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Buying Sealed vs. Unsealed Saltillo Tile | Advice (Updated with Photos)

buy sealed saltillo tile

Sealed vs. Unsealed Saltillo Tile

which one is right for your project?

In this post, I’ll address the pros and cons of sealed vs. unsealed Saltillo tile.

We’ll explore these topics:

  • Up front vs. hidden costs
  • Installation issues
  • Customizing Saltillo tile

Let’s dive in.

Unsealed vs Sealed Saltillo Tile

up front & hidden costs

sealed saltillo tile
Sealed Saltillo tile

unsealed saltillo tile
Unsealed Saltillo Tile

Here’s a little backstory. At Rustico Tile and Stone, we used to actively promote unsealed Saltillo tile. Why? We wanted to maintain a strategic competitive edge in pricing for this handmade Mexican tile. Unsealed Saltillo tile is (a bit) less expensive than Sealed Saltillo tile. So we wanted our lowest price ‘out there.’

And, we sold a lot of it. A whole lot.

Then the headaches, complaints, and maintenance issues flooded our phone lines and emails. Our customers had terrible experiences trying to deal with unsealed tiles. We spent more time trying to fix our customers’ flooring issues than selling tile.

So we learned from those experiences and made changes.

Today, based out of Austin, TX, we lead the market in low cost and quality for Sealed Saltillo tiles. We changed the way Saltillo tile was sold and installed for many decades.→ The upfront cost of unsealed Saltillo tile is less expensive than sealed Saltillo tile. But, there is so much more to be considered.

octagon mexican terracotta tile floor
12×12 Octagon Traditional Saltillo & Talavera Tiles

rustic style flooring
Manganese Riviera Saltillo Flooring & Cement Tile

Left unsealed, this clay tile will stain easily. So, it must be sealed.  That’s where things can get expensive for those people who initially purchased unsealed Saltillo tile.

Did you know that our sealed Saltillo tiles have 5 coats of penetrating sealer soaked into the clay?  This process is done at our factory. We seal thousands of square feet of tile every month so we can do it inexpensively.

Have you shopped for sealer at Home Depot or Lowes lately? It’s not inexpensive, unfortunately.

→ That’s the hidden cost. Estimate $2.00 – $3.00 per square foot of additional cost if an unsealed tile is to be properly sealed.  And that’s not accounting for the labor cost involved.

MYTH BUSTED: You will not save money by buying unsealed vs sealed Saltillo tile

Installation Issues

soaking, grout release, sealer

Here is the problem with buying and installing unsealed Saltillo tile. It’s time consuming, expensive, and has opportunities for many errors! Unsealed Saltillo tile is difficult to install.

In fact, it’s nearly impossible to install unsealed tile successfully without staining it with thinset, grout, or dirt. Plus, a tile installer often charges a considerable amount of money to handle unsealed Saltillo due to the complexity of keeping it clean and applying the sealer.

Setting Sealed Saltillo Tile without Spacers
Setting Manganese Saltillo Tile with Thinset

Picture this. Let’s say you need to buy and install 1000 square feet of unsealed Saltillo tile. After purchasing it, you will have 3 pallets of tile arrive at your home.

IF your installer knows what he or she is doing, the installer will begin to lay out 1000 square feet of the tile so it can be sealed. And we’re not talking about a quick stroke with a paint brush. Saltillo clay is porous. It takes multiple coats of penetrating sealer to soak into and fortify the clay adequately.

Plus, there is dry time between coats. It’s likely that your installer can only handle doing 50-100 square feet at a time. Weather conditions must be just right since this is best done outdoors.

And after the floor is completely installed, there’s still a topcoat sealer to apply.

Unless you plan on staining Saltillo tile to a particular color, I never recommend that people buy unsealed Saltillo tile.

Why Buy Sealed Saltillo Tile

best value & least maintenance

spanish style kitchen
16×16 Traditional Sealed Saltillo Tile

Let’s shift our focus to something more positive.

When you buy sealed Saltillo tile at Rustico Tile and Stone, you get to rest easy. At our factory in Mexico, we apply five coats of penetrating sealer which soaks into the clay. This brings out rich tones of color and strengthens the tile. When your installer unpacks it from the pallet, he or she installs the tile as-is.

Yes… unpack and install it at no extra cost, time, or possible sealer application mistakes.

The best part? On average, our sealed Saltillo tile is only about $0.20-$0.30 more per square foot compared to unsealed Saltillo tile. For the very reason that it’s a great value and a fully sealed tile, we are THE leading supplier for handmade Saltillo tile in the world.

6x12 saltillo tile
6×12 Basketweave Pattern in Traditional Sealed Saltillo Tile

Need more proof? Just do the math.

On 1000 square feet, you’ll pay $200 more for our sealed Saltillo tile vs unsealed Saltillo tile.

Even if you buy a cheap quality sealer at $40/gallon for your unsealed tile, you’ll need a minimum of 10 gallons of sealer to put only 2 or 3 coats into the clay. That’s $400 additional in sealer cost (for poor quality sealer).  Good quality sealer runs $100+/gallon.

Plus, add the labor cost for sealing 1000 square feet of tile.

Was it worth saving $200 on the original purchase?

If you’re still unsure, order samples. Compare unsealed vs sealed Saltillo tile.

If you like the look of the Mexican Saltillo tile photos on our website, I’m confident you’ll believe what I’m saying when you see the samples. We are the Mexican tile experts who want you to Make Every Space Count.

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