The Best Advice You Could Ever Get about Spanish Tile (Photo & video)

Spanish Tile Has Been Around For Centuries.

Over the past several years of being in the biz, we’ve helped over 200K people create beautiful homes and businesses with handmade Spanish tile.

Below is a collection of the best advice we can give if you’re considering or already own Spanish tiles. We address Saltillo tile, Terracotta flooring, Talavera tiles, Cantera stone, & Cement tiles. In fact, we specifically look at Spanish tile floors & Spanish tile backsplash ideas.

Diving in…

Why Is My Installer Trying to Talk Me Out of Spanish Tile?

it’s your space – get what you want

Too often, we’ll speak with someone very excited about handmade Spanish tile. But the conversation falls short because a tile installer is steering that person in a different direction… toward (gasp!) a porcelain tile.

So why does this happen?

Actually, it’s Simple. Most Spanish tiles are handmade, which means they have variations in size, thickness, and other attributes.

Does that mean they’re more difficult to install? Well, no. But they take a little longer to install due to the requirement of a craftsmanship type of approach. In comparison, most installers want to get in and get out of a job site as quickly as possible.

terracotta tilePin
Handmade Spanish Terracotta tile

So, if your installer is trying to talk you out of a Spanish tile floor, get a new installer. In fact, find one who isn’t afraid to spend the extra time creating a unique, one-of-a-kind floor.

Above all, it’s your floor. Your space. Most importantly, get what YOU want.

How to Save Money On Spanish Tile

pick the right pattern for the right space

It’s easy to get great value if you have a solid game plan. So let’s start with the numbers.

First, create a project budget. As you know, remodeling and construction projects can blow a budget faster than ink dries. However, once you create an overall project budget, it’s easy to break down Spanish tile choices room by room.

As a flooring example, handmade Saltillo tile (a type of terracotta floor tile) is an affordable but luxurious choice. In areas where the visual appeal matters less, opt for simple square or rectangular patterns. For example, popular choices are 12×12, 16×16, 6×12, & 8×16.

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16×16 Square & Riviera Pattern – Gloss Topcoat Sealer

These budget-friendly patterns are ideal for areas like bedrooms. Save budget in these spaces since bedroom furniture takes up most of the real estate in a bedroom.

But when you need a “wow’ factor for areas like kitchens, dining rooms, or entryways, opt-in for something more decorative. We love seeing patterns like Riviera, San Felipe (aka Arabesque), & Fleur de Lis in these spaces. Additionally, the Octagon Saltillo pattern paired with painted Talavera tiles adds personality and charm.

By balancing out patterns with specific home areas, it’s easy to keep the budget balanced!

Now, let’s think about areas that only need accents.

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Sealed Traditional Saltillo with Talavera Tiles

Spanish-style homes are known to have gorgeous staircases adorned with artistic stair risers. Save money on risers by keeping it simple with just 1 or 2 coordinating patterns or solid colors.

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Manganese Saltillo with Cement Wall Tiles

Next, the same strategy applies to kitchen and bathroom backsplashes. Again, a classic and budget-friendly look combines decorative Spanish tiles with solid color tiles. For instance, patterns always cost more money than solid colors. So, it’s easy to save money by choosing a classic, streamlined backsplash.

Finally, the best way to save money on Spanish tile is to order everything required for the job all at once. This often allows for bulk buy discounts, reduced shipping fees, & a savings of time.

Pro Tip: Since Spanish tiles are handmade, we recommend that our clients order 15-20% overage to allow for waste, cuts, and borders. While there will always be a little waste in shipping, it’s easy to underestimate the vast number of cuts required for decorative patterns and waste in handling. Avoid additional lead times and shipping fees by getting everything required for a job at the same time… plus a little extra for storage should any tiles ever need to be replaced.

How to Choose the Best Type of Spanish Tile for your Project

flooring, accents, indoor & outdoor choices

Spanish Tile Flooring. There are a lot of choices for Spanish-style flooring.

The most popular is the Mexican Saltillo tile. This clay tile is known to be one of the most durable terracotta floor tiles in the world. Fortunately, it’s also known as an affordable flooring choice for Spanish-style homes.

Plus, there are so many options with this rustic style of flooring!

Explore Saltillo Tile Patterns
Explore Saltillo Tile Colors

Spanish Tile Accents. This is where you get to “play!”

Two of the best options for accents tiles are Talavera & Cement tiles. Both varieties add timeless charm to any space.

Talavera tiles, known for embellishing hacienda, southwestern, & Spanish-style homes, are handpainted and rustic. In fact, these are the go-to choice for vibrant, color accents. Some examples include flooring accents paired with terracotta flooring and backsplash tile paired with decorative bathroom & kitchen hardware. Especially ornate are niches displaying Talavera tiles as backgrounds.

Consider decorative or solid color Cement tiles for something a little more subdued but still iconic in Spanish-style homes.

Made from pigmented concrete, these are durable choices for accent Spanish tiles. Not only do they look great in small spaces like stair risers, kitchen & bathroom backsplashes, but they also make grandiose statements as accent walls and flooring!

Outdoor Choices for Spanish Tile. There are so many options for Spanish tile outdoors. As you’re considering what’s best for your project, here are some things to consider.

  • Is the outdoor area fully exposed to sun and weather elements?
  • Is there any chance of your Spanish tiles to be standing water?
  • How do you plan on cleaning the space? (power washing, sweeping, mopping, etc)

Answers to these questions will help narrow your outdoor Spanish tile options. Additionally, outdoor tile projects require a different approach to installation (see the section below).

We addressed Saltillo tile before… here we are again. While it’s perfect for indoor areas, Saltillo and other types of terracotta make great patio tiles, pool decking, and sun porches.

But don’t forget to explore options in concrete tile for something decorative or Cantera stone for a classic, super durable touch. Cantera stone is a fun product line. That’s because it has several applications like tile, stone columns, indoor & outdoor fountains, fireplace surrounds, range hoods, and more.

Why Installation Materials Matter (a lot)

protect your investment in Spanish tiles

Not only do the installation materials matter, but the process for installation matters, too.

Whether you’ve already purchased or are planning to purchase Spanish tiles, research installation materials as well. It’s vitally important for protecting the investment of your Spanish tile choices.

Let’s talk subfloor preparation. Whether you’re installing on a plywood subfloor or concrete slab, your subfloor will need some prep work requiring crack prevention and/or waterproofing membrane.

While some thinsets allow installing tile directly onto plywood, a most prudent approach is installing a Hardie backer cement board (also known as a tile backer board). First, consult with your local contractor to determine what’s necessary for your space.

Once the cement board is installed, you’re (almost) ready for tile. First, however, all cement board joints need crack isolation membrane treatment. This membrane reinforces the cement board joints to mitigate the possibility for thinset and corresponding tiles to settle to the joint. When this settling happens, it results in a hairline crack in the floor.

To avoid the issue, apply the crack isolation treatment recommended by your contractor.

But what if you have a concrete slab subfloor? Crack isolation treatment is also needed but in a different way. All concrete slabs have hairline cracks. Those cracks need crack isolation to prevent hairline cracks in the installed Spanish tile floor.

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Installing Terracotta Saltillo Tile

Pro Tip: If you have a brand new slab, we recommend full coverage of a crack prevention membrane across the entire slab. A new slab continues to settle for many months resulting in hairline cracks. By applying membrane across the entire slab, you’re mitigating the chance of hairline cracks happening to your installed tile floor.

Lastly, outdoor Spanish tile projects also require some subfloor prep work. Most outdoor installations happen on a concrete slab. Again, in the interest of being prudent, invest in applying a waterproofing membrane across the entire outdoor slab. (Some membranes like our Crest Waterproofing & Crack Isolation Membrane) double as both crack prevention and waterproofing functions.) The idea is to prevent moisture from coming from the ground. Then it progresses up through the slab. And finally, it moves into the backside of your Spanish tiles. That moisture can result in unsightly efflorescence over time. But it’s easy to avoid if a waterproofing membrane is applied.

Onto thinset. Most handmade Spanish floor tiles are heavy and have irregular shapes and thicknesses. Recognizing this, don’t skimp on quality by purchasing cheap thinset. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune either.

(Thinset is the adhesive that glues tile or stone to the subfloor.)

Most Spanish tile flooring choices require semi or fully modified thinsets. And with most things in life, you get what you pay for. A $10 bag of thinset will not perform the same as a $40 bag of thinset. Quality thinsets will run $30-$55/bag. But in the end, you have a solidly secured tile for the lifetime of the floor!

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Grout does not stick or stain quality presealed Saltillo tiles.

Grout. This should be the easiest (& least expensive) part of your Spanish tile project. Install most tiles with sanded or non-sanded grout. But others, like Saltillo tile, are best installed with regular mortar mix as grout.

Additionally, pick a neutral or matching color of the grout to blend tiles. As an alternative, select a contrasting color of the grout to more prominently display distinctions between your individual tiles.

Finally, do you need a Sealer for your Spanish tiles? Yes, no, maybe so. Talk to the supplier of your tiles to determine if they need to be protected with a sealer.

Most painted Talavera tiles do not require a sealer.
Cement tiles always need the protection of a sealer.
Saltillo & terracotta tiles should be sealed.
Stone, like Cantera, may or may not need sealer depending on the location, type of stone product, and color of the stone.

DIY Maintenance & Cleaning Tips

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

When a quality Spanish tile is installed with quality products, any ongoing cleaning & maintenance should be fundamental. Here are a few tips for each type of the tiles we’ve discussed.

Saltillo Tile Flooring & Cement Tiles. Let’s assume your terracotta floor is fully sealed. Clean by mopping or by using a Swiffer wet jet type of cleaner. To preserve the life of the floor sealer, dilute any cleaning chemicals. Alternatively, clean with a diluted mixture of vinegar & water. But first, confirm any cleaning method and chemicals with the sealer manufacturer company. Additionally, maintain the warm and fresh look of any terracotta floor by applying a new coat of sealer on occasion. Check with the sealer manufacturer to determine the frequency and method of a new application.

Painted Talavera Tiles. Inspect on occasion for any chipped tiles. Traditionally, Talavera tiles are glazed with paint. If so, they do not need to be sealed. To clean, wipe down with a damp cloth and dilute any cleaning chemical. Confirm any specific cleaning materials and processes with the supplier of the Spanish Talavera tiles.

Cantera Stone. Any cleaning and maintenance depend on whether the stone is sealed. It also depends on the nature of the architectural feature. For example, clean sealed Cantera tiles using the same process described above for Saltillo & Cement tiles.

However, features like Cantera columns, stone fireplace surrounds, & range hoods are usually not sealed products (unless sealer was applied for color enhancement). So, dust regularly and wipe down with a damp cloth for cleaning. Use stone cleaners for any stain removal.

Explore more details for how to install Saltillo tile.

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