The technical criteria for choosing ceramic tiles | by Livio Salvadori
How to choose ceramic tiles with the right technical and performance characteristics according to the stresses they will be exposed to.
Ceramic tiles should be selected according to two criteria: first technical and subsequently aesthetic. The order of the two steps can be inverted (first aesthetic and then technical) provided the tiles have the necessary performance characteristics (mechanical, chemical and hygrometric) to enable them to withstand the anticipated levels of stress.
For example, in a location exposed to high surface mechanical stresses, tiles with appropriate surface mechanical characteristics must be chosen regardless of their size, colour, finish and decoration.
This means it is not sufficient to choose good-quality products that meet the requirements established by the reference standards: they must meet the specific technical requirements of each place of use. The same applies to the materials that make up the other layers of the tiling (particularly mortar or adhesive) and the design solution adopted.
A few examples will make this concept clearer.
For exteriors, ceramic slabs with declared and certified frost resistance should be chosen.
Ceramic materials intended for use on a factory floor must have a compact body with suitable mechanical characteristics and if possible an extra-large thickness to ensure a higher breaking load. The tiles must also be highly resistant to abrasion and chemicals (including acids and alkalis) and have a hard, compact surface to limit the penetration of dirt and to facilitate cleaning and sanitising operations. In areas at high slip risk, the chosen tiles must have a non-slip surface (i.e. with suitable roughness or relief).
For floors in high-traffic public spaces, the chosen products should have the highest levels of hardness and resistance to abrasion, staining and chemicals, as well as being easy to clean. In areas with direct access to the outdoor environment, caution should be exercised before choosing tiles with a glossy glazed finish as they are liable to get scratched and lose their shine prematurely due to the constant presence of abrasive dirt brought in on shoes.
Similar considerations apply for the entrance zone of a home with direct access from outdoors (garden, courtyard, road, etc.). And as already mentioned, kitchen floor and wall tiles must have high chemical resistance, as well as excellent surface mechanical characteristics in the case of the floor tiles.