The Story of Tiles

Tiles are one of the oldest and most durable interior finishes. They fit into any decorating style and they can be simple and minimalist or complex and exuberant. Whether they’re used as a floor surface, a wall covering or on a table or countertop, tiles are beautiful, practical, inexpensive and long lasting. Perhaps their only disadvantage is that they take some basic knowledge and attention to detail to install properly.

Tiles can be made out of clay-based ceramic or porcelain; stone or concrete; even rubber or glass. In this post, we’re going to concentrate on ceramic and porcelain tiles.

Tile in History

Terra cotta tiles, quarry tiles, ceramic tiles and porcelain tiles were all originally made from fired clay. Clay is a fine-grained type of soil that’s very common and that can simply be dug up, shaped and fired to create durable bricks and tiles. The earliest known tile installations are in Greece, and they’re over 5000 years old, much older than the earliest known rugs and carpets.

The ancient greeks, Romans and Egyptians all used tile extensively in their homes and public buildings. Clay tiles can be fashioned into any shape before they’re fired and then colours and patterns can be added and enhanced using colorants and glazes before they’re fired for a second time. That’s how tiles were made until relatively recently.

Medieval English Tiles

Medieval English Tiles

Today’s Tiles

Today, you can still buy art tile made from wet clay fired in a kiln. However, most of us can’t afford to install handmade art tile in our homes. The tile you’ll find for sale today is usually made from dry-pressed clay powder. It’s mass produced in factories and the fact that clay is an inexpensive material means that factory-produced tiles tend to be a great value.

The powder-pressed ceramic and porcelain tile that’s used in normal bathroom, kitchen and floor installations is good quality and can last for many decades. Find a colour and texture that you love. Give some thought to the design and for a more interesting look, ornament the installation with fancy inserts, accents and ogees.

Modern Floor Tiles

Modern Floor Tiles

Buy Your Tiles at Fowles

Here are two facts about modern powder-pressed tiles: they can be very durable and beautiful if they’re installed properly, and they can give a really poor impression if they’re uneven or they begin to come unstuck. The quality of the installation is paramount.

There are two ways to get a good tile installation. The first is to hire a reputable specialist contractor. The second is to spend a little bit of money on tile tools, read a book or article on how to lay tile and then leave yourself adequate time to do a good job with the project. An experienced contractor can do a good job quickly. A conscientious DIYer can do a good job slowly. An inexperienced or careless person in a hurry will always do a poor job with tile.

Here’s another fact. If you buy your tiles at Fowles, either through our retail/wholesale operation or through our Timber & Building Materials Auction, you’ll be on your way to a project that’s potentially inexpensive, practical, durable and beautiful.

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Next: A History of Carpet
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