Ceramic tile has been used for interior floor and wall finishes for thousands of years. Common historic tile includes quarry tile, encaustic tile, tin-glazed tiles, mosaic, art tile, and industrial tile. Other types available tile includes glass, stone, and concrete.
Ceramic tile is comprised of clay-based materials that have been molded and fired to create a unit masonry material. It can be either unglazed or glazed. Glaze, essentially a layer of vitrified glass post-firing, reduces water absorption in addition to decorating the tile’s surface. Prior to the 20th century, ceramic tile was hand-pressed and fired at lower, less uniform temperatures. With upgrades in manufacturing, material properties improved, which in turn enhanced the uniformity, density, and strength of tile. However, hand-made tiles are still in production and at times used decoratively in interior spaces.
Prior to repairing, replacing, or restoring existing tile, sources of deterioration should be addressed and mitigated. Refer to our restoration best practices page for additional information, details, and resources. Below, find tile repair and restoration options for consideration for your project.
Ceramic tile that are severely cracked, spalled, or otherwise damaged are commonly replaced rather than repaired in situ. It’s best to find tile that matches the existing tile aesthetically and has similar compatible material properties. Tile can be replaced with new stock, old stock, salvaged, vintage, or historic replica tile made by specialty manufacturers. Care should be given to preventing damage to tile surrounding those being removed and replaced.
New tile should generally be replaced to mimic the existing system. Prior to the advent of thinset mortar in the mid-20th century, tile was installed in a thick bed of fresh mortar. Wall tiles would be adhered in a bed of mortar directly to a masonry substrate or over expanded metal lathe. Floor tile would be set in a thick bed of fresh mortar over a cementitious setting bed or screed. Grout was then installed between the set tiles.
IMI’s free project support, technical assistance, and education is here to help you at any stage in your building’s lifecycle.
Our multidisciplinary team draws on decades of experience developing solutions for high-performing masonry and tile projects.
Here are some additional resources that focus on tile repair and restoration. For a more comprehensive list of repair and restoration resources, please refer to the restoration page. For additional guidance, contact IMI.
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