How to Select Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles

How to select a trendy porcelain tiles
How to select a trendy porcelain tiles, Alsiksik showroom Gaza 2019

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are artificial building materials made of clay, with a nice colored layer then a glaze layer in the top. The alternatives in clay types – the bisque layer – is different from ceramic to porcelain. If it’s red then it’s definitely a ceramic tile, ceramic is weaker and has more pores than porcelain.

Porcelain is treated by firing process to increase it strength in order to resist scratching and water absorb. Porcelain types are veneer surface, full-color and full-body porcelain. Veneer is just a thin top printed layer with off-white color bisque. Full-body porcelain has colored bisque layer, usually it has different colors to form particles or to have veins like style. Full-body tiles is allowed to surface grind for maintenance, also if the surface scratch the body has the same texture. Full-color porcelain is a cheaper alternative, it has two layers, the top surface is printed and bisque has color similar to surface texture.  

Last several years, when tiles’ production bloomed. The tiles have more textured finish alternatives ranging from shiny, soft reflection, rough and in addition to 3D geometric tiles. As a trend, designers use the tiles that similar to wood, natural stones and concrete like tiles. Porcelain production’s developed to have products that are similar to natural materials in texture, reflection and seamless tiles prints. 

Ceramic and Porcelain tiles in similar shape to wood and stone
Porcelain in similar shape to wood and stone, By ORIGIN DESIGN, Zahi Alrayyes, Gaza 2019

Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles Texture

Rough and 3D geometric tiles become more popular recently. in order to have an appearance closer to natural materials. Some tile’s designs have several 3D forms to create a more natural and realistic appearance. Rough and 3D surface tiles are not suitable for floors, where it’s hard to clean. Rough and 3D geometric tiles designed for a wall decoration. Use 3D geometric and rough tile to create a focal point by applying a graze light to it. This idea suite small spaces like toilet and bathroom. For rough surface tiles use a defined boundary wall that doesn’t have openings or fixtures to avoid bad connections.

Ceramic and Porcelain tile with 3D geometric tiles at Abu shareia showroom
3D geometric tiles at Abu shareia showroom, Gaza 2018
A porcelain collection that have different textures, Alsiksik showroom Gaza 2019
A porcelain collection that have different textures, Alsiksik showroom Gaza 2019
3D white ceramic matt tiles with lights effect
3D white ceramic matt tiles with lights effect, Gaza 2018

Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles Printing

There are two methods of tiles printing, the printing veneer and full-body casting types. In both methods, it’s always better to have different printings. The different prints will have a more natural appearance, four and more seamless prints will increase the tiles price. Full-body casting will definitely have seamless tiles, since it’s casting the mix could have slightly different tones. The different tones will look ugly next to each other, each tile package has a tone number, keep an eye on that. To reach economical casting solutions, producers created combination type of porcelain. The combination by casting the top surface at porcelain bisque. The combination type porcelain is the tiles manufacturing trend, the tiles casting is in competition to veneer printing tiles price.

Casting surface porcelain tiles, Algefari showrrom Gaza 2019
Casting surface porcelain tiles, Algefari showroom Gaza 2019

Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles Reflection

Ceramic and porcelain tiles has glaze layer, this  glaze layer could be matt, slightly reflect or high glossy.  The traditional shiny tiles that have a high gloss became timeless. The matt and rough tiles’ finish took it place to look similar to natural materials. 

Porcelain manufacturing contain the firing process, this by applying a high temperature to porcelain. Firing process give the glaze layer strength to resist scratching and fill the surface pores to be a waterproof layer. The porcelain fire process disadvantage is that glaze layer will wave. The waving will appear more in high glossy tiles, and decreasing in less shiny surface and won’t appear for matt surfaces.

Porcelain tiles waving problem
Porcelain tiles waving problem. Gaza 2019

Matt tiles suite lighting design more than glossy tiles. When light source reflect at glossy tiles will it mirror the light source gives visual noise. Designers use matt and rough tiles that doesn’t reflect light, to have a visual comfort.  The only problem face matt and rough tiles is cleaning, where the rougher the surface is, the harder to clean it surface. Therefore we prefer not to use at floors. But also keep in mind that a high gloss tiles is hard to clean, it has always to appear elegant and shiny. 

different reflection tiles at Hamada showroom, Gaza 2020
different reflection tiles at Hamada showroom, Gaza 2020
Comparing between porcelain and marble reflection
Comparing between porcelain and marble reflection. The left is porcelain and right is marble. Gaza 2019

FAQ

Ceramic tiles bisque is red?

Most common it’s red but no, it’s can be a white clay as well. Many tiles showrooms present white clay ceramic tiles as it’s porcelain to increase the ceramic tiles price. Ceramic has more pores than porcelain, if it’s rough it’s white ceramic clay. Also you can test it by applying water to tile back, where ceramic absorb water more than porcelain.

Ceramic red clay, Gaza 2020
Ceramic red clay, Gaza 2020
Ceramic white clay, Gaza 2020
Ceramic white clay, notice it has more pores than porcelain, Gaza 2020
Porcelain clay, notice that porcelain back is rough to enhance mortar bonding to it Gaza 2020
Porcelain clay, notice that porcelain back is rough to enhance mortar bonding to it Gaza 2020

Beauty of Travertine Veins

Travantine is a natural stone classify as limestones. Travertine stone is unique by it veins, pores and holes, this what gives it more aesthetic value. These make travertine soft, absorbent and it doesn’t resist the weathering action well. Travertine become known by its veining, it’s the beauty of travertine. Also Travertine is known by its warm natural range of colors, in tones of beige, cream, brown, yellow, orange, red, gold, silver and a wooden like texture. Travertine formed in salted lakes from calcium carbonate. In most often travertine found in Italy, Turkey, USA, Mexico, Peru and Croatia. This post will discuss several topics you need to know before selecting travertine. 

Classic Travertine shows it pores, veins and texture
Classic travertine texture. By Zomord Marble 2018.

Travertine Applications

For thousands of years travertine is used as a common building material for walls and decorations. Since travertine has pores and holes, which is hard to fit some applications like floor, stairs and sinks. Travertine holes need to be filled, and pores to seal in order to achieve these applications function. Travertine holes could filled with cement grout or marble adhesive. 

Classic and noche travertine together. It's show travertine holes. Arrange travertine together.
Notice travertine holes. This is classic travertine beside Noche travertine -wooden like texture – at Alhoreya Building, Alzahra city 2019 by Zahi Alrayyes

Cement grout is holes filler, where cement will absorb water and it became darker. Also cement won’t have the same reflection as travertine surface. On the other hand, marble adhesive is available in many colors as well as transparent base. Marble adhesive doesn’t effect from water and will remain with the same color. The disadvantage of marble adhesive that it will break and fragment when exposed to sun rays. Therefore, as holes filler and joints between tiles, it’s better to use cement grout for outdoor and marble adhesive for indoor applications. 

Travertine back side. it shows the holes and pores
Classic travertine back side. by Zahi Alrayyes. Alzahra city 2019

Pores also affect how travertine will look over time, sealer can protect travertine and keep the surface beauty over time. There are several products in the market to protect travertine surface and keep the same glossiness or the rough surface. Be aware that rough surface is harder to seal, because it has more pores and it requires a matte sealer. 

Sink made of yellow travertine, The travertine holes are filled and pores are sealed
Sink made of yellow travertine. at Zomord showroom, Alburej 2017.

These solutions allow designers to select travertine as marble and granite, especially because travertine has unique colors and texture. The below photos shows the use of travertine as sink, stairs and other applications.

counter top sink made of noche travertine, The travertine holes are filled and pores are sealed
counter top sink made of noche travertine. By Zomord marble 2019

Travantine Veins

As mentioned above, travertine is unique by it softness, veins and holes. Travertine is groups of light and dark veins. The most important thing is to arrange travertine tiles before installation in order to have the continuous veins. Arranging will show the travertine tiles as art, a mass, or as slab of travertine. To have a continuous veins there are two methods, the continuous and book match arrangement. 

Continuous veins arrangement, when tiles are cut parallel to veins directions. Arranging tiles in stacked bond, or running bond that I recommend. Running bond is better because it will interlock the different tones together. Continuous veins arrangement is the best technique for travertine tiles.

Classic and noche travertine, in continuous veins
Classic and noche travertine, in continuous veins. Alhoreya Building Gaza 2019 by Zahi Alrayyes

Diagonal veins cut is suitable to be arranged continuously or in book match arrangement. Marble and travertine tiles and slabs that has a clear diagonal veins are suitable for book match arrangement. Book match arrangement adds aesthetic value to walls, the wall will look as continuous paint of travertine. To have a continuous veins for book match arrangement, where the back of travertine need to be polished.

Book match travertine veins. Noche travertine, wood like travertine.
Travertine wall cladding by Kamal Abdelhadi. using travertine noche -the wooden like texture- Gaza 2018

The scale of travertine veins has an important impact, where most people consider smaller veins is more beautiful. This is true for interior scale, or in applications that is close to human eye. On the other hand the larger veins is more suitable for applications that has longer distance from human eye like architecture scale. Then in both cases you can enjoy the appearance of travertine veins to appear as a mass, or a natural rock.

Continuous travertine tile's veins
Classic travertine. It’s shows travertine as one mass. This by arranging travertine veins together. Alhoreya Building, Alzahra, Owned by Hossam and Wassem Salman Alhelou By Architect Zahi Alrayyes 2019

Travertine Cross Veins

Cross veins travertine is also available. Cross veins cut required a rigid and solid travertine stone. it’s popular for American Travertine, the orange travertine like the one in the below photo. It’s like particles of different colors and tones instead of continuous veins.

Cross veins travertine stairs cladding. American orange travertine
Cross veins travertine stairs cladding. American orange travertine by ORIGIN DESIGN Architect Zahi Alrayyes at GIZ office. Beirut tower, Gaza 2017.

Travantine Finish Surface

Travertine came in different surface finish, range from polished, matt, brushed to rough surface. Personally i don’t like travertine with high reflection, rough travertine surface reflect the less amount of light and sound. This makes it suitable for building cladding, where weathering will add more aesthetic value to it. Also it’s suitable for interior spaces, especially public spaces that require less echo wall cladding finish materials.

How to install travertine walls?

Travertine can install at walls either by casting, using cement mortar or glueing using tile adhesive. I prefer to install using transparent tile adhesive for two reasons. The first reason is that travertine has pores and holes which means cement could be pure during casting, which will look ugly. Another reason I prefer gluing, is also because pores and holes that tile adhesive could stick easy in them to enhance the connection between wall and travertine. To gluing the travertine it requires to plaster the wall in a good leveling, and remember that tile adhesive can’t have a thicknesses like cement mortar and casting methods.

What are the available travertine sizes in the market?

Travertine is available in similar sizes as marble range from, Slabs, Tiles and Stairs. Slabs are available in size of 1.7*2.8m in thickness of 3cm. Tiles are available in size of 30*60 and 120*60 in thickness of 1.8cm. Stairs are available in several sizes, where the thickness of going in 3cm and 1.8cm for risers. The length of the stair step typically is 120 and 130cm and could be longer. Also there are other sizes like 15*15*1.8cm in diagonal veins direction and also french set, mosaic and other decoration sizes. Travertine red shades french set.Travertine slab

Aluminum Handrails

Glass and aluminum rectangular handrail system in champagne color. Gaza 2018

Aluminum handrails become to expand in the market since 2013. Compared to other materials like wood and steel, Aluminum does not require periodic maintenance. Handrail maintenance is not an easy mission, where it requires carefully sanding all details then painting them. Although Comparing aluminum handrails with stainless steel handrails. Aluminum installing by screws while stainless steel require welding, this make aluminum is the best choice for handrails. 

Aluminum Handrail Profile

Producers have developed aluminum handrails design to fit both classic and modern style. Handirail profile available in rectangular and circular shapes and sizes. Handirail is available in 5 cm diameter to fit an adult hand, and available in 3 cm use for children and as handle at pool edge. Profile’s thickness of aluminum layers range from 2 to 3 mm we recommend 3 mm for large spaces between posts.

classic aluminum handrail

Aluminum Handrail Accessories

Aluminum handrail system have all need fitting from angles that twist 360 degree. The system manufacturers compete to produce angle fitting that look simple, neat and doesn’t install by screws. Any handrail system first post is wider to enhance handrail strength, also it’s unique to increase beauty. Another system fitting is profile end cap and cover used to hide connection between floor and posts. Since aluminum won’t rust, it’s not rational to use steel screw. It’s better to use Stainless steel 304 screws to avoid any rusting.

Aluminum handrail fitting
Aluminum handrail fitting

Aluminum Handrail Finishing

In the same hand aluminum handrail can painting in any RAL paint, also available in Anodize colors. Some profile is available in rough texture and different colors, also in crystal style profiles. Some handrail systems designed to integrate it with other materials like glass and wood. It enhances the beauty of handrail system.

different aluminum handrail colors and textures
different aluminum handrail colors and textures, at Jabr showroom

Aluminum Handrail Installation

Installing the handrail system require well-trained craftsmen, to calculate and determine the height and corners. Installing handrail post to floor can be either by screws for light uses and using anchors for heavy use. Opening in marble for anchors require to drill very sensitive to avoid breaking marble. Then install anchor with marble adhesive to increase the handrail system strength.

aluminum handrail profile fitting at Jabr showroom
aluminum handrail profile fitting, at Jabr showroom 2018

Handrail post

There are two types of handrail post, the start and end post and the middle posts. The start and end post is thicker in 5 cm diameter and taller than handrail level. The start and end cap function is to give strength to the handrail, by it larger profile. Usually designer made the start and end post in a unique design, sometimes it has a unique profile cap. The middle post is 3 cm in diameter look thinner than start and end post. Its connected to lower of handrail and by anchor to floor. Also middle post function is to support the handrail and baluster either if it’s glass or aluminum profiles.

Glass Handrails

Glass handrail system have a high demand. It look elegant and contemporary, it more visual extend to the space. There are several systems of glass handrails, glass with aluminium profiles and all glass handrail system. All glass handrail system look more elegant, but have a higher cost than aluminium and glass system. Glass system requires a heavy base to bond glass to wall or floor. Rubbers, screw, leveling, tempered glass and handrail cap make all glass system hard to install and expensive. The aluminium and glass system has an addition of glass price to the aluminium handrail, which will make it competitive with aluminium profiles handrail systems.

aluminum and glass handrail sample
aluminum and glass handrail sample, Gaza 2018

Wall and Floor Mounted Systems

Handrail can be mounted in either wall or floor. Floor will install using anchor while will be rigid. In the walls use a solid wall, a concrete wall. Avoid installing the handrail screws at hollow block or the sand layer between concrete stairs and the marble. Wood and steel are good materials to install at, for steel use bolts instead of screws.

Aluminum stairs handrail samples at showroom
Aluminum stairs handrail samples, at Jaber showroom 2018

FAQs

Which is better aluminum or stainless steel handrails?

Aluminum is better for two reasons, the material itself and the installation. For the material aluminum won’t rust, while 316 stainless steel grades will resist rusting more than 204 grade. But generally all stainless steel will rust. Aluminum install using screws, while stainless steel using zinc welding. Screws is better because welding have a bad appearance and will weaken the stainless steel. 

Everything you need to know about Tiles Grout

Grout is tiles joint – small space – between tiles, this space function is to allow the craftsmen to align tiles together. Typically spaces between tiles range from 2 to 4 mm and it measured by plastic grout spacers.

The size of tiles joints can affect the tiles style either modern or classic. For modern appearance usually we recommend arrangement tiles directly with no space. This fit laser cut tiles case, where tiles are well trimmed at 90 degrees angles. On the other hand, saw cutting tiles will have classic appearance. Saw cutting tiles are cheaper than laser cutting tiles, but during manufacturing it could have a difference in tiles size. This could appear clearly by eyes therefore it’s better to use large tiles joint about 7 mm wide. However in classic appearance tiles it more beautiful to leave a large grout space, but be aware to buy a good brand ground to avoid color changing.

Grout function is to align tiles together and it’s not expansion joints, because it could fill by cement grout or in marble tiles cases could fill with epoxy or marble adhesive. Both fillers type could be colored to appear in harmony or in contrast with tiles. 

tiles grout important, and what to fill it. The photo is for a Creama nova marble, Gaza 2019

As expansion joint we recommended to leave around a cm between tiles and walls. The expansion joint will cover by tiles’ skirting. Expansion joints need to be clear from sand and mortar, then to fill with highly stretchable material like Sikaflex. Then it covers with tiles skirting.There is a special accessory for tiles expansion joints where it installed outdoors in high temperature countries.

According to ISO standards 13007, where grout classified according to materials to resin grout RG and cement grout CG. The cement grout classify to CG1 and CG2, of course CG2 is better. You can search about Iso standards 13007 for more information. Notice that there are few other factors affect grout quality. For example, the tile joint has to be clear from sand or dust, so the grout find a place it self. 

Cleaning Tiles Grout

Many people suffer from tile grout cleaning, especially floor cement grout. For cement grout, where cement has pores that could collect dust and dirt. Then the cement grout will become darker and look old. There are some chemical products that clean cement grout like Grout Cleaner from Fila. It will clean the cement pour from dust and dirty then partly close those pour. Designer sometimes use dark color cement grout, in order to protect it from color difference. Compared to epoxy or using marble adhesive as tiles grout, where it has less pour that won’t collect dust and dirt. The epoxy and tile adhesive grout is using only in indoor where sun will fragment it, making creaking and disassembled with walking friction.

FAQs

Can i use Portland cement as cement grout?

Yes, cement grout is made of cement, either white or Portland cement – gray -. Then add pigment to give it a color and zinc to enhance it strengths. So if you want cement color grout add zinc to Portland grout and use it as tile grout. Use black pigment to make darker grey if you like.

Porcelain Tiles Size & Space Scale

As an architect, who’s always looking for new materials in the market. recently I noticed that traders and tiles showroom compete to provide a larger scale tiles. Before 2017 the larger common tiles size was 60*60 cm, then I begin to find 120*60 cm by 2017, then it reached 100*100 cm by 2018. Since they could market and sell these sizes, the market now in 2019 is full of large scale tiles even on sizes of 70*305 cm and 150*320 cm. Some products with high glossy, Matt and others with rough surfaces. 

Porcelain Texture

Personally, I love large scale tiles, however others always think that tiles size is related to space scale. The grout between tiles isn’t the thing in my view point. I keep my eyes on the texture, the veins size. This beside the tiles’ arrangement, the grout size and color. I like 120*60 porcelain tiles which have stone like with rough texture, or a Matt surface with veins, This tiles size show the texture clearly and show the beauty of continuous veins.

Installing a large scale tiles

On the other hand, Installing a large size tiles require a skilled craftsman, where it could install regularly using cement mortar indoors. But as porcelain is solid has fewer pores that doesn’t allow cement to bond with tiles. The large size of tile means more weight, which requires installing use tile adhesive. The adhesive has glues which increase the bond between the wall and tiles. Since tile adhesive is the best choice to install large size tiles, there is an important requirement to prepare the surface. The surface need to be leveled because craftsman can’t control the thickness of tile adhesive. Therefore cement block walls need to be plastered leveled, in order to have a nice wall tiles.

Large size porcelain tiles as any product have advantages and disadvantages as mentioned above. Now after reading this you can decide if the large size tiles fit this space or not. Feel free if you have any questions!

large tiles look like marble, Gaza 2019
large tiles look like marble, Gaza 2019