The undeniable beauty and natural look of handmade tiles cannot be understated. Tiles made by hand exude an appealing human quality that cannot be replicated by a factory made product. Characteristics such as imperfect edges, rich burnt tones and colours that effectively contrast from tile to tile are only some of the factors that highlight their unique beauty.
Handmade tiles can be produced in different ways. They can be baked in a kiln or formed in moulds and then laid out to cure in the open air naturally. Both methods take inspiration from age-old traditions and the process used today to make handmade tiles is surprisingly very similar.
Kiln Baked Tiles
Due to the firing process and variation of heat that occurs in a kiln, colour can vary drastically from tile to tile. The glaze will set slightly different with each tile while baking creating a dynamic visual effect. Colours and designs are never uniform and during the firing process they may even develop slight cracks in the glaze known as ‘crazing’. All these irregularities and imperfections only add to their distinct beauty.
Cement tiles are also known as encaustic tiles. They are made by hand one tile at a time using colour pigments, a mould and a hydraulic press. Cement tiles are not baked in a kiln, rather they are cured in water and then left out to dry in the open air. This type of tile has been used since the 1800’s embellishing a range of buildings including homes, palaces and historical structures. In recent times cement tiles have hit new levels of popularity with both classic and contemporary designs being used in all areas of the modern home.
Unglazed handmade tiles are porous so will need to be sealed especially if installed on floors. Sealing the tiles will protect them from absorbing moisture and dirt and will extend their visual appearance and beauty. Re-sealing is required regularly yet this will depend on where the tiles are located and the amount of ‘wear and tear’ they are receiving. Always use a mild cleaning product on handmade tiles and avoid anything that contains acid or bleach as they can permanently damage the tiles.
It is not advised to use cement tiles in wet areas such as shower cubicles (even when sealed) as they can easily stain with products used in the shower such as shampoos and soaps. These cleaning products react with the cement tile’s composition and can leave etched marks on the surface of the cement tile that is
difficult to remove.
Due to the labour and time involved in producing hand made tiles, the costs will generally be higher than a factory made product. They will often be priced per piece rather than by square metre so be careful when working out your required quantity as costs will quickly add up. Be sure to allow plenty of time when ordering your tiles as they are usually made to order and depending on the quantity can take a few weeks to arrive. Be sure to allow sufficient time so as not to hold up tilers and other tradesmen.
When selecting a tile contractor ensure they are experienced and have worked with handmade tiles in the past. If the tiler is skilled in this area they will understand the possibilities that handmade tiles can sometimes vary in thickness or edges may be irregular and will take the time and effort to plan each tile before installing.
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