Skip to main content

Saltillo Tile Tips for Saving Money

sealed vs unsealed Mexican Saltillo flooring

You’ve probably heard the rumors about Saltillo tile floors.  Soak it, Strip it, Spacers, Seal it…  I could go on and on with the old wives’ tales and myths.  The truth is that all things change over time.

NOW, Saltillo tile floors are created to be more durable, longer-lasting, less maintenance… and GORGEOUS!  Though Mexican Saltillo tile floors offer a timeless look,  installation techniques have improved over the years.

Here are 5 things you should no longer do with saltillo tile…. because, well, you don’t have to!

terracotta tilePin

1.  Do not buy unsealed tile because presealed tiles will save you $$! If you’re trying to save a buck, then let me offer a pro tip.  Buying unsealed Saltillo tile is problematic for several reasons.  The raw clay is extremely absorbent.  What you’re saving by purchasing unsealed tile will be spent (in excess) by buying enough sealer to protect the clay properly.

Rustico Tile® presealed tiles have 5 coats of penetrating sealer already coated into the tile.  Here’s the math if you are considering unsealed clay tiles.

5 coats of sealer + Labor cost for application of sealer + Time required for the sealer to dry = BIG $$$

In fact, most of our customers who attempt to seal their unsealed saltillo tile floors regret it.  Then, they call us to troubleshoot their messed up floors.  Fixing saltillo floors is not without considerable expense and stress.  Why go through this madness when you can buy a great quality presealed saltillo tile that is ready to install?

sealed vs unsealed saltillo tilePin

Our recipe for success is simple.  Buy Presealed Tile, Install it, Apply final topcoat sealer.  Done.  (And our topcoat sealers have lifespans up to 15 years, so there’s very little maintenance with this process.  Trust the pros at Rustico Tile®.)

Should I Soak Saltillo Tile?

short answer... no ☺

Do not soak saltillo tile. Once upon a time, installers would soak saltillo tile in water before setting it with thinset.  This was done to serve the purpose of what the penetrating sealer accomplishes for the tiles now.

If Saltillo tiles are soaked in water, you can expect to deal with efflorescence issues throughout the lifespan of your floor.  This is an imperative point.  Don’t trap excess water in the clay during the installation process.  To reiterate point #1 above, don’t buy unsealed Saltillo tile.  Buy it presealed and install it as-is.

Should I Use Spacers?

do not use spacers while installing handmade Saltillo flooring

install terracotta tilePin

Don’t use spacers when you install your Saltillo tile. Because saltillo floors are handmade, there are variations in size and thickness from one tile to the next.  This begets the use of spacers as problematic.  Your floor installation may go smoothly at first, but the tiles will start spreading out in a funky way several square feet into the installation space.

Rather than use spacers, a good installer will draw grid lines or snap chalk lines on the subfloor for guidance as the tile is set.  See above.  Any adept tile installer will install saltillo tile flourishingly if our tips are followed.  He or she needs to apply a craftsmanship approach as the tile is being laid.

(This is not true of all types of Mexican floor tile.  Our beautiful Cement Tiles & Cantera Stone tiles can be installed with spacers.)

Should I Strip Saltillo Tile?

not if it can be avoided

how to strip mexican tilePin

Do not strip your tile. Really… please don’t do it.

We only recommend stripping saltillo clay tile as a last resort to repair or refinish a floor.  In most instances, a floor can be fixed using other methods that will not damage or discolor the tile.

The risks presented with chemically stripping saltillo floors include bleaching/discoloration of the clay, sealer delamination from the clay, and ongoing maintenance issues created from residual stripping chemicals trapped in the clay.  Look at other maintenance options before you consider stripping your saltillo floors.

But just in case you want to…

How to Clean Saltillo Tile

avoid harsh chemicals

how to clean saltillo tile flooringPin

Do not use harsh chemicals to clean your sealed saltillo floor. This is really a common-sense approach to tile sealer.  The lifespan of a good quality sealer will last several years.

Preserve the life of your sealer by using diluted cleaning chemicals or no chemicals at all.  I love the disinfecting power of a steam mop on my saltillo floors.  No chemicals are used with steam mops, so the life of the sealer is preserved.

Helpful Saltillo Tile Resources

if you don't see it here, reach out to us!

I hope you find these tips to be beneficial.  Installing and living on saltillo floors should something you’re proud to own and love to show off to friends.  After all, you must have an exquisite taste if you’ve purchased handmade saltillo flooring.

Follow these tips to avoid headaches and ongoing, unnecessary maintenance for the life of your floor.

Enjoy other helpful resources while you Make Every Space Count!

Saltillo Tile Colors

what's best for your terracotta flooring project?

Saltillo Tile Patterns

what's best for your terracotta flooring project?

saltillo tile advicePin