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For The Trade

Tile Glossary


A premixed mastic used to install ceramic tile on walls and ceilings.

Bi Cuttura:

"Twice Fired" Refers to a process by which most wall tiles are made. It is when the clay is formed into the bisque (see definition below), then fired and cooled. This product may be stored or sold to another manufacturer. It is then glazed and fired a second time, at between 500° and 800°C. Creating a softer bodied product that has a minimum of size variations between pieces, allowing them to be installed with a very tight grout joint.


The term Bisque refers to the structural body of a ceramic product. (Example: On a glazed piece of wall tile, it refers to the clay body, under the glaze.)


During the installation, the installer must mix material from multiple cartons. This blending gives the installation a very uniform blend that is constant across the entire area.


The rounded edge on the trim pieces that finish off a tile. With natural stone, the bullnose is generally done on-site by the contractor since stone is the same color throughout

Crack Isolation:

Refers to the treatment of a substrate crack by creating a flexible membrane over the crack, which allows the crack to expand and contract without telegraphing up through the tile. **Nobel Seal** is the recommended material of choice. Crack Isolation Membranes (Noble Seal) is recommended behind all glass installations to help minimize cracking.


Slight separations in glaze found primarily in handmade tiles, but may be found in any ceramic. These crazings will fill the grout, and may be used to enhance the look, giving it an antiqued look.


The density of the tile body is determined by the amount of water that is absorbed. This helps to determine a tile's usage areas. The less water the body absorbs, the harder the tile.

*Impervious Tile----Tile with 0.5% or less water absorption.
*Vitreous ------------Tile with .05% to 3% water absorption.
*Semi Vitreous------Tile with 3% to 7% water absorption.
*Non-Vitreous-------Tile with 7% or greater absorption.

Dye Lots:

Dye Lot refers to not only color differences but also to size variations. Customers should be made aware of dye lots when ordering additional material for a continuation of a job. Many designers recommend mixing contrasting colors or different dye lots of the same color, giving a unique blend.


An extruded tile is one that has been made in a press similar to a play dough machine. The clay is forced out through a slot and cut in the opposite direction. When these tiles are installed they should be laid with the ribs on the back running in the same direction. They will always be slightly different in size, when measured with the ribs or against the ribs.

Frost Proof:

Products manufactured for use where freezing and thawing conditions exist, such as in the Northeast. When a non-frost-proof is exposed to this cycle, the body will absorb the water, then as the temperature drops to freezing, the water will freeze and expand. This expansion will force the glaze to "explode" off of the tile surface.


All tile, no matter what size or application, needs grout.

**Sanded Grout** used on a joint 1/8" to 1/2" width, for either floors or walls.

**Unsanded Grout** used on a joint 1/8" or smaller width, for either walls or floors. Most glass and metal tiles need unsanded grout so the surface is not scratched.


Refers to borders that can be used to accent the installation. These can be made of any material that tiles are made of and can really add interest to any room.

Mono Cuttera:

"Single Fired" Refers to a type of process by which most floor tiles are made. The clay is formed into the bisque, glazed and fired once at approx 1,500° to 2,000°C giving the end product a man made stone quality.

Mud Job:

Floor: when ceramic tile or stone is installed in a minimum of 1 1/4" of a cement mix over the top of tarpaper and wire lath. Many homes cannot allow for the additional height that this method needs. Shower floors are almost always done in cement.

Walls: Many old homes that have plaster walls may also have mud walls. This method calls for installing the tile over a bed of cement, sand and lime, similar to stucco. Very few installers today can do mud walls. Most will recommend the use of Utilicrete, which is cement backer board in its place.

PEI Ratings I-V:

PEI stands for the Porcelain Enamel Institute. The PEI Scale rated the wearability of the glaze. The ratings range from I-V.

Interior commercial and residential walls, master bath floors (soft-soled footwear)

Commercial and residential walls and residential bathroom floors

ALL residential and light commercial areas (office/reception areas)

Moderate commercial, (deli/restaurants)

Extra heavy residential and commercial traffic (malls)


Porcelain tile is manufactured in the Mono Cuttura process which is a blend of fine grain silica materials which are combined with glass. When fired, the glass fuses the silica together. Porcelain has an impervious body and can be used in the most demanding of installations. This material is now one of the most progressive styles, changing to meet retail demand. Manufacturers are polishing it, glazing it, giving it a slate look and using it as floor tile as well as wall tile.

Rapid Set:

NA-3500 is an accelerated latex modified thinset morter, which may be used to install ceramic tile or decorative stone, indoors or outdoors, and may be able to GROUT AFTER WAITING ONLY 3 HOURS. (This is an excellent product to recommend in mid-summer when the humidity level is high.)

Salt Pops:

Or Lime pop commonly found in, but not limited to, handmade material such as terracotta. This happens when a piece of lime or salt is mixed into the clay body of the tile. When this mineral is exposed to water, it expands, forcing its way up through the surface, looking at first like a pimple in the tile. As it continues to expand, it eventually "blows" a hole in the tile. This is a characteristic of handmade tile. This "enhances the natural beauty of the tile" and gives it that antiqued look, "depicting the period of time in which it was initially created."


Cross, T-shaped and Y-shaped rigid rubber piece, 1/16" to 1/2" in thickness. Used to help keep the joints in the floors and walls running true. Used mainly by homeowners, these must be removed before grouting.

Square Meter:

Metric unit of measure. European tile companies sell their material by the square meter. A square meter is actually 10.76 square feet. Many of the cartons that will get delivered may only have a square meter measurement. Example: 1.63 SQ Meter to convert to SQ feet take 1.63 X 10.76= 17.54 Sq. ft.


The trade term used for the layer of material found directly under the tile, on either walls or floors. Plywood, sheetrock, concrete and backer boards are the most common.


A Thinset installation utilizes latex modified cement that can be applied as a thin, even base for the tile to be set into, thereby the term THINSET is used.