Today, it is not difficult to purchase elegant tiles, there are tilers ready to lay them out without difficulty. It would seem that the dream of a beautiful interior becomes a reality by magic. But a neat tiled floor in the kitchen or a wall in the bathroom is the result of a whole range of works..
Therefore, before placing an order for a particular tile, experts recommend studying its technical characteristics, this will help save your own money and extend the life of the ceramic coating. Then carefully select the adhesive solution for which the ceramic will be attached to the wall or floor. A good backing layer will save the owner of the tile from the need to make repairs after several years of operation.
How to correctly choose ceramic tiles and how the cement composition differs from the dry mix will be discussed in our article.
Ceramic products appeared in human life at the dawn of civilization. For the first time, clay was used by potters for making dishes. Following them, architects drew attention to plastic material, who decorated temples and palaces with decorative clay elements..
One of the first architectural structures – the Tower of Babel – was built using ceramics. The ancient city, where the “falling” tower still stands, was encircled by a high wall, the gates of which are decorated with glazed bricks and clay animal figurines. However, it would be wrong to assume that in those distant times, ceramics were “worth their weight in gold.” It is known for certain that in Egypt, Mesopotamia and other southern countries, due to the lack of construction timber, ordinary residential buildings were built from stone and clay bricks. Ceramic art in Russia began to develop actively in the tenth century, when the first painted tiles by Russian masters appeared.
Despite its venerable age, ceramics do not lose their attractiveness today. Facing with tiles continues to be one of the most convenient and practical ways to decorate rooms. Along with the usual bathroom or kitchen decoration for us, the trend of using ceramic tiles in the interior of residential premises – bedrooms and living rooms – is becoming more and more popular – decoration with ceramics and porcelain stoneware of public buildings.
Tiles of certain sizes are formed from a clay solution with the addition of sand and other natural components. Then it is fired in an oven at a temperature of about 1000-1250 degrees Celsius. Depending on the production technology, ceramic tiles are divided into glazed and unglazed. Glazed tiles can be heat treated twice. Its surface is covered with a layer of colored glass, which gives the tiles color, shine, decorative patterns, as well as hardness and impermeability. Unglazed tiles are uniform throughout their entire thickness and, as a rule, have no decorative patterns..
There are also two types of clay that are used in the production of tiles, these are white clay and the so-called red. Turning the product upside down, it is easy to determine from what raw material it is made. The white clay will be colorless, while the red clay will color the material in various shades from yellow to dark red. It is not recommended to lay white clay tiles on the floor, as they are softer in structure than red. Clay also differs in the degree of fine dispersion, that is, the number of air cavities inside the tile shard. The fewer the “bubbles”, the denser the clay. It is generally accepted that white clay has a higher density. It is more convenient to cut such a base, giving it non-standard shapes or combining the “color in color” styling. In addition, the transparent background of the tiles allows manufacturers to achieve clean pastel colors and shades..
Caliber and shade are of fundamental importance for any type of tile. In an industrial environment, it is extremely difficult to achieve identical tonality for each product. When tiles are stacked with each other, slight color discrepancies are usually found. Therefore, before packing the goods, sorting is performed, during which tiles of the same color are grouped. In the same way, sorting takes place according to the actual dimensions of the tiles (caliber), with a tolerance rate of no more than 1 mm. Tiles of the same type, but different shades and calibers are considered different products..
It should also be remembered that the number of tiles is calculated at the time of ordering; in the event of an additional order, there is no firm guarantee that the next batch will be identical to the previous one. In order for the calculation to be accurate, it is necessary to measure the surface for cladding and determine the installation pattern in advance. In any case, experts recommend purchasing an additional 15% of the required volume.
MAIN INDICATORS OF CERAMIC TILES
Ceramic tiles, like any other finishing material, have two functions at once – aesthetic and practical. Therefore, it is necessary to choose one or another collection, taking into account not only the external properties of the product, but also its technical characteristics. The main criteria for the quality of ceramic tiles are appearance, strength and other indicators..
For example, wear resistance – that is, the resistance of tiles to abrasion. To classify tiles according to the degree of abrasion, the PEI method is used (Porcelein Enamel Institute – an institute in the United States that analyzes, tests and studies ceramic materials). Wear resistance is one of the main characteristics for floor tiles, it depends on this indicator how long the tile will keep its appearance unchanged. According to the degree of wear resistance, the tile is divided into five groups. The “softest” group PEI I is recommended to be used only for walls. The tiles of the PEI II group can be laid on the floor in bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms – that is, where people wear slippers. The third group (PEI III) is suitable for all premises of the residential sector (except for places with a large movement of people – stairs, corridors). Tiles of the PEI IV group are recommended for use in all rooms of the residential sector (hall, corridor, stairs) and public areas with low traffic (private hotels, small restaurants, shops). The tiles of the fifth group have the highest characteristics, they are used in places with high traffic intensity – restaurants, supermarkets, airports.
The exact match of the PEI group to the type of room is very important for the durability of the tiles. If, say, you put tiles with lower characteristics than required on the floor, then after a while, scratches will appear on it, the surface will become dull, the glaze will be erased and the clay base will be exposed..
Water absorption and frost resistance are interrelated characteristics, they directly depend on the porosity of the tile.
The indicator of water absorption of tiles is most relevant when working with pools, because for these purposes special tiles with a high percentage of water absorption must be used. When cladding bathrooms and other rooms, this indicator is usually not taken into account, since almost all tiles produced today comply with the requirements of GOST.
Frost resistance is the ability of ceramic products saturated with water to withstand repeated alternating freezing in air and thawing in water without signs of destruction and without a significant decrease in strength. In other words, the frost resistance indicator is the resistance to cyclic freezing and thawing. Verification methods stipulate that 25 freeze-thaw cycles are enough to establish the presence or absence of resistance. Double-fired tiles are rather porous and therefore not frost resistant. A single-fired tile with water absorption of less than 3% is considered frost-resistant.
The degree of frost resistance must be taken into account when the tiles are laid outdoors or in an unheated room, where the air temperature drops below zero.
Chemical resistance – the ability of tile enamel to withstand contact with chemicals (household chemicals, pool additives, salts and acids) at room temperature, without undergoing external changes.
After the tests, the tiles are assigned a resistance class to aggressive environments, based on the nature of the damage.
Meanwhile, it must be borne in mind that the surface, tiled, has seams. Therefore, only those surfaces with seams filled with epoxy materials will have a high degree of protection against chemical attack..
The hardness of a tile indicates its ability to resist scratches when exposed to abrasive substances. Quartz-containing sand (namely, it is the main abrasive for flooring materials) has a hardness of 7 points out of 9 on the Mohs scale. Therefore, so that no scratches remain on the tile surface, it must have a higher hardness indicator. By the way, note that scratches on a matte surface are not as noticeable as on a shiny.
Mechanical characteristics of tiles – we are talking about the loads that the ceramics can withstand without breaking. This is especially important for floor tiles. As a rule, bending resistance and ultimate strength (the load that the tile must withstand) are determined for it. The lower the water absorption of the material, the higher the bending resistance. For example, porcelain stoneware has a very high bending resistance, while porous tiles have a low one. The flexural strength also depends on the thickness of the tile: the thicker it is, the higher its strength limit.
Technical characteristics and standards for tiles have long been developed in detail in many countries of the world. There are several systems of standards for ceramic tiles. The most famous of them are DIN (Germany), UPEG (France), BS (UK), ASTM-ANSI (USA), UNI EN (Italy) standards. There are also Russian standards: GOST No. 6887-90 (tiles for floors), No. 6141-91 (tiles for interior wall cladding), No. 13996-93 (ceramic facade tiles). But the most widespread and authoritative are the UNI EN standards, developed by the European Commission for Standardization (CEN) in Italy. These standards are valid in all European countries and non-European countries that have adopted them. At the same time, the UNI EN standards do not have the force of law: it is allowed to sell ceramic products that do not meet their requirements. However, the quality of such tiles can be rightfully questioned, so when choosing, you should still prefer products that have the UNI quality mark.
USE THE TILE FOR PURPOSE
However, the concept of “technical characteristics” of a tile should be treated very carefully. Because in the case of ceramics, high quality does not always have to be confirmed by high performance indicators..
So, for example, if you want to use tiles in the bathroom, you need to take into account that the floor and walls of the bathroom come in contact with chemical reagents that leave stains (personal hygiene products, cosmetics, etc.). This requires tiles with improved chemical characteristics, low porosity, good acid resistance and resistance to bases. These properties become even more important when it comes to lining swimming pools, where the water is exposed to chemical influences that are regular and destructive for the tiles..
But in the bathroom, the degree of wear resistance of the tiles is not so important, especially when facing the walls. It is not necessary to lay the bathroom floor with expensive tiles with increased frost resistance or high wear resistance (classes IV or V). Its place is in public premises, trade and exhibition halls. In a residential area, as a rule, tiles above the III class of abrasion are not needed (except for the hallway).
The kitchen is another matter. High wear resistance is also not required from the tiles on the walls of the kitchen, and, just like in the bathroom, the tiles must have increased chemical characteristics. But for the floor in the kitchen, you need not only chemically resistant, but more durable and low-porous tiles (usually III class of wear resistance). Even more abrasion-resistant tiles (IV and V class) will be needed in the lobby, hallway or corridor.
Thus, we can conclude that the tile has a specific purpose. Therefore, before placing an order, the buyer must clearly understand which properties and characteristics of the tile are especially important in the room where it will be installed. However, the wide range of choices and the variety of products offered can mislead even the tiler. Therefore, we offer our readers a convenient cheat sheet with which it is easy to determine what type of tiles should be placed in a particular room..
As a rule, all the necessary information about the properties of ceramic tiles can be obtained by looking at the packaging and “decrypting” the meaning of the pictograms placed on it. For example, a foot on a black background is placed on packages with floor tiles. The hand pattern matches the wall tiles. A snowflake denotes frost resistance. Feet on a shaded background – increased wear resistance. Repeated repetition of the same icon indicates a high level of this or that indicator.
And, finally, before making the final choice, it is imperative to check the product “by eye and touch.” Glazed and unglazed ceramic surfaces must be perfectly flat and smooth, without cracks, chips, foreign inclusions, bulges or concavities. This can be verified by placing two tiles facing each other. The edges must also be smooth (checked in the same way). The slipperiness of a tile is best known empirically: drip water and feel it. Naturally, when it comes to living space, tiles with higher slip resistance will be required..
And at the end of the conversation about tiles, let’s note some trends in the field of “ceramic design”. According to the architects, many of the inherent features of the ceramic tile design of the past are now a thing of the past. For example, tiles with floral decor are gradually losing popularity. This applies not only to bright, flashy panels covering large sections of walls – today they are unlikely to find a consumer due to the small size of modern apartments. But even small, more or less decorated tiles that could serve as inserts are already yesterday in the tiled “fashion”. They were replaced by many geometric shapes in light colors, as well as imitations of natural materials – marble, limestone, granite, various types of stones, even semi-precious ones. Such tiles never bother the eye and resemble not patterns and arabesques, but rather colored shadows on the wall. You should be competent in choosing the color and texture of the tiles. Ill-conceived color schemes can cause the most unpredictable reactions. So, for example, in a small apartment with small rooms, it is better to choose light colors: they can visually increase the space.
At the same time, identical surfaces located at right angles to each other are perceived differently. It is practically impossible to achieve exactly the same color of walls and ceilings, even finishing them with material from the same batch. Even more significant changes are observed when the decoration is illuminated with different light. So, blue glaze will look green when illuminated with yellow light from an incandescent lamp..
It must be remembered that any contamination is less noticeable on dark and grainy or chromatic surfaces. But on glossy tiled surfaces – especially black – scratches and small chips are more conspicuous. So when choosing a color and texture, it is advisable to be guided not only by personal preferences, but also by knowledge of the laws of nature.
A competent approach is absolutely essential – both when choosing the necessary technical characteristics of the tile, and when thinking over the color scheme. It will help the attentive buyer avoid mistakes, as well as, with a minimum cost of funds and efforts, acquire a beautiful tiled surface.
HOW TO PREPARE TILE INSTALLATION MORTAR
Choosing a tile wisely is only half the battle. In order for the walls or floor to please the eye for a long time, you need to make high-quality laying of ceramics. Masters distinguish several types of masonry, each of which has both advantages and disadvantages. For example, close-up or so-called seamless masonry emphasizes the continuity of the surface, it is economical and speeds up work. But it forms a hard facing surface, which under certain conditions (for example, sediment of a new house) can lead to swelling and collapse of the tiles. When laying tiles without a seam, it is difficult to achieve a clear line at the junction of products, and its sealing will be no less problematic. Open-joint masonry, with a distance of a few millimeters between the tiles, is considered more reliable.
However, regardless of the type of installation, before proceeding with the finishing work, it is necessary to determine the composition of the ceramic tile to be attached to the base. Builders have few options. And to be precise, there are only two: as a lining layer, you can use a cement-adhesive mixture or modern dry mixtures with modified additives.
Let’s consider the first, most common, option. Immediately, we note that for wall cladding and for flooring, cement mortar is prepared in exactly the same way. It is recommended to mix the solutions from coarse-grained washed sand and cement of at least grade 300. The ratio of parts of cement and sand in the finished composition should be as follows: 1: 5 with cement grade 300-400; 1: 6 with cement grade 500-600.
In order for the tile to better adhere to the surface to be faced, you can add 1/25 part of PVA glue to the cement mortar prepared for work, the glue improves the adhesion of ceramic tiles to the wall and floor.
The sand used in the solution must be dry, otherwise it will be very difficult to sift through a fine sieve. It is imperative to sift the sand through a sieve, since various foreign inclusions will remain in the whole sand: pieces of shells, small pebbles, pieces of clay. They interfere with the installation of tiles on the surface, since their dimensions are usually much larger than the thickness of the layer required to install the ceramic tiles and do not allow it to sit in place. If you start tapping on the tiles in order to still install it as it should, it will simply crack.
It is advisable to take only fresh, recently made cement for the preparation of the mortar, since the fresher the cement, the better the tiles will hold on the floor and walls. The fact is that, as you know, during storage, cement loses about 5% of its activity (that is, quality) monthly, up to 40% over a year, and up to 50% over two years. Therefore, try to lay ceramic tiles on a fresh cement mortar. When buying, pay attention to the date of its manufacture, which should be indicated on the bag. If the date of manufacture is not indicated on the bag or the cement is sold in bulk, you can determine its freshness and, therefore, the quality visually. Take a handful of cement and squeeze it. If it “flows” freely between your fingers, it means that it was recently made, if it crumples into a lump, it means that the cement is old.
Cement mortar for tiling the floor and walls is prepared as follows: 1 part of cement and 3, 4, 5 or 6 parts of sand (depending on the brand of cement) are thoroughly mixed. Then water is added and the composition is mixed again until it reaches the consistency of a doughy mass. If, due to the specifics of the cladding, you need to lay ceramic tiles on a relatively thin layer of mortar, you need to make it thinner. To use a thicker layer of mortar and the mixture, respectively, you need to knead a little thicker. To improve the adhesion of ceramic tiles to the wall, PVA glue can be added to the cement mortar.
MODERN DRY MIXTURES AS AN ALTERNATIVE
Previously, tilers were forced to make their own mortar. The composition was prepared immediately before the beginning of the facing by measuring the components by eye. The quality of such glue directly depended on the professional skills of the master: he managed to comply with the dosage – the tile will last for several decades; poured sand or cement – the repair will have to be redone in six months. Now DIY lovers and professional builders have an alternative – dry tile glue.
The first dry building mixtures appeared in our country almost ten years ago. Then the main assortment was represented by the products of Western firms, over time it was replenished with domestic brands. Today, dry mixes, in particular, glue for ceramics, imported and Russian-made, are presented in equal proportions on the shelves of building stores. The buyer has a huge choice. Dry building mixtures differ from each other in formulation, the amount of modifying additives and, as a consequence, cost. Moreover, in this case, the statement: the more expensive, the better quality is not always true.
The price of dry glue is the sum of the cost of its components. The recipe for the mixture includes an astringent (in this case, cement), neutral fillers to ensure optimal volume (sand) and special additives that give it a variety of properties. If the cost of sand and cement is more or less stable, then the price of chemical additives varies within a very wide range. It is she who determines the final cost of the product. It is the modifying additives that make this or that glue suitable for specific work. They are able to increase adhesion and frost resistance, they reduce the porosity of the composition and give the glue increased characteristics. Naturally, imported additives are considered the most expensive, therefore dry mixes brought from abroad are in the upper price category. They are followed by domestic products, which used foreign additives and technologies. The most inexpensive glue is made from domestic components. By the way, many experts recommend buying Russian-made dry glue, since it makes little sense to bring expensive components from abroad. For the same money, you can buy high-quality glue of a domestic brand.
Despite the differences in chemical composition, all dry mixes for gluing ceramic tiles have common properties. First, they are easy to use, the dry mixture is simply diluted with water in the right proportion and it is ready for use. During application, the glue does not form lumps and does not run off, which is an indisputable advantage when working with wall tiles. Secondly, the finished glue adheres to the surface for a long time, preventing mechanical destruction of the tile and protecting it from moisture. Finally, all products sold by construction markets and shops are considered environmentally friendly. The classic solution of sand and cement can be compared with modern dry mixes, perhaps only in matters of environmental friendliness.
The majority of Russian buyers associate dry mixes with the products of several foreign manufacturers. The Finnish concern Optirok, whose trademark Vetonit was one of the first to appear on our market, has ten varieties of adhesives for ceramic tiles in its assortment. The universal adhesive “Vetonit plus fix” is used for working with floor and wall tiles indoors. “Vetonit for Floor” adhesive mortar is intended for laying large tiles. It is used for exterior work such as fixing paving slabs, and it is also suitable for finishing swimming pools. Non-shrinking adhesive “Vetonit fix” is recommended for laying tiles and mosaic tiles in kitchens and bathrooms. Special chemical additives in the composition of the adhesive guarantee a strong fixation of the tiles in an aggressive environment, even if they are fixed directly to the brickwork. For the same purposes, you can use the “Vetonit adhesion” fast-setting compound. The only thing to keep in mind when working with this type of dry glue is that it dries very quickly. Manufacturers advise to apply it on an area that can be tiled within 15 minutes. In rooms with high humidity, the tiles are best applied with Vetonit waterproofing adhesive. It consists of two components: a cement-based dry mix and a special liquid. By mixing both components, the master will receive an elastic, waterproof adhesive mass for laying tiles. For difficult substrates, Finnish specialists have developed several types of dry adhesives, including “Vetonit for repair work” and “Vetonit epoxy”. Adhesive for renovation work is applied to walls covered with plastic, ceramic tiles, painted surfaces.
This glue is not afraid of thermal effects, therefore it is used for facing fireplaces and heated floors. If the wall has been exposed to chemical or mechanical stress, then it is possible to fix the tiles on it using epoxy glue, which consists of several components. However, this adhesive is not suitable for porous tiles. Polish Atlas glue is no less popular. Its advantage lies in the combination of two indicators – price and quality. At a relatively low cost, Polish glue has a European quality standard. Atlas glue is considered a universal solution, it is waterproof and frost-resistant, therefore it is used inside and outside buildings. It is laid on almost any mineral base, including old tiles. However, Atlas Plus is considered to be a more advanced product in the Atlas family of adhesive solutions, which has increased elasticity and adhesion. It can be used to glue tiles to wood and other “difficult” surfaces. It is used when laying ceramic tiles on heated floors, as well as for gluing large heavy slabs (up to 1×1 meter). Plus, Atlas Plus is characterized by increased water resistance and is resistant to operating temperatures from -20 to +60 degrees Celsius..
The German plant Schtern produces Sopro dry glue, which can be used when working with ceramics and natural stone. The standard adhesive mixture “Sopro FBK 372” is intended for tiling walls and floors inside and outside the premises. Adhesives “Sopro FF 450” and “Sopro No. 1” contain a fiber reinforcing additive, therefore they are used for finishing fireplaces, heated floors, swimming pools and drinking water tanks. For difficult substrates, German manufacturers have developed the “Sopro FKM 444” glue formula, with its help it is easy to fix large facade slabs. Slabs of natural stone will hold the adhesives “Sopro MFK 446” and “Sopro TR 425” on the surface, both formulations contain traces that prevent the stone from staining.
The variety of foreign-made dry mixes can only be envied. But also domestic firms have recently significantly expanded their assortment. If one and a half to two years ago, dry glue manufacturers in our country could boast of three different recipes (“standard” glue for ordinary work, “super” for wet rooms and “luxury” for complex surfaces), today large manufacturing firms consider it their duty provide the buyer with a full range of products for all occasions.
These include the Anker plant, which offers about a dozen different adhesives. The company provides the buyer with two types of adhesive mixtures for floor tiles – “standard” and “super”. The latter is highly resistant to mechanical stress and climatic changes, it is used for laying tiles on balconies, stairs, terraces. Mounting adhesive for facing slabs is suitable for working with large-format slabs and mosaics. To prevent tiling work on plastic, plasterboard and wood surfaces, it is recommended to use Anker elastic adhesive. The adhesives for the decoration of swimming pools have been allocated in a separate series. According to the manufacturers, it is particularly durable, frost-resistant and highly elastic, with its help the pool can be tiled with tiles, natural stone and marble..
The Moscow enterprise “Unistrom-trading” specializes in the production of a variety of dry building mixtures. The plant produces five different adhesives under the Yunis trademark. In addition to the “gentleman’s set” of mortars for large slabs, natural stone and swimming pools, the company offers Eunice XXI glue, which levels surfaces and fills cavities, cracks and irregularities (up to 5mm deep). For the so-called complex surfaces, the company has developed Yunis plus glue, it will strengthen ceramic tiles and natural stone on walls, floors and ceilings made of aerated concrete, brick and reinforced concrete.
Bolars adhesive mixtures are prepared on a cement-sand base using imported polymer additives. The “Standard” brand is intended for gluing tiles indoors, for exterior work it is better to use Bolars Plus glue. Two more mortars “Bolars-Granite” and “Bolars-Aqua Plus” are designed for working with stone slabs and for lining swimming pools. Although the qualitative characteristics of Bolars products: moisture resistance, high adhesion, elasticity, environmental friendliness – fully comply with Western standards, the company’s assortment looks more than modest against the background of foreign analogues.
The choice of adhesive for ceramic tiles must be carefully. Before paying for 25 kilograms of dry mix (this is the weight of a standard packaging of building glue), it is advisable to test it. Take a small amount of glue and “conduct reconnaissance in force”, if the dry mixture fully justifies expectations, you can safely buy packaging. If this is not possible, then it is better to buy a solution of a well-known brand, which has already established itself in the building materials market..