30 Oct 18
I’m absolutely loving the trend for bold patterned cement tiles and have to admit to being a fully signed up fan, having just tiled my hallway in the Old Havana cement tile by Claybrook studio. Throughout my research I came across lots of great advise and differing opinions on the suitability of cement tiles so I thought I’d share all on this blog post so you can work out if they are for you.
So first up, what even are cement tiles anyway! Commonly called cement tiles, encaustic tiles or concrete tiles, the origin of this style of tile and manufacture dates back to medieval times. Then there was then a big resurgence in their popularity in the Victorian era. The Victorians just loved anything and everything heavily decorated and so this patterned tile style was ideal for making statements in hallways, where they were commonly found- and still are to this day. The manufacturing process has been widely used in various locations around the world including Morroco, Spain, The Netherlands, France, Brazil and Cuba. The demand declined after the introduction of ceramic tiles in the 1960’s. But now they’re back in vogue!
Cement tiles are wonderfully durable due to their manufacture. Hand made using a blend of cement, mineral pigments, marble powder and fine sand, the pattern of the tile is inlaid into the body of the tile. This means after hundreds of years of wear and tear, the pattern remains wholly visible, whereas a painted or printed pattern will eventually fade. Modern encaustic tiles use a two-shot moulding process. The ‘inlay’ colour is moulded first. For multiple colours, a mould with cavities for each colour is used and the individual colours are filled carefully. This coloured clay is then placed facedown in a mould that is backfilled with the body colour. The tiles are then fired. However they are left very porous and this is where people run into problems.
Cement tiles need careful and diligent sealing. When we laid our Claybrook Studio tiles, they were laid onto the adhesive, which was then left to fully dry out. They were then carefully sealed before grouting. However the grouting process can then strip the sealant so we applied two further coats after the grouting had been applied and wiped away. It was a laborious and messy job but I think the effect is stunning. I chose a dark grey grout, which has stained the tiles slightly. However I’m pleased with this effect as it gives the tiles an aged patina, which is what I wanted, and one of the main reasons I didn’t go for a printed porcelain tile. They retain their colour and pattern but can also be polished back to their original state. However I think you have to be very clear on what look you want. My husband, who is a builder, has had customers who are unhappy with their cement tiles because of the way they mark and stain. They will not look box fresh for very long, and you need to know that that is part of their charm. If you want a bright fresh and very clean look, I’d say cement tiles are not for you, but there are plenty of ceramic imititaions. However I love the more contemporary designs that are being pioneered by brand like Bert and May, Popham designs and Otto tiles. They are unashamedly bold and graphic and make a real style statement.
- Tiles stand the test of time – many tiles made and fitted in the Victorian era (and even medieval) can still be found in great condition showing their incredible resilience.
- Look equally as striking on walls, as splash backs, in shower rooms, bathrooms and around fireplaces. Can even be used in outside paving areas.
- Come in a multitude of patterns and colours and as many are made by hand there are bespoke options available, making them an interior designers dream.
- They are traditionally manufactured and have an aged appeal, but with so many contemporary designs on offer they work well in both old and new properties.
- Although hardwearing they can be susceptible to damage and staining from acid based solutions, so worth keeping in mind when using in a bathroom – correctly sealing them is crucial.
- A professional fitter/contractor is advised for installation
- They tend to be thicker than most tiles so you will need to take that into consideration when planning – think about floor transitions and door hangs.
- Are heavier than many tiles so your subfloor will need to be prepared to withstand the weight.
- Will need continued maintenance and sealing to keep them looking their best.
MY LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Bert & May
Have made waves in the media for making cement tiles cool again. Look out for their design collaborations with DarkRoom and the Conran Shop. Designed in the UK and hand poured in southern Spain by a family of fourth generation artisan tillers.
Prices start from £125 per sqm
Delivery time; Stock items 1-2 weeks, or 4-5 weeks for special orders
Maitland & Poate
They specialize in reclaimed encaustic tiles, if that is what you are after but do check out their beautifully designed encaustic cement tiles, handmade using the original techniques from Valencia and Cordoba. I’m loving their range of hexagon shaped tiles.
Prices start at £105 sqm
Delivery time 7-8 weeks
Tiles come with 8mm of colour layer and smooth finish. They grind the surface of their cement floor tiles so they do not absorb the stains and the dirt. Browse to see more than 400 patterns from Moroccan to very Modern Geometric designs handmade encaustic cement tiles.
Prices start at £70 sqm
Delivery time 4-6 weeks
New tile kid on the block, have a select range of cement tiles but unlike many other brands they hold stock and so you can get going with your project straight away. The Old Havana cement tiles, in vibrant shades and playful designs, are based on travels to this fascinating country.
Prices start at £69.90 sqm
Delivery time- most within 5 working days
Traditional cement tiles made in Spain. All 250 patterns are completely customisable to the colours of your choice and bespoke designs can be made too. Using natural colours and materials from an approved quarry which guarantees respect for the environment. They do really lovely mixed patterned designs.
Prices start at £62 sqm
Stock items 1-2 weeks, or 6-8 weeks for special orders
I first found these guys on Instagram as they have a seriously good colour loving feed. Founded in 2007 by Americans Caitlin and Samuel Dowe-Sandes, this bespoke tile workshop is based in Marrakech, Morocco. The company designs tiles that are exported throughout the world, adorning luxury hotels, restaurants and residences from San Francisco to Sydney. Based in the US you can buy their very bright and contemporary designs from London retailer Day True
Designer Marianne Smink has a backround in fashion print design and offers a designer tile service. The tiles are made to order and shipped directly from the factory. This allows you to be flexible in your colour and design choice to match your project.
Prices from £146 sqm
Delivery times 4-6 weeks
Their handmade Encaustic Tiles have a very modern appeal with bold sixties inspired patterns in rich and saturated pigments. They have a wide range of plain cement tiles too in mouthwatering colours making it easy to pick the perfect hue.
Prices start at £168 sqm
Delivery time 4-8 weeks
I’ll be posting the reveal of my hallway, featuring the Claybrook Studio cement tiles, in the next few weeks, so look out for that!
CREDITS: Research for this post was by Luisa Ferdenzi-Rouse.
Featured image at top of post is from Maitland & Poate handmade Keidos blue from £4.20 each