How Ceramic Tiles Are Created
Ceramic tiles have been a staple in corporate buildings, places of worship, bathrooms, swimming pools and homes for many years, and are considered one of the go-to materials when renovating an area that screams both status and practicality. They add beauty and an element of theatre to any room, and are considered to be one of the most adaptable and versatile ways to brighten up a space.
The process of creating these tiles, refined as it has become in recent years, is actually a very simple one and has changed little in the thousands of years these tiles have been popular. The ceramic tiles we know today are created with the help of mechanised systems which allow for faster and more accurate production, but the tiles of old were actually crafted by hand. The raw ingredient, wet clay, was fashioned into the shape of a basic tile, usually with the assistance of some sort of home-made mould. They were then left outdoors to dry; an effective process in countries like Egypt and Greece, where hot weather ensured they didn’t take long to become solid. The colder countries of the world fired the tiles in a brick oven known as a kiln, heating tens of tiles at a time to be sold at market or used in the most elegant rooms for ancient Kings and Queens.
Nowadays, ceramic tiles undergo a process called ‘dust pressing’. The raw materials, which vary between manufacturers but often include quartz, water and sand, are ground up to create what is called a ‘body slip’. The mixture is placed into a dryer and heated so that any moisture that was initially within the tile, with the task of helping to ‘glue’ the components together, is dissipated before the next step in the process. The body slip becomes something akin to powder, or dust; hence the name ‘dust pressing’.
The newly-formed dust is then placed into a press and pushed into the set shape of a tile. They can be tiny mosaic tiles or huge slabs of ceramic used for kitchen countertops or works of art. This finalised shape is called the ‘bisque’, and is then dried out even further to remove the last of the moisture from the almost completed natural ceramic tile.
Glazes can then be added to the tiles to improve their aesthetic; glossy, matte and even pigmented finishes make the tile ready to go into any home or corporate setting. Whether glazed or not, the tiles then enter the final phase; the one which goes back thousands of years: the kiln.
The general rule states that the higher the temperature, the stronger the tile will end up. At their centre, many kilns reach temperatures of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, making them ideal materials for sturdy walls and floors. The cooling down period after the kiln used to take hours of standing alone, but now manufacturers have cut down the waiting time to just under an hour, meaning that these stunning glazed ceramic tiles can go from manufacturers to the home, office, place of worship, gym or swimming pool as quickly as possible.
The ceramic tile is a strong, hardwearing and beautiful material with which to furnish homes, workplaces and public areas. They are a great alternative to porcelain and natural stone tiles, and have similar strengths to these options. The basic process of their creation, though thousands of years old, has hardly changed, adding weight to the common notion that you cannot improve upon perfection.
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