Tiles and Surfaces 

A Glossary to Tiles and Surfaces


Tiles are a great choice for areas that require different levels of water resistance as well as creating a style that suits your need. There are number of choices as well as features you need to consider selecting your tile.

Ceramic - Made from clay or a mixture of clay and other ceramic materials, having either a glazed or unglazed face. It is fired above red heat during manufacture to a temperature high enough to produce specific physical properties and characteristics

Concrete - Usually made by hand, one at a time, using mineral pigments, cement, a mold, and an hydraulic press. The metal mold is handmade following specific design drawings. The pigment composition is a mixture of high quality white Portland cement, marble powder, fine sand, and natural mineral colour pigments. Cement tiles being handmade are expected to have slight imperfections, which give them character and depth.

Porcelain - is similar to ceramic tile in that is is made from clay, sand and water, but the clay used is lighter in colour and generally denser than that used for ceramic tile. Porcelain tile is fired at a temperature higher than ceramic tile and for longer periods of time. This firing process removes almost all the water, resulting in a tile that is denser and harder than ceramic tile. Because of its density, porcelain tile is more durable and less porous than ceramic tile, making it preferable for more extreme environments.

Glass Tile - Glass tiles have become popular for both field and accent tiles. This trend can be attributed to recent technological breakthroughs, as well as the tiles’ inherent properties, in particular their potential to impart intense color and reflect light, and their imperviousness to water.

Natural Stone Tile - The term "natural stone" refers to a variety of mountain-born mineral substances that stand in contrast to any synthetic or manufactured stone products. Common natural stone flooring includes slate, marble, limestone, travertine, granite, and sandstone—each of which has slightly different properties

Brick Veneer -  A brick veneer, also known as a brick slip, is a thin layer of brick that is used aesthetically as a form of surface finish rather than structurally. ... For interior applications, such as around fireplaces, brick veneers may laid in a similar way to tiles.

Mosaics - Traditionally, a mosaic is a decorative design or work of art made up of small materials (such as pieces of stone or glass) arranged to create a pattern or image. ... In the tile world, a mosaic is defined as an inlay design pattern with tiles smaller than 2x2

Rectified Edges - Rectification is a process that affects the edges of a tile. ... So all the tiles are exactly the same size and can therefore be laid with a minimum grout joint of 2 mm. Non-rectified tiles, on the other hand, are tiles with natural, uneven edges that require a wider grout joint.

Absorption Rating
The absorption rating refers to how porous a given material is. The more absorbent it is, the more susceptible the stone will be to stain. Absorbent stone can also be prone to cracking damage if it is subjected to freezing conditions. Natural stones vary greatly in their absorption rates, with sandstone being the most porous and granite the most impervious to water absorption. Absorption rates are classified according to the following terms:

Non-vitreous - This is the highest absorption level. In most cases, non-vitreous tiles should not be used in any damp environment.

Semi-vitreous - While these tiles are less absorbent, the more liquid they are exposed to, the more maintenance they will require.

Vitreous - This is the standard absorption level for flooring tiles and these materials are generally considered appropriate for most low- to mid-traffic indoor and outdoor applications.

Impervious - These materials are resistant to the absorption of liquids and thus will be easier to maintain. They are often used in high-traffic commercial applications.


Coefficient of Friction
This measures how slippery various materials are. The higher the coefficient, the more traction a tile will have. This number is especially important in moist environments such as bathrooms and kitchens, as well as high-traffic commercial areas. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that flooring material has a minimum of a .6 dryness coefficient.


Tile Patterns - There are a number of different ways to lay tile depending on their size, dimensions and desired effect.

  • Grid - Square-set, most commonly used layout for square or rectangular shaped tile

  • Soldier - Similar to Grid, rectangular tiles laid parallel along its longer side. Also known as straight or stack bond.

  • Diagonal - This isn’t a specific pattern; it’s a layout technique. Any pattern can be turned at an angle to instantly create a more dynamic, interesting look. This can also be called on-point.

  • Off Set - This is also another common tile pattern. It is also referred to as running bond, subway, or brick pattern. There are several ratios that the offset can be determined by.

  • 50/50 offset  - the most common brick/running bond pattern (often used with white ceramic tiles for backsplash)  creates a strong, traditional look.

  • 40/60 or, 30/70 - A varied offset creates a softer, more natural look.

  • Irregular Offset - Laid with a variety of different lengths at random offsets creates an organic look. Generally less waste using this method, as offcuts can be reused.

Larger Tiles -It's recommended that you don't use a 50/50 offset, as these tiles can have a slight bow in them. A 50/50 offset will put the highest point of one tile next to the lowest point of another tile, creating lippage. Most tile manufacturers suggest a 30/70 offset or less for longer tiles.

Pinwheel - The pinwheel pattern, also known as "hopscotch", comprises of one large rectangular tile, laid askew, with a smaller square tile.

Herringbone - Adjoining two tiles in a perpeingucal fashion to form an L-shape pattern. Any size rectangle will work for the herringbone pattern, forming a dynamic zig-zag that works in both contemporary and traditional settings.

Chevron - A rectangular tile, in which the opposite ends have been cut on an angle. Some tiles are manufactured with this angles, others have to be manually done.

Weave - Tile pattern in which every other tile has been rotated 90 deg.

Basketweave - Similar to weave, except that it uses two or more tiles for every rotated design

Windmill - Four rectangular tiles are arranged around a square tile in the centre.

Grout - Tiling Grout is used to fill in the crevice formed between tiles. There are different types of grout depending the type of tiles used. Grout can be tinted to match tiles or be of contrasting colour.

Wall coverings - material such as wallpaper or textured fabric used as a decorative covering for interior walls.

Wainscotting -Millwork wall covering constructed from rigid or semi-rigid components. These are traditionally interlocking wood, but could be plastic or other materials. Panelling was developed in antiquity to make rooms in stone buildings more comfortable.  The panels served to insulate the room from the cold stone. In more modern buildings, such panelling is often installed for decorative purposes.

Paint - A generic term for the application of thin coating of various materials to protect and decorate the durace to which they are applied. Paints are composed of four components; the binder, pigments, liquie (carrier) and additives.

  • Oil Paint - slow-drying paint that consists of particles of pigment suspended in a drying oil, commonly linseed oil. There are many advantages of oil based paints however they are not as popular or common for interior applications due to strong fumes and a more difficult application to surfaces.

  • Latex Paint - Water based, with vinyl chloride (PVA) or acrylic resins as binders. Due to their low VOCs, Acrylic Latex is popular and is easier to apply in most interior decoration applications. Most paint manufacturers offer wide range of paint products in a variety of finishes.

Paint Finishes

  • Matte

    • the least reflective sheen available

    • has a smooth and velvety texture

    • helps hides imperfections in walls and ceilings

    • offers great depth of color

    • can sometimes be difficult to clean

    • more susceptible to scuffs

  • Eggshell and satin

    • have some reflectivity  (satin is slightly glossier than eggshell)

    • offer improved durability over matte

    • frequently used in demanding environments like kitchens and bathrooms

    • easier to clean then matte surfaces

  • Semi-gloss and gloss paint

    • the most reflective sheens

    • highly durable and stand up to multiple cleanings

    • great for kitchens, doors, window trim, accent walls, and bathrooms

    • traditionally used on baseboards, moldings, and doors

    • can make a statement, but can also highlight imperfections