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When you buy tiles…

            …Always buy the desired quantity at once. If you need tiles there are the so-called “lots”. If you bye tiles separately it may turn out that the tiles from your “lot” are no longer available and in this case the other tiles may differ in shades and caliber. Also you have to pay attention to the markings (if any) on the crates when you buy tiles. Most manufacturers put markings on the box that indicates the name, number, shade, size, date of manufacture. When you receive the tiles the markings on the crates should be the same.


            …Always take about 15% more than required. That way if there is an unexpected problem with a tile or two you will have replacements from the same batch. You have to keep some tiles after the repair works so that if there is a problem with tiles later in years you will be able to amend mend them. Imagine that the buildings are been renovated – an amendment of the stand pipes always is risky for damages …; the old floor plughole which makes trouble to the neighbor downstairs … In two words: the tiles are not eternal.


Which are the qualitative  tiles?

Typical tiles features and components.

1)      Origin


The fact is that there are thousands of tile factories worldwide. Leading manufacturers of bathroom tiles and ceramic tiles are Italy and Spain where most of the factories are situated. Among all of them, naturally, there are factories producing different classes of tiles – lower, average and higher class. The quality is not guaranteed even if you buy Spanish or Italian tiles. Therefore origin is not a clear criterion for the quality of the tiles.

2)      Design


The design is the main indicator when people choose tiles, but it does not define the quality. Often you may see tiles with identical design, but with different prices and with different manufacturer and very often people say: “Oh, I saw these in a different store and with different price.” Tiles with identical design can be manufactured in lower or higher class factories; respectively the quality can be either low or high. The primary source of the design of a certain model very often is unclear, because tile factories either has their own designers or work with a design studio or simply copy an already existing model.  The usage of a design studio is most common. The manufacturer goes to a studio; choose a model from the designer’s catalogue for the same year with the new collections and gets “recipes” and instructions on how to make that particular model; then he pays and gets the rights to produce these types of tiles. After that another manufacturer comes and … he chooses the same model. That is how we get the same design but different quality and origin.

3)      Price


The ratio price-quality, like in any other product, is very important. Higher price doesn’t necessarily mean higher standard even usually is in that way. Here is why:

Pricing of products is determined at first place by the manufacturer and by the merchant at second. It should be clear that the cost of producing a tile is basically the same for any manufacturer but market price may have great difference. If, for example, we buy tiles from Italy (middle-class Italian tiles) and from Bulgaria the market price difference may be huge, but the cost and quality of producing may be insignificant. The increase of the price depends on several factors: design, size, transportation costs, rental costs, marketing costs and brand name. For example, let’s take tiles that only differ in size – tiles 20x25 and tiles 20x50. The first ones are two or three times cheaper than the second ones. Why is there such a difference given that the price for tiles is per square meter, and the materials for producing are the same? Well, the answer is simple – trends in size. It is just that the smaller ones are outdated and the others are modern. Example of the same cost but different market price can be given also with sanitary ware. The cost of product is measurable by the amount of porcelain invested in this product. You can see two identical monoblocks (with the same mechanism and weight) of the same manufacturer but with totally different market price. What is the difference? – Design!

4)      Water absorption.


The thing we should know about ceramic tiles is that they have very small water absorption ability. Tiles that are made from white clay are considered as such. There are manufacturers of white clay tiles mostly in Italy, Turkey, Ukraine and Poland. Tiles produced in Bulgaria are also made from white clay. This does not mean that brown clay tiles are with poor quality, white clay simply have better indicators.

Water absorption is important for bath tiles and laundry room tiles. When the plate has good water absorption ability, water penetrates through the gaps and the seeps into the tile structure. The permeation of water leaves a visual mark that looks like stains. If the room does not get wet for a while tiles dry and the stains disappear until the next time it wets. It should be clear that all bathroom tiles and floor tiles have water absorption ability. Penetration of water in the tile can be avoided using water-repellant mixtures and grouts. Main brands on the market for water-repellant and waterproof grouts are Weber and Ceresit.

Permeation of water depends on the porosity of the tile. The visibility of the water stains on a tile depends on the glazes used to cover that tile. Wherever transparent glazes are used the stains are more visible. This does not make the tile defective. The purpose of the transparent glaze is improving the design.

5)  Wearing out.

Grade of wearing out is applied mainly on floor tiles since they are subjected to higher load. The scale of which this grade is measured is called PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute). It consists of six levels of durability to which different types of glazes correspond.

PEI 0 Unfit for Use.

PEI 1 Not for foot traffic – wall tiles and facing tiles.

PEI 2 Low foot traffic, without abrasive particles – laundry room tiles, bathroom tiles.

PEI 3 Average foot traffic – kitchens, dinning rooms, corridors, etc.

PEI 4 Moderately heavy foot traffic – residential buildings corridors, shops, etc.

PEI 5 Heavy foot traffic – shops, public buildings, streets, subway stations, etc.

Measurements are made by a device that rotates small balls into circle so that they can scratch the surface of the tile. Levels of durability are determined by the number of turns the ball has made. The grade is determined according to the number of turns.

PEI 0 - Up to 100 rpm.

PEI 1 - 100 to 150 rpm.

PEI 2 – 150 to 600 rpm.

PEI 3 – 600 to 1500 rpm

PEI 4 – 2100 to 12000 rpm.

PEI 5 – above 12000 rpm.

6) Porcelain or clay tiles?

Porcelain and clay tiles are floorings that differ in structure. Because of the different types of clay that clay tiles are made of their structure is more water absorbing. The main raw material used in the porcelain tiles (no matter cheap or expensive porcelain tiles) is feldspar, which is also the main material used for making porcelain and glass. Its advantage over clay tiles is that it is more suitable for outdoor areas. This is due to almost non-existent water absorption porcelain has. If clay tiles are placed outdoors, penetration of water is possible which after freezing can easily crack the tile. Porcelain tiles are also characterized with greater strength, which makes them suitable for installation in garages and different types of industrial facilities. There are myths about porcelain tiles: “doesn’t get dirty”, “easier to clean”, “doesn’t wear off easy”, etc. – these assumptions are as true for the porcelain tiles as for the clay tiles, it depends on the type of glaze trey are covered. The only exception is the homogeneous porcelain tile where glaze is missing. When it comes to installing tiles indoors, it is irrelevant whether glazed porcelain or clay tiles are used.


7) Tile batches

All tiles are produced in batches, i.e. a certain amount is produced of a certain model, after its depletion the same model is put into production again, but that is a different batch. Batches are distinguished one from another by the following:

-          difference in shades. The difference in color between batches is permissible. When producing different products where paint is involved there are batches. One example – if a car is hit after the repaint, the newly painted element always differs in color from the rest of the car. Nuance in tiles is marked on the box with either letters or numbers.

-          difference in size. When annealing tiles in furnace they shrink. Since shrinking can not be done with exact precision, there may be a deviation of up to a few millimeters in the final scale. That is why in tile production are used the so-called “calibrators” that sort all tiles from the same size in a box. Gauges or dimensions are marked on the box.



8) Tile adhesive – types and function


In a large percentage of cases the cause of cracking is not the plates themselves but the materials used for their installation. Because of the easy way of producing, there is a big offering of adhesives on the market. The main ingredient in tile adhesives is cement. When cement exceeds the permissible limit, the mixture becomes “stronger”. Before adhesives appeared, tiles were glued with cement. Before gluing with cement tiles are soaked in water for 24 hours. The irrigation helps slowing down the cement drying, which protects the tiles from cracking. The high content of cement in the mixtures usually leads to cracking, which mostly concerns bathroom tiles. Whether it will be Spanish, Italian or Bulgarian tiles, it is all about the adhesive. In modern adhesives there are ingredients that help keeping the water in the solution, which helps the slower drying. High content of cemen in the glue can occur in production – that is made to “save resources”. Another known way is adding cement by your handyman – he does that either to “save resources” or to “prevent the solution slumping down the wall”.

Therefore you should only use tile adhesives that are established on the market (Ceresit, Weber, Mapei, etc.).

Here is the meaning of certain markings and characteristics that are important to know when buying tile adhesives.


C1 – Tile adhesive based on cement;

C2 – Tile adhesive based on cement with improved quality;

C1T – Tile adhesive based on cement without slumping;

C1E – Tile adhesive based on cement with extended working time;

C1F – Tile adhesive based on cement with rapid solidification;

C1TE – Tile adhesive based on cement with extended working time without slumping;

C1FT – Tile adhesive based on cement with rapid solidification without slumping;

C1FE – Tile adhesive based on cement with extended working time and rapid solidification;

C2T – Tile adhesive based on cement with improved quality without slumping;

C2E – Tile adhesive based on cement with improved quality and extended working time;

 C2F – Tile adhesive based on cement with improved quality and rapid solidification;

 C2TE – Tile adhesive based on cement with improved quality, extended working time and without slumping;

 C2FT – Tile adhesive based on cement with improved quality, rapid solidification and without slumping.

A common mistake is using the same class of adhesives for different types of tiles, spaces, bases, temperatures, etc. The worst mistake is using cement based adhesive for outdoor installation of porcelain tiles. Since these are porcelain tiles, they should be glued using flex adhesives with more chemical ingredients (for example Ceresit CM16, Ceresit CM17, Weber Flex, Isomat AK12, Isomat AK25, etc.). For wall and floor tiles it is allowed the use of cement based adhesives since the adhesion occurs when the mixture is absorbed within the plate. With porcelain tiles, however, that is impossible since its water absorption is almost 0%. There will always be a tiles handyman who’ll say: ”Well I’ve installed so many tiles, none of them is loose.” Ok, but especially outdoors there so many tiles that are loose because of the temperature differences. You should know that outdoors the 3mm gap is almost mandatory. Even installed, tiles change their dimensions because of the temperature differences. If the gap is not there, tiles are likely to crack or even peel off with sudden changes in temperature.

9)      What the tile surface should be?


There are darkened, smooth, polished, embossed tiles – hygiene is the main criteria when looking for tiles, sometimes people even ignore their preferences with regard to a lesser need of washing. Remember: tiles which do not require maintenance do not exist. Fortunately there are highly effective cleansers that do wonders. Self-cleaning tiles, unfortunately, are not invented yet.

Another matter with the tile surface is the slipperiness of the tail when wet. A good and cheap way of preventing slipping is using an anti-slip agent. Through this type of treatment you will be insured against possible accidents.



10)    What color should we choose?


Choosing the color of the tiles and bathroom “furniture” is crucial for the design and presentation of the bathroom. Every color or combination of colors gives a different feeling. Here are some of the topical suggestions:

-          Red – lends an air of emotion and energy. Red bathroom tiles are rarely used alone, being complemented by another color.

-          Black – exceptional style and elegance. Black tiles are combined with bright colors for more avant-garde effect. Lately the so called “graphite black” is used.

-          Blue – blue bathroom tiles are associated with sea and sky. They are used either alone or in combination with other colors and shades. This is a classic interior design for bathrooms.

-          Green – with green bathroom tiles you feel closer to nature, they act relaxing and soothing. There are mainly in a combination of a lighter shade with a darker one. Moreover, green is used in painted floral tiles and decorative friezes.


Still, we need to know that on darker tiles stains, dust and other dirt are more visible.