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Cement tiles, also known as cement encaustic tiles, are flat, thin tiles often shaped with beveled edges for lining or covering a surface. Cement tiles can be designed for a wide variety of applications. They come in many shapes, sizes, thicknesses, and colors. Often, they include characteristics such as corrosion resistance and wear protection. Cement tiles can also be used for aesthetic purposes. They come in shapes ranging from polygonal to specialty shapes to narrow rectangles for borders, and can provide intricate surface decoration. Some cement tiles are designed with particular earthy pigments to make them look like terra cotta tiles. Since they are not frost-proof, cement tiles are typically used only in indoor applications, except in warmer climes.
Cement tiles are hard wearing and durable, making them suitable for high traffic areas such as walkways. They can also be used to cover walls, floors, roofs, bathrooms, and other indoor spaces. Cement tiles are frequently hand-made and consist of a variety of layers. A color layer consists of a mixture of marble powder, white cement, minerals, and pigments. This mixture is poured into a design mold that forms the shape, size, and features of the tile’s face. A layer of cement is put on top of the color layer to provide a bond between the color layer and the main body of the tile. The final layer consists of cement and sand. The cement tiles are then hydraulically compressed under high pressure, increasing the tile’s density.
Cement tiles are typically cured or dried rather than fired, like ceramics that are made of clay. They are generally cured for 2 to 4 weeks before being installed. Some manufacturers also cure their cement tiles underwater for increased hardness. These tiles are used in residential applications are sealed after installation, making them stain and moisture resistant. Using a sealer also bonds and strengthens the tile, ensuring that the color surface is protected and preventing exposure of the stone aggregate layer underneath.
How to Make Cement Tiles
While many manufacturers of cement tiles use hand-made techniques, some companies use industrial processing equipment such as electric powered hydraulic presses. This is done because high-pressure presses can embed the color layer more deeply into the cement layer, resulting in tiles that have a long lifespan.
The surface receiving the cement tiles must be properly prepared before installation. The surface should be smooth and free of grease or wax. In moist areas, installers should use a moisture-resistant sub layer like cement-fiber board underneath the tile. Prior to installation, installers should completely submerge the tiles in a bucket of water for 5-10 minutes. This process makes the cement tiles quicker to adhere to the surface and improves the quality of the adhesive bond.
Cement tiles are useful because they are very durable, but they are also easily adapted to a variety of designs and color specifications. Many are manufactured with all natural materials, and are lead-free and recyclable, making them environmentally-friendly. Some cement roof tiles may contain silica, however, which can be dangerous if inhaled.