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, I bid you to look elsewhere. 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 for real saltillo tile in Mexico. If any seller tells you that their saltillo tile is without blemish or rustic traits, then they’re not selling real saltillo tile. Period.
There are 6 basic characteristics that you can expect to find in handmade Mexican saltillo tile. These characteristics apply to all of our Saltillo tile shapes and finishes – Traditional, Manganese, and Antique.
1. Color Striping. You can see in the diagram that there may be stark contrasts of colors on any given tile. This is not a defect. It’s not paint, sealer or a mistake in manufacturing. The finished color of handmade Mexican saltillo tiles is a result of it’s clay body’s reaction to the heat firing temperature in the kiln. 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. That’s where the stripe comes from.
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.
2. Chips. Rustic tile has chips. These chips can occur on the surface, along the edges, and even on the back of the tile. 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. 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 slightly concave on the backside. Because this is handmade Mexican saltillo tile, many variations of texture exist. This is not a defect. It’s a rustic characteristic that adds to the winsomeness of saltillo flooring.
4. Color variations and 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. 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.
5. Lime pops. 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 in your floor over time. If you have a lime pop that really gets under your skin, just pop out that tile and replace it.
6. Size and thickness variations. Every handmade Mexican saltillo tile is unique. No two tiles are the same. There are size and thickness variations from tile to tile. 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. Also, this results in varied spacing of grout joints within a Saltillo tile floor. Saltillo tile is traditionally installed with wide grout lines to accommodate tile size fluctuations. It’s recommended to order all of the tile 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. Rustico Tile and Stone offers a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and color finishes in our handmade Mexican saltillo tile offerings. To find out what’s best for your space, give us a call at (512) 260-9111 or email us at [email protected].
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