5 Things You Should (Not) do with Saltillo Tile Floors

rustico tile

Already have a Saltillo tile floor? Or considering it for your next home project?

We’ve helped over 200K customers in the past two decades. Take it from us… there are some do’s and don’ts regarding Saltillo tile flooring.

Let’s jump in & bust up some rumors.

How To save $$$ When Purchasing Saltillo Tile

sealed vs. unsealed terracotta tile flooring

terracotta tile
Terracotta tile

Point #1Do not buy unsealed tiles because presealed tiles will save $$ on your budget! 

Buying unsealed Saltillo tile is problematic for several reasons.  For example, raw terracotta 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 coated into the tile. 

Here’s the math if you’re working with unsealed Saltillo tile.

5+ coats of sealer + Labor cost to apply sealer + (a LOT) of time = $$$

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 ready to install?

unsealed terracotta tile

Our recipe for success is simple.  

Buy a Presealed Tile, Install it, and Apply the final topcoat sealer.  Done

(And our topcoat sealers have lifespans of 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 ☺

Point #2 – 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 so you can avoid this entire topic!). Buy it presealed and install it as-is.

handmade tile
See the difference between Sealed (darker) & Unsealed tiles (lighter)?

Should I Use Spacers?

do not use spacers while installing handmade tiles

Point #3 – 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.  Any adept tile installer will install Saltillo tile flourishingly if our tips are followed.  Put simply, apply a craftsmanship approach as the terra cotta flooring is being laid.

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

install terracotta tile
Installing Saltillo Tile with NO Spacers

Check out our YouTube channel for helpful videos related to these topics!

This is a popular video about Mexican tiles!

Should I Strip Saltillo Tile?

not if it can be avoided

Point #4 – 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.

how to strip mexican 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

Point #5 – Do not use harsh chemicals to clean your sealed Saltillo floor.

This is a common-sense approach to tile sealer.  The lifespan of a good quality sealer will last several years when it’s maintained properly.

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.

how to clean saltillo tile flooring

Other Helpful Saltillo Tile Resources

If you don’t see it here, reach out to us

Explore our 4 Saltillo Tile Color Options – Traditional, Manganese, Spanish Mission Red, & Antique. We have a choice for every space and budget!

We manufactuer Saltillo tile in dozens of shapes, sizes, and patterns. Check out the options with photo galleries!

Explore all things Mexican tile, Spanish decor, or Rustic style. Get some great ideas with our Mexican tile cheat sheet!

These are the most important questions to ask before purchasing terracotta tile for your next project.

Our Blog is an amazing resource filled with how-to’s, design ideas, maintenance suggestions, and more.

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