Tiles are everywhere – in our bathrooms and kitchens, even our living rooms and bedrooms. They’re so prevalent and yet many of us are oblivious to the intricate manufacturing process behind their creation. In this article, you will learn about the minor differences between the creation of porcelain and ceramic tiles, as well as the greater tile making process that allows us to transform lumps of earth into statements of beauty.
Firstly, the materials to create the tile must be gathered. Both porcelain and ceramic tiles use clay in their creation, but porcelain tiles typically use heavier, denser clays than your average ceramic tile. These harder clays used for porcelain tend to be white clays mixed with sand and feldspar.
The dense materials used in porcelain tiles are especially great for floor tiles, because they absorb less water and resist stains; perfect for muddy footprints in the rainy seasons. The difficulty in making porcelain tiles is that their density and hardness also makes them fairly brittle, making them difficult to cut.
Once the clay is collected, it is crushed to break up any large pieces. Then it is sent to a huge milling machine where the pieces are ground down into a sand-like consistency. This will enable the clay to mix better with the other ingredients in the tile recipe: sand, water, feldspar, as well as other chemicals which vary, depending on each company’s particular recipe.
Once a suitable mixture is crafted, any and all air must be removed, as bubbles in the tiles can severely impact their durability. Immediately after the air is removed, the clay mixture is forced through a metal die which forces the clay to come out in one long thick sheet, in a process known as extrusion.
After the extrusion, tiles are punched out of the layer and fed through a drying process to remove some of the moisture from the tiles. Removing the moisture is an important part of hardening and strengthening the tiles to be ready for use, so this step is repeated.
Next, the tile is primed for its pattern, starting with adding a base coat of paint, followed by a primer coating which will ensure that the ink sticks to the tile correctly. Once the tile has received its primer and paint, it needs a protective glaze to protect the pattern from wear and tear.
Following this stage, the tiles are sent to the kiln where they are raised to temperatures of 1185 degrees to draw out the last moisture that might still be weakening the product. At the end of the process, the tiles are taken through a gradual cooling process. This is a vital part of the process which can lead to the tile exploding from temperature shock if improperly handled.
Ceramic tiles follow a similar process to the porcelain tiles, right up until the extrusion process. Instead of being fed through a die, ceramic tile mixture is poured into a mould and pressed into the correct shape. This is possible, because the clay used for ceramic tiles is more ductile and less liable to crack under the pressure. Once the ceramic tiles are pressed, they rejoin the porcelain tiles for the rest of the process to be painted, dried, fired in the kiln and packaged for export.
So much effort and machinery goes into making the tile industry what it is today, so much so that we consider the tile as a symbol of human technological advancement. Why not sample some of our cutting-edge collections for youself today? We supply ethically sourced porcelain and ceramic tiles, as well as natural stone tiles in Lancaster and natural stone tiles in Preston. Visit us in our showroom to see the final products of the tile creation process, both ceramic and porcelain; we’re confident that we will have the perfect tiles for your home or office.