6 Rustic Characteristics of Handmade Mexican Saltillo Tile

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Handmade Saltillo Tile

6 Rustic Features

Allow me the space to squelch some confusion about what characteristics you can expect with handmade Mexican Saltillo tile.  In our web-based world, there are plenty of misleading ideas about what’s normal and what’s not.  At Rustico Tile and Stone, we know handmade Mexican Saltillo tile well.  Very well.

At Rustico, we tell you exactly what Saltillo tile is.  We offer no embellishment to the nature of these beautiful floors – you either like Saltillo flooring or you don’t. If you’re expecting “perfect” Saltillo tiles, then Saltillo tile might not be right for you.

But! Before you go, just hear me out about why you don’t want “perfect” tiles.

Perfect handmade Mexican Saltillo tiles don’t exist.  If they did, we’d sell them.  We are the largest manufacturer of real Saltillo floor tiles in Mexico.  If any seller tells you that their Mexican tile is without blemish or rustic traits,  then they’re not selling the real stuff.  Period.

Let’s explore 6 rustic characteristics that you will (100%) find in handmade Mexican Saltillo floor tile.

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Riviera Pattern in Sealed Traditional Saltillo Tile

1.
Saltillo tile has color stripes

You can see in the image that there may be stark contrasts of colors on any given tile.  This is not a defect.  It’s not painted, sealer, or a mistake in manufacturing.  The finished color of handmade Mexican Saltillo tiles is a result of its clay body’s reaction to the heat firing temperature in the kiln.

In fact, tiles are stacked on top of one another, many layers deep into a huge pit in the ground (a kiln).  When the kiln is lit on fire, the clay turns yellow or golden where it has direct contact with the fire.  In areas where the heat is less intense, it produces darker shades of terra cotta colors.  

Since the tiles are stacked on top of one other, it’s normal that even 1 tile will have varying levels of heat.  The result is stripes and color variations.

botella tile patternPin
Botella & Coping in Antique Saltillo with Talavera Pool Tile

While this is a normal part of handmade Mexican Saltillo tile, many of our customers order extra tiles with the intent to cull some of these tiles out of their mix.  What you choose to actually install is up to your personal taste. We love the color striping.  It adds character and unique qualities to the overall floor.

The standard overage for square and rectangular-shaped tiles is 15%.  For any decorative shapes, add 20% overage.  That’s your allowance for waste, cuts, and borders.  If you want to be selective in what you choose to install as an effort to eliminate some of these rustic characteristics (and those listed below), increase your overage from those amounts.

manganese riviera saltillo tile flooringPin

2.
Handmade Saltillo tile has Chips

Rustic tile has chips.  These chips can occur on the surface, along the edges, and even on the back of the tile.  This is not a defect. Most of the smaller chips blend in perfectly to the floor or get covered when the tile is grouted.  This is a primary characteristic that makes handmade Mexican Saltillo tile highly sought after by homeowners, designers, and world-class architects.  Mexican tiles with larger chips can be installed or they can be used for an installation cut.

3.
Saltillo Rustic Tile Has Bumps

Rustic flooring isn’t perfectly even and flat.  Many tiles will have bumps on the surface where the clay was hand-smoothed.  These tiles are also concave on the backside. Because these are handmade tiles, many variations of texture exist.  This is not a defect. It’s a rustic character that adds to the winsomeness of saltillo flooring.

4.
Saltillo tile has color variations & Irregular Markings

Because of the firing process mention above, any assortment of these tiles will have color variations and random markings and speckles from tile to tile.  This is not a defect. Choose to install what you like and use any others for cuts.  We strongly recommend that you or your installer mix tiles from different parts of the crate – or mix tiles from multiple crates if you have a large supply of tile.  By mixing, you avoid color runs where you may have more of one color than another.

rustic characteristics of saltillo tilePin
Scuffs from shipping, handling, & grouting are easily removed with topcoat sealer as the final step of your floor installation.

5.
Mexican Saltillo Tile has lime pops & Scuffs

Not all tiles have lime pops but some do.  Some of those bumps mentioned above can settle into an exposed lime pop in time.  It’s not a defect – these pops are natural mineral deposits in the clay.  If you have a lime pop, just seal or grout over it and move on.  The exposed pop will blend in as a normal chip on your floor over time.  If you have a lime pop that really gets under your skin, just pop out that tile and replace it.

Tiles will also get scuffs during the shipping, unpacking, handling, and grouting process. This is normal. Thankfully, the scuffs are easily removed with the application of your topcoat sealer as the final step of your rustic floor installation.

difference between super and regular saltillo tilePin

6.
Saltillo Tile has size & thickness variations

very handmade Mexican Saltillo tile is unique.  No two tiles are the same.  There are size and thickness variations from tile to tile.  This is not a defect.

If you’ve ordered Mexican tiles at different times, they likely come from different production lots.  This means you will experience more of these size and thickness variations.  Because weather elements have a direct impact on the finished product, we do not guarantee matching tiles from different manufacturing lots.  Measure twice and order all of the tiles that you need for a project at one time.

Also, this results in the varied spacing of grout joints within a Saltillo tile floor. Saltillo tile is traditionally installed with wide grout lines to accommodate tile size fluctuations.  Again, it’s recommended to order all of the tiles for your flooring project from one production lot to minimize variations.

It’s exactly these features that make Saltillo tile what it is.  The durability of Saltillo clay not only produces a long-lasting floor but also a stunning one that will last a lifetime.

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