Not too long ago ceramic tiles were hand-made. A mound of wet clay was carefully shaped using a wooden mold and then left in the sun to dry or fired in brick kilns. Although a small percentage of ceramic tiles are still made the traditional way, the vast majority are made through a process known as ‘dry pressing’ or ‘dust pressing.’ This process is highly efficient and requires far less time and labor to produce than previous methods, a factor that has made ceramic tiles very common in modern construction. This is opposed to the past when they were reserved for Eastern Kings only! Below are the various processes involved in ceramic tile making:
Every ceramic life begins its life as a lump of earth. The final product is essentially baked earth. Various ceramic tile manufacturers use different methods to make the tiles, but the common denominator is that all use clay as the raw material. Other ingredients such as feldspar, sand, quartz, and water are added to the clay. The ingredients are carefully mixed together in the right proportions into a ball mill in order to create a body slip. The body slip differentiates the tile’s body from its glazed topping. The body slip is 30% water. The moisture helps the different ingredients stick together. The body slip is placed into a hot dryer to remove most of the moisture. This continues until the moisture content drops to just 6%.
The drying process essentially reduces the body slip to a lump of dust. This is placed inside a large hydraulic or electric-powered press. The press uses enormous pressure to press the dust to a particular size and shape. When I say enormous pressure, that’s exactly what I mean; something in the range of a few hundred, up to 100,000 PSI (Pounds per Square Inch). The pressure is necessary to give the ceramic tiles high tensile strength. Presses sometimes have shaped imprints such as diamonds and ovals that correspond to the tile shape. Once the body is pressed into shape, it’s now called the ‘‘bisque.’’ It is further dried to completely remove the moisture.
Glaze refers to the shiny substance found on top and at the sides of ceramic tiles. Glaze is either sprayed directly or silk-screened on top of the tiles. It can be finished in either high gloss or matte. Various color pigments are added to the tile to impart the desired color. Glazing is not absolutely necessary in tile production, although it’s almost always used.
All ceramic tiles undergo baking before they are complete. The tile is referred to as a ‘‘green tile’’ just before it undergoes baking. Tiles were traditionally fired in a periodic kiln for several hours. Modern kilns, however, are the continuous type, and are far more efficient than the traditional periodic ones. Continuous kilns include roller-hearth kilns and tunnel kilns. The temperatures inside kilns are quite high and reach 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1,371 degrees centigrade). High temperatures are necessary for the production of high-strength tiles.
Colors and Patterns
Tiles are re-fired by baking, using a method known as bicottura. This is used to produce tiles with many different colors and patterns. The prefix ‘bi’ in bicottura does not mean that the tile is fired only twice; in fact it can be fired several times. A different type of colored glaze is applied to the tile before each firing cycle and this is repeated until the desired final product is achieved.
The type of finish applied by the manufacturer determines how slippery the tile will be when wet. Tile manufacturers use a rating system to classify their tiles for different applications. This ranges from Class 1 to Class 5.
Located in Cleveland, Ohio, Pucher’s is a family-owned Home Decorating Company. We are a highly reputable home decorating company serving residents of Berea, Westlake, and North Royalton. Our services include the installation of ceramic flooring and wood floors as well as the sale of window treatments such as stylish shades, blinds and draperies. If you need state-of-the-art ceramic tiles for your floor, just call or visit us and you can select from our great collection of top brands such as Onyx Accent Tile, Emser Tile, DalTile, Marazzi USA, Mannington Porcelain, and our classic Pucher’s DesignPro Ceramic Tile.