Our Definitive Guide to Tile Terminology: S-Z | Fireclay Tile
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Our Definitive Guide to Tile Terminology: S-Z

Our Definitive Guide to Tile Terminology: S-Z

Subway Tile shown in Kiwi; image: Malcom Fearon, Bliss Images

It's Friday again, and it is the last week of our Definitive Guide to Tile Terminology!  This week we are covering the final section of the alphabet, S through Z.  We have had some great feedback from our readers and staff this past month, and have added many of their suggestions to our list!  In the future, we hope to add our guide to tile terminology to our website to serve as a helpful resource while tackling your tile installations.


Sawed Edge – A clean-cut edge generally achieved by cutting with a diamond blade, gang saw, or wire saw.

Sealer – A penetrate applied to prevent the absorption of liquids or other debris. Used with porous materials including: quarry tile, grout, and natural stone. Sealer is not necessary for glazed ceramic tile.

Semi-Vitreous Tile – Tiles that absorb from 3% to 7% moisture. They are applicable for indoor use only.

Skid Resistance – A measure of the frictional characteristics of a surface.

Spacers – Plastic pieces that are used in installation to evenly separate tile. Manufactured in various thicknesses and shapes.

Substrate – The underlayment for the ceramic tile installation.

Subway Tile – The shape of a subway tile is rectangular and very flat, set with a tight grout joint, and often comes in sizes such as 3"x6", 4"x8", etc. Modern subway tiles tend to be beveled on the edge, allowing for a deeper grout joint. Subway tiles can be set in a brick pattern or stacked verticially or horizontally.

Stacked Set – Setting a tile in a stacked set just means to center adjacent tiles next to each other without any stagger.  Any shape tile that is square or rectangular may be set with a stacked pattern.

Straight Set – Tile set square to the wall.

Trim Options


Tile – A ceramic unit, usually thin in relation to facial area. Made from clay or a mixture of clay and other ceramic material. Has a glazed or an unglazed face.

Tile Cutter – The tile cutter is one of the most efficient and economic tools in the tile setting trade. A popular model is the hand-drawn tile cutting board that is adjustable.

Tile Nipper – Special pliers that nibble away little bites of ceramic tile to create small, irregular or curved cuts.

Thin–Set – A term used to describe the bond coat in a thin bed installation.  It is made of sand, cement and usually a latex additive.

Trim Pieces – Various shaped of bases, caps, corners, moldings, angles, etc.

Tumbled – A finish achieved by placing stone tiles in a tumbling machine, sometimes with the addition of acids, to soften the edges and give the surface a worn look.


Unfilled – An expression used to indicate that there has been no filling of natural voids in stone units with cements or synthetic resins and similar materials.

Unglazed Tile – A hard, dense tile of uniform composition. No glaze.

Our Tile in Cerulean, which has a V3 color variation


Vitreous Tile – Has water absorption of more than 0.5%, but not more than 3%.

V1 Color Variation – Uniform Appearance: Differences among pieces from the same production run are minimal.

V2 Color Variation – Slight Variation: Clear differences may exist in texture and/or shade within the same colors of any given batch run.

V3 Color Variation – Slight Variation: Clear differences may exist in texture and/or shade within the same colors of any given batch run.

V4 Color Variation – Moderate Variation: Greater color and shade differences from tile to tile, so that one tile may have noticeably different shade from that on other tiles.  This ensures that the final installation will be unique.


Wainscote – The area of a tiled wall that is installed from the floor to the chair rail height, or slightly higher, with a border or cap finishing the installation.

Wall Tile – Glazed tile with a body suitable for interior use. Not expected to withstand excessive impact or be subject to freezing/thawing conditions. It is not appropriate for use on a floor.

White Body – The color of the body is determined by the color of the clay used by the manufacturer. The body of a white body tile will be white in color. The quality of the tile is more related to the quality of the manufacturer rather than the color of the body.