Abrasion resistance
Ability of a surface to resist being worn away.

ANSI
American National Standards Institute, a standards development organization. https://www.ansi.org/about_ans...

ASTM
American Society for Testing and Materials International, a standards development organization. https://www.astm.org/ABOUT/ove...

Border
A strip of motif tile that creates a design concept.

Bright gloss
Colorless or colored ceramic glaze with a high gloss.

Brick joint or Running bond
Tile installation with each row offset, usually by half its length. Common with subway tiles on wall installations. If the side to be offset is greater than 15 in., a maximum offset of 1/3 is recommended.

Brushed finish
A finish commonly used on stone or metal with the appearance of having been wire brushed.

Bullnose
Trim tile with a radius on one edge, used for finishing an edge, outside corner or floor base.

Back-buttering
Spreading a bond coat to the back of a ceramic tile immediately before the tile is laid.

Back-layered tile
A tile with a material, commonly mesh, which has been attached to its back for reinforcing purposes.

Backerboard
An underlayment material in the form of a panel or board which is typically fastened directly to the framing (walls) or subfloor (floors) and used as a substrate for ceramic tile.

Calibrated tile
Tiles that have been sorted to meet a specific size tolerance range.

Ceramic mosaic tile
Tiles having a facial area of less than 9 in². Typically mounted in sheets or strips with other mosaic tiles.

Ceramic tile
A ceramic surface component, usually relatively thin in relation to facial area, having either a glazed or unglazed face and in the course of manufacture fired to a temperature sufficiently high to produce specific physical properties and characteristics. The different types of ceramic tiles are as follows: porcelain tile, pressed floor tile, quarry tile, wall tile, and ceramic mosaic tile.

Cushion-edged tile
Tile on which the facial edges have a distinct curvature that results in a slightly recessed joint.

Decorative mosaics
Small tiles or bits of tile, stone or glass forming an attractive design.

Decorative tile
Tile that features decoration on the surface.

Distressed edge
A ceramic or stone tile edge with the appearance of an antique or used look.

Dynamic Coefficient of Friction (DCOF)
Measure of a surface’s slip resistance. Contaminants such as dirt, water, soap, oil, or grease can change this value.

Encaustic
Tile decorated with colored clays, inlaid and fired.

Field tile
Primary area of tile covering a wall or floor.

Fire, bisque
Kiln-firing ceramic ware before glazing.

Fire, single
Subjecting ceramic body and its glaze to one firing operation.

Floor tile
A manufacturer-specified ceramic tile (including porcelain) primarily for use on floors, but also suitable for use on walls and countertops, and having a facial are of 9 in² or more.

Frost-resistant tile
Tile that can be used where freezing and thawing conditions exist; suitable for outdoors.

Gauged tile
A tile which has been manufactured to a specific thickness where its thickness largely associated with how it is installed and/or used. Gauged tiles can be used in wall or floor applications depending on manufacturer’s recommendations.

Glass mosaic tiles
Tiles made of glass not exceeding 9 in², usually mounted on sheets.

Glaze
A ceramic coating matured to the glassy state on a formed ceramic article. The term glaze also refers to the material or mixture from which the coating is made.

Glazed tile
Tile with a fused impervious facial finish composed of ceramic materials fused into the body of the tile. The glazed surface may be clear, white or colored.

Grout
The material used for filling tile joints.

Honed
A satin surface with little or no gloss.

Inkjet printing
Method for applying color finishes to tiles before firing in the production process, similar to the way pages are printed using an inkjet printer. Allows for various resolutions (dots per inch or DPI), multiple images and patterns to be created and repeated. For tiles with structured surfaces, this method of printing is effective for decorating “peaks” and “valleys.”

ISO
International Organization for Standards, a standards development organization. https://www.iso.org/about-us.h...

Lippage
A detectable change in elevation between the edges of tiles sharing the same grout joint. Lippage may be related to an uneven substrate, excessive tile warpage, and/or installation.

Listello
A decorative border primarily for walls.

Marble tiles
Marble cut into tile sizes 2 ft. x 2 ft. or less and ¾” or less thick.

Membrane
An underlayment material, usually in the form of a sheet or trowelable liquid or paste, applied to the substrate prior to tile installation.  Common uses of membranes include: isolating substrate cracks from the tile and mortar (crack isolation membranes), waterproofing (waterproof membranes), prevention of sound travel (sound reduction membranes), providing an air space for additional substrate curing after tile installation (uncoupling membranes), or a combination of these properties.

Mortar
A blend of cement, sand, and additional compounds which may include polymers or other additives to improve adhesion, accommodate movement, and add strength. The primary function of mortar is to adhere tile to a substrate.  Tiles can be set in a thick reinforced mortar bed, or can be applied directly to a substrate with dry-set mortar, modified dry-set mortar, or improved modified dry-set mortar using the thin-set method.

Mounted tile
Tile assembled into units or sheets to ease installation. May be mounted on the back, edge or face of the tile using mesh, plastic, paper, or glue dots.

Mud
Slang for mortar.

Notched Trowel
A tool used to apply mortars, adhesives and liquid membranes to a substrate. Often constructed of rigid metal or plastic with a handle and available in various shaped notches (e.g. “square” notch, “V” notch, “U” notch) and sizes to accommodate different applications.

Pavers
A general term for floor tile.

Polished
A glossy surface achieved through mechanical means.

Porcelain tile
Glazed or unglazed ceramic tile which is impervious, meaning its water absorption is 0.5% or less.

Pressed Floor Tile
Floor tile manufactured by having the body of the tile formed by pressing.

Quarry tile
Glazed or unglazed tile, made by the extrusion process from natural clay or shale.

Rectified Tile
A tile that has had all edges mechanically finished to achieve a more precise facial dimension.

Rotocolor printing
Method for applying color finishes to tiles to tiles before firing in the production process. Tiles pass under a coated roller and finishes are transferred onto the tile. Rollers may be solid or patterned and can produce repeatable but random designs. On structured tiles, coatings are only applied to the "peaks" with this method.

Rubbing stone
A stone used where necessary by installers to smooth the rough edges of tile after cutting.

Running bond or Brick joint
Tile installation with each row offset, usually by half its length. Common with subway tiles on wall installations. If the side to be offset is greater than 15 in., a maximum offset of 1/3 is recommended.

Snap-cutter
A cutting tool for tile. A wheel is used to score the tile in a straight line followed by an application of pressure to either side of the line to create a controlled break.

Substrate
The underlayment for a ceramic tile installation.

Thin-set
Slang for dry-set cement mortar.

Thin Tile
Slang for gauged tiles with a thickness of 6.5 mm or less.

Tile Panel/Slab
A ceramic tile of size greater than or equal to 1 m². A product less than 1 m² is simply a "tile."

Tumbled
Tiles with tumbled, round edges producing an aged, antique appearance.

Trim pieces
Various shapes of bases, caps, corners, moldings, angles, etc.

Unglazed tile
A tile without glaze, often (but not always) a hard, dense tile of uniform composition, deriving color and texture from its material.

Wall tile
A glazed tile for interior use on walls. These tiles are not typically expected to withstand excessive impact, abrasion, or be subjected to freeze/thaw cycling.

Warpage
The measured curvature of a tile.

Water Absorption
A physical property of tile. An indication of tile porosity from measuring how much water can enter the body of a tile.

Wet Saw
A cutting tool for tile. An electric saw typically fixed to a table which most commonly uses a diamond-coated blade to cut the tile while water is applied to cool the blade and reduce dust. 

Here’s a list of assets we’ve compiled to make your tile selection and design process easier and more enjoyable. You’ll find much of this information sprinkled throughout our site, but we thought it might be easier if you had everything here in one easy-to-access location as you go through your design process.

Find yourself needing something that’s just not here? Please reach out and let us know through our Contact form. While we can’t help you decide whether what you’re feeling is Rococo or Art Deco, we can give you all the backup you need to know that no matter your needs, tile’s got you covered.


  • First, don’t miss our exclusive WhyTile.Com Field Guide to Tile! See the bottom of this page – and each page on this site – to send along your details, then download your free copy.
  • You’ll also want our Designing Minds Tile Schematics download, located in the Style section. It’s a unique blend of exciting patterns to consider for your space, that you can then color for relaxation after a long spree of tile-centric retail therapy.
  • On the Easy Care page, you’ll find our Top Tile Tips download…in fewer than half a dozen simple steps, all the info you’ll ever need on caring for your tile.
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