Designing and installing ceramic tiling | by Livio Salvadori
Like any good project, a successful tile installation not only requires the use of correctly-chosen high-quality materials but also relies on the work of an expert architect and tile layer.
A tiling project must be meticulously planned to ensure a flat, regular and harmonious surface that combines integrity, durability and safety. During the design stage, the architect must carefully assess a number of key aspects including the characteristics of the substrate, the place of installation and the technical specifications of the chosen ceramic tiles.
These criteria are used to establish a series of procedures. The first step is to determine the installation technique to be used as well as the type, composition, thickness and method of application of the bedding layer used to bond the tiles to the substrate. This layer may consist of cementitious mortar or various types of adhesive. In this stage it is necessary to decide whether any treatments need to be performed or products applied prior to tiling. The second step involves determining the width, direction and layout of the joints between the tiles, which can be straight or staggered, parallel, diagonal, etc. The type of material used for grouting the joints is also important. A wide range of products are available, including: traditional cementitious grouts; ready-mixed cementitious mortars complete with additives for guaranteed performance characteristics and a wide range of colours; reaction resin grouts resistant to chemical attack; elastic sealants for expansion and control joints; grouts incorporating antibacterial systems for use with antimicrobial tiles. Finally, it is necessary to determine whether expansion and deformation joints are required and if so their size. Although they may disrupt the visual discontinuity of the tiled surface, they are essential for guaranteeing the reliability and durability of the tiling.
A wide range of new exterior paving and façade cladding technologies have emerged in recent years. As part of their continuous research efforts, installation product companies have developed increasingly high-performance materials and systems designed specifically for different types of projects, including highly challenging applications such as exteriors and large-size slabs and panels.
These research efforts are focusing in particular on techniques capable of achieving the increasingly strict performance criteria associated with the use of ceramic tiles as a finishing element in technological systems.
In the field of façade installation, more complex techniques have now been introduced alongside the traditional adhesive and cementitious mortar methods. These include: mixed systems that use a combination of adhesives and mechanical anchors to create a strong bond in specific risk conditions; systems based on prefabricated infill panels, generally with a metallic or vibrated cement structure, clad with ceramic tiles fixed by means of adhesives or structural silicone; and complete ventilated façade systems consisting of large fiberglass-reinforced external ceramic slabs secured mechanically to a metallic substructure by means of dedicated visible brackets or retracting plugs mounted on the back of the slab.
Raised floor systems are also becoming increasingly popular for projects requiring high levels of functional performance. Based on well-established technology, these interior and exterior flooring solutions use adjustable-height metallic structures to support structurally-inert floor panels with a ceramic surface with specific dimensions, calibrations and edging.