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Terracotta Tile vs Clay Tile: What’s the Difference?

We hear this question a lot, and we know the whole ‘Terracotta vs clay’ topic can seem confusing! Luckily, you’ve come to the authority on Terracotta tiles. We’re here to demystify these terms, so you can go ahead and close those other browser tabs where you’ve been Googling ‘Terracotta vs clay’ now.


Are Terracotta and Clay the Same?

They are not the same, although they are closely linked:

  • Clay is the raw ingredient.
  • Terracotta is clay that has been molded and kiln-fired.

At Rustico Tile & Stone, we source all our clay from the Mexican city of Saltillo, Coahuila. Saltillo clay is renowned for its durability and sustainability as flooring. In addition, we work with artisans in Saltillo who have generations of experience making tiles in the traditional, tried-and-true method.

Transforming raw clay into Terracotta tile requires a series of carefully planned steps. Here’s a broad overview of our process:

  1. We dig clay from the earth – in our case, from the riverbeds of Saltillo.
  2. Then, we place the clay in man-made pits with water added to humidify it, making it workable for tile formation.
  3. Next, the workable clay is removed from pits and shaped into molds.
  4. We set the clay tile molds out to dry in the sun.
  5. And finally, we placed the dried molds into a kiln.
  6. Over the course of many hours, the kiln’s heat transforms the clay’s properties into a permanently hardened material: Terracotta.

To sum it up: Terracotta exists once the clay has been formed and fired.

If you want to know more about how Rustico’s artisans create our industry-leading Terracotta tiles, watch our behind-the-scenes video.

Which is Better? Terracotta or Clay Tiles?

terracotta tile austin tx

It’s a trick question, really. It’s like asking which is better – a teapot or a kettle? Same thing, right? 

So, which is better – terracotta or clay? Are terracotta and clay the same? Yep. Terracotta is clay tile. And clay tile is terracotta tile. Same thing.

But let’s shift the focus onto figuring out which clay and terracotta tile are the best! 

What really matters is knowing your project. When it comes to projects like flooring, Mexican Terracotta tile, that is, Saltillo tile, is a sure winner. So whether you call it terracotta or clay tile… opt for Saltillo floor tiles to make sure you’re getting the best Spanish-style tiles.

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Advantages of Terracotta as Flooring

brown terracotta tile flooring

Terracotta clay tiles – especially those made from Saltillo clay – are a top choice for flooring. And once you get to know them, it’s easy to see why. They’re jaw-droppingly beautiful and deceptively tough, making a great addition to just about any space.

Terracotta Patterns Galore

We’re not sure if you’ve heard the news, but Saltillo Terracotta floor tiles are super customizable. Shapes, sizes, combinations – if you can dream it, we’re here to help you do it. After all, you and your home are unique. So shouldn’t your floor be, too?

For example, here are some of the patterns in our winner’s circle:

  • Star Cross Tile Pattern
  • Fleur de Lis
  • Hexagon Fuego
  • Picket Pattern
  • Botella Pattern
  • Stair coping (not a pattern, but we thought you should know: Terracotta tiles can up your stair game like no one’s business.)

With Terracotta floor tiles, you can put a spin on the classics, too: try the ‘super’ version of our rectangle, square, or hexagon for added ‘wow’ factor.

Intrigued? Check out these beautiful Saltillo floor patterns in action on our website.

And remember, Terracotta floor tiles pair well with other types of tiles, too. For example, an intricate Cement or Talavera tile pattern for your bathroom or kitchen backsplash is the perfect cherry on top.

Palette Potential – Terracotta Colors

terracotta kitchen tile floor

Terracotta tiles are people-pleasers: they want to accommodate and enhance your home’s design style. In fact, they come in a wide array of charming, rustic colors, so you might have a tough decision to make about which finish you love most.

  1. Traditional Saltillo tile: these are your classic Terracotta colors. Think of tones of red, orange, yellow, and gold. Markedly, they are especially lovely paired with southwestern, western, hacienda, beach, or countryside home designs. However, if you live in a modern home or have a different design approach, don’t be deterred: Traditional Modern Saltillo is a warm and inviting color for any space.
  2. Manganese Saltillo tile: featuring a series of light to dark brown tones, often with some artful black swirling incorporated into the Terra Cotta color for a naturally marbled appearance. Unquestionably, Manganese is a versatile choice; just as much at home in a vintage home as it is in a modern one.
  3. Antique Saltillo tile: If you want to channel old-world Saltillo style, Antique Saltillo is your ideal option. Notably, it has a reclaimed clay tile appearance that harkens back to the design of historic Mexican pavers – without the hefty price tag. This is vintage at its best: hand-textured tiles, rust-toned colors, and historical charm.
  4. Spanish Mission Red tile: fans of Spanish-style home décor will be enchanted by this luxurious clay tile color. Interestingly, it shares characteristics of Traditional Saltillo tile but contains very minimal light tones. This is thanks to our Mission Red dye, which is incorporated into the penetrating sealer. So, if you love the feel of Antique Saltillo tile, consider Antique Mission Red tile, which also has a textured surface perfect for Spanish-style floors.
terracotta floor tile florida

Saltillo Tile Colors

Saltillo Tile Shapes

Pocketbook Approved

Go ahead – live a little. Terra cotta tiles are easy on the budget, so you can explore a variety of Terracotta designs that fit within your financial parameters. In fact, with so many sizes, patterns, colors, and style options, you’re sure to get the perfect look for your space.

Plus, Terra cotta tiles give you a great return on your investment: they are strong, durable, and last for many years with proper sealer and some basic maintenance.

Cleaning and Maintenance of Clay Tiles

Terracotta clay tile is lauded for its durability and longevity. To get the most out of your Terracotta flooring:

  • Purchase the tiles presealed. This will significantly reduce long-term maintenance.
  • Then apply a high-quality topcoat sealer after installation for added protection.
  • Inspect your sealer every few years (or according to the lifespan of the sealer you apply as a topcoat) to make sure everything is in great shape.

Let’s talk cleanup:

  • Use diluted cleaners to preserve the life of the sealer
  • Spray outdoor tiles with a hose for light dust and grime removal
  • Avoid wax-based cleaners

Fortunately, following these cleaning and maintenance steps will reward you with beautiful, durable Terracotta tiles that last for decades.

Enough Scrolling. Let’s Start a Project Together.

Let us send you pricing, samples, design advice, y mas. We ship worldwide.

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