Encaustic tile ideas – the revival of traditional techniques

by Kremy

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Encaustic tile ideas are the way to go when you want to add a really special feature to your home decor. They can be used for fascinating and unique kitchen backsplash designs, for magnificent and original floor designs, as bathroom decoration and special accents.

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Floor tile as well as backsplash and wall tiles are an ideal decoration material, hiding all the imperfections of floor and wall surfaces and create an accent in the design of the entire home. Like with any material used for interior design and decoration you need to have an idea what effect you wish to achieve, in which room you want to use the tiles, how they will work with the general design concept and color scheme of the interior and whether you want to blend them into the overall color palette or add a contrast color.


Encaustic tile ideas – What is the difference between encaustic and concrete tile?

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When we discuss encaustic tile ideas, there is one thing that we have to clear in the beginning of this article. There is a general confusion between encaustic tiles and encaustic cement tiles, and concrete tiles as both types of tiles look very similar and they are both unglazed. Very often the terms are used interchangeably, even by manufacturers and sellers, but these are two completely different types of tiles, manufactured in a different way, with different properties and used in a different way. For everyone who values his money and wants to be pleased with the final result and the look of his floor, backsplash or bathroom, understanding the difference is essential.

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What is important to know is that there are different types of tiles – encaustic tile, cement tile, encaustic cement tile, and concrete tile. The general difference between all these types of tile is the manufacturing process. If you want to be absolutely accurate in the definition of the different types, a cement tile should be referred to as “concrete tile” as cement is one of the ingredients used to make concrete.


How encaustic tiles are made?

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Encaustic tiles are made of one or two colors of clay which are inlaid to form a pattern and then each tile is fired. Encaustic cement tile, concrete tile and cement tile are manufactured with concrete and hydraulically pressed. It is often that sellers are not really sure but you should always ask what type of tile you are looking at, especially when you are not sure in your choice.

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Encaustic tiles have been in use since medieval times and reached the peak of popularity in the 1800s. At that time an English company, Minton’s Ltd, became a supplier of tiles for walls and floors, which were installed in palaces, churches and public buildings. A Minton tile floor has become symbolic for the art of tile manufacturing although experts refer to Minton’s tiles as relatively more recent. In medieval times, from 12th to 16th century, the tiles were handmade by flattening clay into a wooden mould carved in relief. Before being fired, they were sprinkled with a glaze of lead ore. In the mid-1800s a method of manufacturing using dust clay was patented where the pattern of the tile was formed by using one or more perforated copper plates. There are many traditional shapes and patterns which proved with time and modern manufacturers still use them together with new patterns and a wide range of colors.

Encaustic tiles vs concrete tiles

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When comparing encaustic and concrete tiles you always have to start with the way they are being manufactured. Concrete or cement tiles, if you prefer, are made of concrete and mineral pigments which are mixed and poured into a mold. The tiles have three layers – a surface layer, which is decorative, a middle layer made of fine sand and cement, and a bottom layer, which additionally reinforces the tile. The pigment (the decorative layer) is poured into the mould in the beginning of the process and the cement fillers are added. The tile is hydraulically pressed. This method of tile manufacturing was invented in the 19th century and is still being used.

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Encaustic tile is frost-proof and can be used for outdoor applications while using cement tile in areas with freeze and extreme low temperatures will damage them. Cement tile is a good choice for areas with Mediterranean or tropical climates. You may find pre-cast concrete tile which have been frost-proof and suitable for outdoor applications.

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Encaustic tiles are unique, and even if a tile is chipped the body beneath will have the same color while a cement tile will reveal the cement layers underneath. They are very durable to wear and will withstand various conditions, moisture and high traffic.

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Both types of tiles can be customized to match the exact specification of the customer and are in the category of “green” flooring options as they are usually manufactured with locally sourced products.

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On the downside one can point out the weight of encaustic tile as well as the price. They are more expensive than alternative options, but having in mind the fact that they are unique, the high price tag is not a surprise.


What is important to know when choosing tiles for your home

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Encaustic tile ideas are getting very popular for the unique look, excellent quality and the opportunity to add character and style to both walls and floors. When choosing your encaustic tile pattern, you should keep in mind that handmade ones are more fragile than the ones that are hydraulically pressed. It is much more likely that you find hydraulically pressed encaustic tiles in showrooms than handmade ones.

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The size of tile is essential as floor deflection is always a consideration. Your floor has to be perfectly leveled if you want larger tiles. The installation is a delicate process so it is better to hire a professional in order to avoid chipping or other damages.


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