and applying non-sanded grout during installation. If necessary, cut this tile from the rear with a diamond-tipped wet saw to prevent uneven edges.  Cut edges can then be treated and smoothed with fine sandpaper or a metal file.

Our Meta Steel Hex tile, available on HomeDepot.com

Our Meta Hex stainless steel tile, available on HomeDepot.com.

Grout Selection: Non-sanded grout is recommended for wall applications, products with glass or metal finishes, and installations with a grout joint less than 1/8”.  Sanded grout is recommended for most floor applications and most installations with a grout joint more than 1/8”.

Grout Cleanup: With a dry, lint-free cloth, remove excess grout from the surface of the tile.  Dampen a sponge with warm water and continue to clean grout off of the tile.  Once it appears to be clean, wipe it down again with a fresh damp sponge to remove any grout film. After about 15 minutes, buff the tile with a soft cloth.

Maintenance: The best way to keep your tile looking fresh and new is to engage in regular upkeep.  Keeping sandy dirt (especially from shoes) away from your tile is the best way to protect the surface.  We recommend sweeping daily and using warm soapy water for regular cleaning. Non-acidic and non-abrasive cleansers can also be used for spot cleaning.

 

Be All About Grout

The first step to picking out new tile is choosing a tile you like. This can be a somewhat lengthy process on its own, made infinitely easier by the fact that you can just search Merola Tile on homedepot.com.

Step two is less obvious than it might seem, and that is picking a grout.  It’s a step that can occur as an afterthought, but the grout is crucial. It’s the finishing touch in your beautifully decorated space, provides extra waterproofing, and helps lock the tiles in place.  One thing that is definitely understated when making this choice is the color. This is of massive importance- the color can totally alter the look of the tile you choose.  To give an idea of exactly how big an impact it really has, we picked a range of our products and grouted them with four different grout colors.  The results are pretty astonishing. All grout is from Custom Building Products.

Let’s start with a beloved classic: the hexagon tile. This is our Metro Hex Glossy White tile.  This look has been hugely popular in the United States for the last century.  It’s great for a home or business- simultaneously inviting and professional, you can use it in a modern application or to give a historical look to any setting.  Look at how it’s impacted by grout color:

FXLMHW_MetroHexAllGrout

Grout colors clockwise from upper left: #381 Bright White, #390 Rose Beige, #10 Antique White, #60 Charcoal

 

As you can see, the darker grout really makes the hexagon pattern pop, but the lighter selection gives it a more subtle look for applications that don’t need all the attention usually garnered by mosaics.  If you love the geometric pattern, a dark grout is best and also keeps the grout lines looking a little bit cleaner, as it does a better job of concealing dirt in areas with higher foot traffic.  We don’t generally recommend a bright white grout for a floor installation with heavy traffic, as the pure hue requires more fastidious cleaning to keep it looking bright.  The bright white is used more frequently for backsplashes or very light-traffic floors, but don’t let that deter you if that’s the look you want on your floor!  You can always seal the grout to help keep the color bright.

If you choose a tile with a mixed palette, there may be colors in it that coordinate better with your existing décor.  A meticulously chosen grout does wonders for bringing out the color you enjoy the most.  Just see how the four different grout colors work on our Tessera Piano Tundra, which is a mix of glass and natural stone pieces:

GITTPNTU_TesseraAllGrout

Grout colors clockwise from upper left: #115 Platinum, #180 Sandstone, #11 Snow White, #381 Bright White

As you can see, the tan grout emphasizes the warm shades of the natural stone, and the other grout colors seem to bring out the cooler tones in the glass pieces.  Especially take note of the two different whites- the slight difference in shade has a large impact on the tile! Grout color increases the versatility of the mosaic and your range of choices- rather than sticking to a single color that matches your décor, you can now choose something with a mixed palette and pick the most suitable grout color that will bring out the colors in the tile that you prefer.  For glass tiles (and all tiles with grout joints of 1/8” or less), we recommend unsanded grout.

 

Our Crag Subway Sunset tile, made from natural slate, is a complex piece; in addition to its many colors, it also has a natural texture that varies from tile to tile.

GDXCSWS_CragAllGrout

Grout colors clockwise from upper left: #381 Bright White, #165 Delorean Gray, #335 Winter Gray, #60 Charcoal

The different grout colors change the look considerably.  Brighter colors add definition and give it a more industrial look, but the neutral colors blend in better with the slate to lend a more free-flowing, natural aesthetic.  Personally, we think that neutrals may be the best selection for a unique tile like this one- the grout doesn’t upstage the complexity of the tile, which is always something to consider with a more pronounced color.  Obviously this is just our office consensus- do with your tile what you will!

We finish with our crystalline Tessera Subway Ice White tile. One thing that people admire about this tile is the breathtaking clarity of the glass and the pure white color that catches light in such a prismatic fashion.  Those same qualities make working with it so engaging. When it’s installed with a brighter white grout, the look is sleek and pure.  Take a look, though, at the radical change that occurs when it’s installed with a darker grout:

GDMSBIC_TesseraAllGrout

Grout color clockwise from upper left: #381 Bright White, #60 Charcoal, #180 Sandstone, #11 Snow White

The look changes so much that it appears that the photos were taken in varying lighting conditions, but they weren’t.  The ambiance changes when the color does; the difference between sterile and glittery and a little more moody rests almost entirely on the grout.  Something to keep in mind is that these tiles are back-painted, which is where they get the white color.  The grout actually winds up being reflected through the side of the glass, which is why darker grout looks more like a shadow and less like a definite line.  The photograph isn’t out of focus- that’s just how the tile plays with the light.

Hopefully this post will be helpful when you’re working on your renovation and ensures that you won’t overlook the very important grout color choice.  For some help with selection, here’s a handy guide for some of the things that may factor into your decision.  Also check the post sources for some more helpful links and information. Good luck!

Sources: Herehere, and our resident experts.

UPDATE: we set up a Pinterest board for this post. Compare the images side-by-side, take a look at the tiles on Home Depot’s website, and follow us on Pinterest, Instagram, Houzz and Facebook!

Ceramic and Porcelain 101: The Fundamentals

In the face of a renovation project, there are a lot of big questions to cover before even starting on the fun, creative questions.  Picking out a tile is the same as any other part of the project! That being said, there’s one question we get more often than others here at the office:

What are the fundamental differences between ceramic and porcelain tiles?

Here are some tips and facts that may be helpful when it comes time to redecorate your space and decide which material is best suited for your intended purpose.

Let’s start with porcelain tile, which is fired in a kiln at a higher temperature and greater pressure than ceramic tile, so it’s denser and more water-resistant. This makes it great for exterior applications in harsher climes that see a lot of frost and colder weather.  If you’re putting your tile somewhere where the weather is a little more extreme, don’t feel too restricted in terms of design. The possibilities with porcelain tile are endless – from breathtaking mosaics to subtler floor tile, a practical need for porcelain tile won’t hinder the capacity for the tasteful, stylish application you’re looking for.  However, a big misconception about porcelain tile is that if you chip the surface, it will be the same color all the way through. This is what’s called through-body porcelain.  A vast majority of porcelain tiles are glazed, which means that the color or pattern is on the surface only.  An exception is our Gotham series, which is a through-body porcelain.

On the other hand, ceramic definitely has some perks of its own. It may not be able to withstand the elements in extreme climates, but in milder areas, installing it outdoors is a popular choice.  Ceramic also tends to be less expensive by the square foot, and it’s a little easier to cut through than porcelain because it’s been fired at a lower temperature, making it preferable for smaller DIY projects.  Ceramic is also constantly evolving, with Spanish manufacturers applying tremendous effort and creativity to boost your options for colors and textures. Some of our options include the Duna Trencat, with its eye-catching concave and convex checkerboard effect and pearlescent coating:

Duna Trencat

Photo by Merola Tile.

Or even the Ocean Beige:

Ocean Beige

Photo by Merola Tile.

 So now you know the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile. Don’t get this confused with  P.E.I. ratings (more on that here), which can be the same between ceramic and porcelain tiles.

Whether you’re installing a small accent design or fully remodeling a space, going into it informed is important!  Hopefully this will give you some tips on what to look for when you start your project. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call, leave a comment, or drop us an e-mail!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and take a look at our Pinterest boards.

Sources: here, here, here, and, of course, our resident experts.

Explaining PEI Ratings

The Porcelain Enamel Institute is a volunteer organization providing technical, marketing, and industry support and information to participating members.  They are also responsible for the P.E.I. scale, a standard for consumers to gauge wear resistance and how well a porcelain product will hold up when it comes to scratching in a floor installation.  It’s a quick reference to help you figure out which tile is right for the way you intend to use the space.  Paying attention to this factor will maximize the life of the tile and help maintain the look you want.

It’s worth noting that the P.E.I. scale doesn’t measure a tile’s performance- it just indicates how much wear the tile can withstand before scratching. Keep in mind that these are base standards.  When you’re picking out your new tile, really think about what kind of conditions it will be up against and use that as a way to figure out the type of tile you specifically require.

Every glazed tile has a P.E.I. rating on a scale of 0 to 5.  The higher the rating, the more scratch-resistant the tile is. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of each rating:

  • PEI 0: No foot traffic at all; these are strictly for wall installations. A good example is our Cosmo Bubble Black.  Also ideal for your zero gravity room. People have those, right?
  • PEI I: This rating designates a tile for low-traffic residential areas where the footwear is limited to socks (or bare feet).  The product can’t handle abrasive dirt, so it’s not suitable for any entryway, but would be excellent for a small powder room.
  • PEI II: This is for tile that can hold up to light-duty residential traffic, but nothing too heavy-duty.  For example, it’s not recommended for kitchens or stairs, but it’s fine for bathroom floors, and other areas subjected to foot traffic with normal footwear.
  • PEI III: Tile that can withstand medium-duty residential applications, including kitchens, will get this rating.  A rather common find for this type of use is our Metro Octagon Matte White with Cobalt.
  • PEI IV: Products with this rating are suitable for heavy-duty residential use and commercial areas that are subject to some dirt conditions and prolonged food traffic, such as restaurant kitchens.
  • PEI V: This can be used in pretty much any setting, commercial and residential alike (such as our Montana tile).  These products maintain their aesthetic over sustained periods of heavy pedestrian traffic.

The Porcelain Enamel institute comes up with this rating once a finished piece is sent to them by the manufacturer and they subject it to a durability test.  It’s probably preferable to finding out yourself by tiling your floor, wrapping your shoes in sandpaper, skidding across and then looking back, so be sure to check the PEI Rating on your next tile purchase!

Sources: Here, here, and our resident experts.