Our Definitive Guide to Tile Terminology: A to C | Fireclay Tile
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Our Definitive Guide to Tile Terminology: A to C

Our Definitive Guide to Tile Terminology: A to C

Example of a kitchen backsplash designed by Joshua Mogal of eco+historical.  Tile shown is our Debris Series in Sky Blue.

Let's be honest, tile and tile installation can be confusing!  We are experts on the subject and even we'll admit it can be a difficult process.  For many of you homeowners we know it might be your first time working with tile, and there will probably be a few blank stares along the way when your installer or designer starts talking about thin-sets and bullnose trims.  Don’t fret my friend, we are here to help!  Team Fireclay put our heads together and created a definitive guide to tile terminology!  So study up before tackling your next project, and learn to talk about tile like a pro!

Each week we will be covering a new section of the alphabet.  This week we are featuring the A's to the C's!


Absorption – The percentage amount of moisture absorbed by weight.

Abrasion Resistance – The ability of a surface to resist being worn away by rubbing and friction.

Accelerator – A substance which, when added to concrete, mortar, or grout, increases the rate of hydration of the hydraulic cement, shortens the time of setting, or increases the rate of hardening of strength development, or both.

Acid Wash – A treatment applied to the face of a stone to achieve a texture or finish that is distressed. Chemical processes have been replaced by mechanical methods for the texturing of the stone.

Adhesive – Used for bonding tile to a surface.

Arris – An edge or angle where two surfaces meet; for example, moldings and raised edges.

Our Debris Series Clay Body


Back-Buttering – The process of slathering the back of a stone tile with thinset in order to ensure proper mortar coverage. This prevents hollow areas and subsequent future cracking of tiles. Also helpful to ensure a level installation.

Backing – Any material used as a base over which a finished material is to be installed.

Backsplash – The area located between the countertop and upper cabinets.

Battiscopa – The Italian term for a bull nose trim piece.

Blending – The proper positioning of adjacent floor slabs, or tiles, by their predominant color.

Bisque – When you look at a glazed tile from the side you can see 2 layers. The body of the tile, or largest layer, is called the bisque. The top layer is called the glaze.

Body – Term refers to structural portion of a ceramic product and to the material or mixture from which it is made.

Bond – The adherence of one material to another. Effective bonds must be achieved between the mortar and scratch coat, between the tile and mortar, and between the adhesive and backing.

Bond Strength – The force per unit area or length necessary to rupture a bond.

Border – A strip of tile with design, texture or contrasting color that creates a design concept.

Brushed Finish – A finish resulting from treating the stone surface with a coarse wire rotary brush.

Bullnose – A trim tile with a convex radius or finished edge on one side. Used for finishing top of wainscot, turning of an outside corner, or floor base.

Buttering – The spreading of a bond coat to the back of a ceramic tile immediately before the tile is installed.

Example of crazing.  Tile shown is our Vitrail Series in Azurine


Caulk – A soft, water resistant plastic material used for sealing joints.

Ceramic Tile – A ceramic surfacing unit, usually relatively thin in relation to facial area, made from clay or a mixture or clay; and other ceramic material, called the body of the tile, having either a "glazed" or "unglazed" face, and fired about red heat in the course of manufacture to a temperature sufficiently high to produce specific physical properties and characteristics.

Coefficient of Friction (COF) – The slip resistance of a tile.

Colored Grout – Commercially prepared grout consisting of carefully graded aggregate, portland cement, water dispersing agents, plasticizers and color fast pigments.

Crazing – The cracking which occurs in fired glazes or other ceramic coatings due to critical tensile stresses.

Cove – A trim tile with one edge a concave radius.  Used to form a junction between the bottom wall course and the floor or to form an inside corner.

Cure – The time period that a tile installation setting material must be undisturbed and allowed to set for it to reach full strength.



                                                   To be continued! Tune in next Friday, Dec 13th for the next installment of our Tile Terminology Series...