Tile Glossary


Layer of mortar or other adhesive that covers the surface to be tiled and onto which the tiles are set.


A hard fine-grained volcanic stone often used for walls, walkways or patios.

Bullnose tiles

Also called cap tiles. These tiles feature a rounded edge used to finish walls or to turn outside corners. They are also applied to the leading edge of steps.


Covering, particularly wall covering, usually fixed mechanically at heights above 3 metres.

Cove tiles

Cove tiles feature a rounded top edge and are used to finish off or decorate splashbacks.

Decorated tile

Ceramic tiles that have been embellished by hand painting, silk screening, decals or other techniques.

Double-fired tiles

Glazed tiles produced by an initial firing of the tile body and then a second firing once the glaze or decoration has been applied.


Resin material used in mortars and grouts for thin-set tile installations.


Textural or visual characteristics of a tile surface. For glazed tile this may be high gloss, satin or matt. Generally, for porcelain tiles, finish can be natural, polished, lapato, honed or lapped. Other finishes include bush hammered, raised, embossed, dimpled, etched, scored, ribbed, etc.


The final step of the tile manufacturing process is when the raw material is ‘baked’ at high temperature – up to 1250°C for porcelain tiles – to harden the tile body and glaze.


The size of the tile. Sizes vary greatly, from 10 x 10mm mosaics to formats which may exceed 1 meter square. Larger formats will be defined as ‘panels’.

French pattern

Also known as the Versailles pattern. It consists of four different size tiles, generally two squares and two rectangles, and a large and small format of each, laid in repeated uniform pattern. A highly decorative pattern for paving outdoors areas such as courtyards and pool surrounds.


Glassy opaque or transparent coating fired or fused onto the ceramic tile body, creating a smooth, impermeable surface.

Glazed porcelain

Currently the most popular type of indoor floor tile. The tile is made from porcelain clays but glazed for aesthetic effect. Glazed porcelain tiles are dense, strong and may require cutting with a wet saw.


A visibly granular, igneous rock ranging in colour from pink to light or dark grey and consisting mostly of quartz or feldspars. Granite is denser in appearance than marble, and is frequently used for benchtops, wall and floor tiles, cladding and paving.

Grout joint

The space left between the tiles to be filled with grout. The space may be extremely narrow or wide depending on the required installation and/ or its aesthetics. The normal indoor tile joint width is 1.5mm and outdoor tile joint width is 3mm.

Large Format

Format is a term which is usually employed to describe the size of a tile eg. 300 x 300, 400 x 400mm. During recent times large format products have become immensely popular. Currently the most popular wall tile format is 300 x 600mm, while home owners frequently buy 500 x 500 or 600 x 600mm for their internal floors. Formats like 300 x 900mm and even larger formats are available, particularly in thin tile.


A sedimentary rock composed principally of calcite or dolomite or a combination of the two.  Recrystallised limestone, compact microcrystalline limestone and travertine that are capable of taking a polish, are also included in the category ‘commercial marble’ and may be sold as either limestone or marble.


In finished installations, lippage refers to the condition where one edge of a tile is higher than an adjacent tile. Excessive lippage can cause trips and falls.


A true marble is a metamorphosed limestone capable of taking a polish, which exhibits a recrystallised interlocking texture composed principally of the carbonate minerals calcite and/ or dolomite. However, some stones in the industry are referred to as green marbles, many of which are composed principally of mineral serpentine and by geological definition, should not be included in the marble definition. It is important to distinguish between these two types of marbles, since some, but not all, green marbles are dimensionally unstable. Marble is widely used as a vanity top material and wall and floor tiles.

Mosaic tiles

Generally less than 15 cm square and mounted in sheets on a mesh backing for easy installation. Ceramic mosaic tiles may be glazed or unglazed. Mosaics are also available in a range of stone, pebble, glass and metal or mixtures of each.

Pencil tiles

Narrow rectangular tiles (e.g.2 x 20 cm), sometimes with a rounded surface, used on tiled walls as accent pieces.

Porcelain tiles

Dust-pressed ceramic tiles with water absorption levels less than 0.5 per cent in accordance with ISO Classification B1a. Featuring high mechanical strength and resistance to staining. The surface of these tiles may be polished or natural (un-polished). Often specified for exterior installations, they are also referred to as fully vitrified.


Volume of pores relative to volume of tile body and capable of absorbing moisture (and therefore stains).

Quarry tiles

Traditional term for single extruded natural clay tiles with a water absorption level not exceeding 6 per cent. Can be glazed or unglazed.


A common crystalline stone and a major component of granite.


Rectified tiles typically exhibit a very square edge – cutting or grinding the edges off a tile allows the dimensions and squareness to be precisely controlled. Rectified tiles are installed with minimal grout lines.

Rustic finish

Rough or uneven tile surface designed for a non-mechanical, artistic effect.


A sedimentary rock composed primarily of sand-sized grains that may be of any composition, but are predominantly quartz. Specific types of sandstones are generally named according to the composition of the grains.

Satin glaze

Glaze that produces a low-gloss finish.


Uneven concrete floors often receive a fine 12–20mm screed of sand and cement prior to tile or other flooring being laid in adhesive. Certain types of tile can be successfully laid in the screed as work progresses e.g. terracotta.


Clear coating sometimes applied to unglazed floor tiles to protect the surface from grease spills or staining materials (also known as sealants).self-leveling compound: Some screeded floors are not entirely flat or smooth. Application of a thin coat of a two-part leveling compound will provide a flat surface, suitable for tiling. These materials will dry rapidly.


A microcrystalline metamorphic rock most commonly derived from shale and composed mostly of micas, chlorite and quartz. Slate is a popular stone that has many applications.

Slip resistant tiles

Tiles treated to prevent slipping either by adding an abrasive grit to the glaze or a texture to the design of the tile surface structure such as ribs, studs etc.


Traditional clay used to produce unglazed, cream to red body tiles, generally extruded and 12 mm thick or more. Surface may be rustic, smooth, polished or waxed.

Tessellated tiles

Precisely calibrated floor tiles that have been extensively used in the UK and Australia, but have their origins in France. Typically the body of the tile is compact and vitrified, boasting porosity values of 3 per cent or lower. Tile patterns frequently feature geometric motifs. However, vast potential exists for creation of unique designs.


A pale, dense, banded limestone derived from the evaporation of hot springs. Travertine is popular for paving patios and garden paths and is one of the most frequently used stones in modern architecture, commonly seen as facade material, wall cladding and flooring. It is characterised by naturally occurring pitted holes and troughs in its surface. These holes can be filled or left open; hence the stone can be purchased ‘filled’ or ‘unfilled’. Travertine can be highly polished and comes in a variety of colours from white through grey to coral red.

Unglazed tiles

Unglazed tiles derive their colour and texture from their raw materials or may be coloured by means of oxides dispersed throughout the body. They are generally fully vitrified.

Vitrified tiles

Vitreous tiles absorb less than 3 per cent moisture whereas fully vitrified tiles are made from fine particles and fired to high temperatures (1250º C) which results in a denser tile with extremely low porosity (moisture absorption of less than 0.5 per cent). Porcelain tiles are fully vitrified making a layer of glaze unnecessary for the tile to be impervious to water.


Generally add 10 per cent to the amount required for wastage due to cutting etc. If the installation is complicated or a lot of cutting is involved, the amount for wastage may need to be increased to 15 per cent.

Water absorption

The quantity of water a tile can absorb expressed as a per cent of the dry tile weight. High water absorption corresponds to a porous structure, while compact, vitrified structures feature low water absorption.


Courtesy of infotile.com.au