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BDU Ceramic Tile College™

Rough and/or Ready: Glazed and Unglazed Ceramic Tile Compared

What you will learn: characteristics of unglazed ceramic tile; characteristics of glazed ceramic tile; suggested locations for installation of both types of ceramic tile; types of glaze and the advantages of each.

As always, you are faced with finding a balance between the practical and the decorative. With ceramic, you get both. But among glazed and unglazed ceramic tile, which ones would be the most appropriate for your space?

In terms of how they are made, there is no difference between glazed and unglazed ceramic tile, other than the fact that glazed tiles undergo an additional phase in the firing process with a layer of liquid glass added by means of very high temperatures. But again, it is important to consider the issue of use when you are deciding on which type of ceramic tile to choose for your project, not to mention the kind of look and feel you’re after.

Unglazed tiles tend to be denser and thicker than glazed tiles, and because of their unfinished exteriors, they tend to be a great choice if you’re looking for a slip resistant surface in an area like a laundry room or kitchen where the tile is likely to be subjected to high amounts of wetness. In terms of safety, this is big consideration. For areas prone to heavy foot traffic, as well as outdoor applications, unglazed tiles are a very good choice, being scratch resistant. Also, unglazed ceramic tiles retain a natural beauty, colored as they are by the mineral deposits from where the clay was originally taken. Porcelain, terra cotta, and Satillo tiles are popular varieties. Many prefer the earthy aesthetic quality of unglazed ceramic tiles, depending on the overall surroundings of the installation. A limitation of unglazed ceramic tile is the vulnerability to staining. As a precaution, it is a good idea to use some sort of sealant and a wax after installing unglazed ceramic tile indoors.

Glazed ceramic tile, although a little less robust in terms of density and thickness than their unglazed counterpart, allows for a wider range of style and color. Glazed ceramic tiles also tend to be more resistant to staining, protected as they are by a non-porous layer of liquid glass. The range of colors available for glazed ceramic tiles is achieved by mixing certain mineral elements – gold, silver, copper, cobalt, zinc, and others – to achieve desired colors. There are even more options available to you in terms of the glaze itself, which should also be selected for its degree of durability. Some varieties of glazed ceramic tile are fired at higher temperatures than others, and therefore are harder as well. This can often be determined by how light or dark the glaze is, the lighter glazes for ceramic tile generally being harder than the darker glazes. Then there is the issue of gloss: mat and satin finishes are generally harder than shiny glazes. As always, it’s a good idea to try and strike a balance between practical issues and decorating issues when choosing your glazed ceramic tile

Whether you choose glazed or unglazed ceramic tile, each variety has its own unique qualities. As always, the best idea is to know what you want for your own personal sense of style and practicality. This way, your flooring project will be something you can enjoy for many years in the future.

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