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Are Terracotta Tiles a High-Maintenance Product?

Author: Julie Lord
by Julie Lord
Posted: Oct 03, 2015

Traditional unglazed terracotta tiles require regular, time-consuming maintenance but glazed terracotta offers all the charm and beauty of the material without the maintenance headache. All thanks to technological advances in their manufacture.

Traditionally made terracotta tiles are, without doubt, beautiful but many people are discouraged from using them in their homes because they are concerned about the high levels of maintenance required to keep them looking good. The thought of sealing the tiles regularly can be a deterrent to many people especially when there are contemporary alternatives such as porcelain tiles which require minimal maintenance, if any.

But there are, in fact, two types of terracotta tiles manufactured now: the more typical unglazed tiles, which do, indeed, require extensive maintenance, but also glazed tiles which require minimal maintenance.

Unglazed terracotta has been used in private homes extensively in the past although it is now less popular simply due to the change in interior trends. The type of maintenance that it required was treatment with linseed oil and wax or sealing with a synthetic sealant. The traditional oil and wax method involved applying several coats of linseed oil with a soft cloth after the tiles were laid but before the grouting was done. The oil would darken the natural terracotta colour and once dry the routing was done and was followed by a coat of clear wax. The disadvantage of this method was that the wax needed to be reapplied regularly to maintain the sheen and would eventually have to be stripped off and the waxing process started again. Understandably this is the process that deters people from using terracotta.

The less traditional approach requires applying several coats of a synthetic sealant which can last for up to 3 years and never needs to be stripped back as it can just be applied over the existing sealer to revitalise the finish.

However, neither approach could be termed "low-maintenance" but, fortunately, for those who love the rustic charm and warm tones of terracotta some manufacturers are now manufacturing glazed terracotta tiles which genuinely are low maintenance.

All terracotta tiles are made from a workable mixture of clay and water that is shaped as required and then left to dry naturally before being fired in a kiln. Whilst the technique is ancient there have been considerable improvements in its implementation due to technological advances which have enabled terracotta tiles to be created with a glazed surface.

The clay used to make terracotta tiles is extracted from a quarry and grinding machines are usually used to reduce the clay to a powder. The water is then added to form a paste and the tiles can either be created by hand, for a more rustic look, or by machine, for a sleeker, more modern look.

Once dry the kiln-firing of the tiles is done with the high temperatures making a tougher, more stable glazed terracotta tile. Because of the high-temperature glazing these types of tiles need none of the tedious maintenance procedures that the more traditional, unglazed tiles require. Yet they have the look and feel of a hand made tile with natural variations in colour adding to their unique beauty without the maintenance headache.

Glazed terracotta tiles are typically supplied in batches that have a range of colours within the same colour spectrum to ensure your floor will never look bland and "too perfect" so they can create a unique look for your walls or flooring in your home renovation project. Mass produced ceramic tiles or porcelain tiles can never achieve this type of unique beauty because every tile is the same.

About the Author

Professional blogger on all things related to home and lifestyle: home improvement, DIY, buying and selling homes, interior design.

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Author: Julie Lord

Julie Lord

United Kingdom

Member since: Sep 11, 2015
Published articles: 19

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