Glossary of Tile Terms Portland Direct Tile & Marble

Posted by Portland Direct Tile Marble on 1st Aug 2020

Glossary of Tile Terms Portland Direct Tile & Marble

Glossary of Tile Terms Portland Direct Tile & Marble

Our glossary defines language used by tile suppliers, designers and installers for ceramic, marble, granite, floor, glass tile and much more. If you encounter a term or explanation we’ve not listed or you don't understand in this glossary, email us at or call us at 503-230-9500.

Acid-washed - A treatment applied to the face of a stone to achieve a texture or finish that is distressed. Recently, the use of acid and other types of chemical treatments has decreased due to environmental and disposal concerns. Chemical processes have been replaced by mechanical methods that can texture the face of a stone.

Backsplash - The area located between the countertop and upper cabinet in a kitchen.

Back-Buttering - Applying thinset to the back of a tile with a setting agent prior to setting the tile into place to ensure proper coverage and level installation.

Beveled Edge - An edge treatment done to tile and stone that slopes the edges all the way around the tiles surface.

Blend - Combination of colors, textures and shapes to create a pattern on pre-determined sizes.

Brushed - A look obtained by brushing a stone with a coarse rotary-type wire brush to create the look of natural wear.

Bull Nose Edge - An edging option for porcelain, ceramic or natural stone that provides a finished edge to an installation. Edging can be rounded or have a 45 degree angle.

Caliber - The length and width of a tile that can vary from dyelot to dylelot.

Caulk - Filling in a joint by sealing with an elastic, adhesive compound. Helps resist staining, mold and mildew as well as allowing movement between any adjoining surfaces.

Ceramic - A thin surfacing unit composed of various clays fired to hardness. The face may be glazed or unglazed.

Chiseled Edge - A process of mechanically chipping the tile edge, thus giving the stone a rustic, aged appearance.

Cobbled - An edge that has been chiseled by hand to give a distressed appearance.

Cross Cut - A process of end-cutting blocks of stone which yields a less-linear, more rounded, "wavy" pattern on the stones surface.

Deco - A decorative accent piece.

Dyelot - A tile's shade referring to the coloration and reflectivity which varies from batch to batch.

Eased Edge - When referring to a slab material, the square edge profile normally has softened edges as opposed to sharp square edges for added safety. Stone tiles can also be eased on site by an installer in lieu of bullnose.

Epoxy Grout - Made from epoxy resins and a filler powder, the grout is extremely hard, durable, and nearly stain proof. Often times the bond between tiles is stronger than the tile itself. This grout is not used all the time for a few reasons. It has a more plastic appearance which, as with all matters of aesthetics, some people like and some don't. It is much more difficult to shape and slope then cementitious grout and is often needed to transition from one tile to another. It may also slump in the joint hours after the floor is finished because the grout becomes less viscous initially as it heats up and cures. Lastly, it generally takes days longer to cure and must be kept rigorously clean. And it can cost three to eight times as much as cementitious grout.

Expansion Joints - A device installed in tile joints permitting a structure to expand or contract without breakage.

Fabricated - Used in reference to dimension stone, it means manufactured and ready for installation.

Flamed Finish - A surface treatment applied by intense heat flaming resulting in a rough edge.

Field Tile - When creating a pattern with different ceramic tiles, the more prominent tile that is throughout the largest areas is called the "field tile".

Finish - Final surface applied to the face of dimension stone during fabrication.

Floor Tile - Material used on interior and exterior pedestrian wearing surfaces. Floor tile is rated by hardness. Ratings 1 or 2 are for walls. Ratings 3, 4 or 5 are for floors. Ratings 4 or 5 are for commercial use. Rating 5 is for outdoor use, particularly for inclement weather conditions.

Glazed Porcelain Tile - A colored, liquid glaze is applied to the surface of a porcelain body. The tile is fired in a kiln at approximately 2,000 degrees. The glazing process defines the color and surface texture and produces a hard, non-porous, impermeable tile with a water absorption rate of 0.5% or less.

Granite - A very hard natural igneous stone that is usually stain and scratch resistant. Granites are the hardest architectural stone, making them ideal for counter tops and high-traffic areas.

Grout - A dry cement product that is mixed with water to fill crevices and joints between tiles. There are 2 types of cementitious grout: Sanded and Un-sanded. There are 2 types of non- cementitious grout: Epoxy and urethane.

Hardy Backer - Made from cementitious material bonded over with fiber glass or resin fabric. It is attached to walls and floors in preparation for tiling.

Honed Finish - A satin-smooth surface finish with little or no gloss.

Impervious Tile - Tiles that have less than .5% moisture absorption. These tiles are frost proof and can be used in exterior areas or on the outside of building facades.

Joint - The space between tiles that is filled with grout or caulk.

LEED - The acronym stands for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design. The LEED Green Building Rating System was established by the U.S. Green Building Council. The system defines standards for environmentally responsible, healthier, and more profitable structures. Points are awarded to new construction and major renovation in five categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality.

Limestone - A sedimentary stone primarily composed of calcium carbonate. Limestone is generally softer and less dense than granite and more homogeneous in appearance.

Listello/Liners - An accent tile, typically rectangular in format, generally used as a linear design element.

Marble - A metamorphic rock possessing a distinctive crystalline texture. Marble is typically softer than granite, and available in a wide spectrum of color and veining.

Metamorphic Rock - Rock altered in appearance, density, crystalline structure, and in some cases, mineral composition, by high temperature or intense pressure, or both. Includes slate derived from shale, quartz-based stone from quartzitic sand, and true marble from limestone.

Medallion - An ornamental block. A symmetrical design of multiple colors. Focal point in walls and floors.

Moisture Absorption - As the density of the tile increases, the amount of moisture that tile can absorb decreases. Tile density and moisture absorption have an indirect relationship to each other. Tile density means that, as the weight or the density of the tile increases, it becomes a stronger tile. Tile density and moisture absorption is important to understand when selecting tile for different applications.

Mosaic - A surface decoration made by inlaying small pieces of various colored material on large or small surfaces to form pictures or patterns. Tile size 2"x2" and smaller are usually referred to as mosaics and are often used with different colors to create a pattern or decorative inset. Some of these smaller tiles also come in different shapes, such as hexagon. Mosaics can be used in all spaces and applications.

Natural Stone - A product of nature. A stone such as granite, marble, limestone, slate, travertine, or sandstone that is formed by nature, and is not artificial or manmade.

Onyx - A variety of calcium carbonate valued for its translucent quality. Onyx can be backlit for dramatic effect.

Polished - A high-gloss finish that brings out the full color and character of a stone.

Porcelain - Porcelain tile is fired at a much higher temperature than regular ceramic tile. This makes porcelain tile much harder and denser than other tile products. Because of its highly durable make-up, porcelain is more resistant to scratches and chips and can withstand temperature extremes. Also, because porcelain is non-porous, it's very stain resistant, has very low water absorption ratings and thus can be used for interior and exterior applications as well as heavy-use and commercial areas.

Quarry - The location of an operation where a deposit of stone is extracted from the earth through an open pit or underground mine.

Quartzite - A highly hardened, typically metamorphosed member of the sandstone group. Quartzite contains a minimum of 95% free silica. Quartzite can look similar to slate, but is actually harder and denser. Also available in slabs.

Resin - A chemical product, clear to translucent, used in some coating processes.

Sanded Grout - Sanded grout means that a filler sand material is added to the grout, giving it a rougher texture and appearance. Sanded grout needs to be used with a grout joint 1/8” or larger.

Sealer - An elastic adhesive compound used to seal stone veneer and joints. It adheres to tile grout and joints; it protects against staining. If a stone is not sealed properly water will seep into the back.

Sealing - Sealing makes a veneer watertight with an elastic adhesive compound. It is an application of a treatment to prevent staining.

Shade Variation - Range of color or shade in a stone or tile. Shade variation is inherent in all fired ceramic products and certain tiles will show greater variation within their dye lots The higher the shade variation the more range of color there is from stone to stone or tile to tile. Understanding the shade variation in the product you select is the most important aspect of your purchase!

Slab - Large, thin, flat pieces of stone, available in a variety of thicknesses, used for counter top, table, wall cladding and paving applications.

Slate - Metamorphic stone composed of clay, quartz and shale, characterized by distinct layering.. Slates are predominantly available in cleft-finished tiles; ideal for use in exterior, non-freeze settings in the proper thickness.

Stone - A natural substance found throughout the world - typically excavated.

Take-offs - The calculation only the installer should make to determine the amount of stone or tile to cover a given area. Many times we suggest adding 10% to 15 % to the take off to cover for items like cuts, breakage or the odd stone or tile the customer just may not want to lay. The amount of take-off varies from installer to installer. Usually the more tile used by an installer the better quality of workmanship

Texture - Surface quality of stone independent of color.

Textured Finish - A rough surface finish.

Thinset - The majority of tile installers use thinset, where the tile is adhered directly onto a backer board that is nailed to a plywood or concrete substrate using a thin layer of mortar.

Threshold - A flat strip of stone projecting above the floor between the jambs of a door. Also known as a "saddle."

Through Body Porcelain Tile - A solid porcelain tile consisting of no surface glaze. The color pigments are consistent throughout the body of the tile - top to bottom. The tile is fired in a kiln at 2,000 degrees, creating a hard, non-porous, impermeable tile with a water absorption rate of 0.5% or less.

Tread - A flat stone used as the top walking surface on steps.

Trim - The framing or edging of openings and other features on the interior or exterior of a building, including baseboards, picture rails, cornices, and casings.

Tumbled Finish - A weathered, aging finished created when the stone is tumbled with sand, pebbles, or steel bearings.

Tumbled Stone - Marble, travertine, and slate tumbled in a solution of water, sand and river rock, producing tiles with an old-world, weathered look.

Travertine - A type of limestone formed by water passing through the stone from hot springs. Some layers contain pores and cavities which create an open texture. Depending on the product selected, pores in travertine may be filled or unfilled. Travertine is available in warm, earth tones, making it one of the most popular stones for interior and exterior flooring. Some varieties of travertine take a polish and are commonly known as marble.

Tumbled - A weathered, aging finished created when the stone is tumbled with sand, pebbles, or steel bearings.

Unglazed Tile - Unglazed tiles are a solid color all the way through and do not have a top layer of glaze. This is often referred to as through-body construction. They have no additional surface applications and are typically more dense and durable than glazed tile. Thus they are more suitable for interior and exterior applications. Unglazed tiles do have good slip resistance, however please note that they do require sealing to help prevent staining. They come in various surface treatments and textures.

Un-Sanded Grout - Has a smooth texture and appearance and is used for joints less than 1/8” in width.

Wall Tile - Tile that has a low hardness rating and is usually not recommended for floor use.

Water-Jet Finish - A surface treatment performed by using water under extreme high pressure. Water-jets are predominantly useful in cutting elaborate curves and patterns.