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Tile | How It's Made

When you visit our Okanagan Tile Company showroom, you will notice all the different varieties of tile that we carry.  To understand which type is best for you, it’s good to become familiar with how it is constructed so you can evaluate its performance aspects.  Created from natural resources, tile is a wonderful environmental choice, as well as being beautiful, durable and adaptable to your personal style.  While every manufacturer has different techniques and processes to make their own tile products, here is a general overview:


  • Clay is the main ingredient, along with other natural products such as sand, feldspar, quartz and water.
  • Mixed and ground into a ball to create a “body slip”, which contains about 30% water.
  • Dried and heated to become a powder or dust, then pressed into a set size and shape called a “bisque”.
  • Some tiles are formed by “extrusion” which forces the clay through a mold to reach the desired shape.
  • Pressed or shaped tiles are called “green tiles”.
  • After a second drying, a glaze is either sprayed, silkscreened or poured on.
  • Glazes range from matte to high gloss, and are derived from glass.  Pigments are added to give the tile its colour.
  • Once the glaze is applied, the tiles are fired at around 1000 degrees Celsius. 
  • Some tiles are fired once after the “green” stage, and again after glazing.


  • The same process as glazed ceramic tile is followed, but after the second drying no glaze is applied.
  • Because of their unfinished exterior, unglazed tiles are denser and thicker, with greater slip resistance.
  • After installation, a sealant or wax is sometimes applied to prevent staining.


  • High quality raw materials with less impurities are used
  • An ultra-fine porcelain clay is made by adding water and raw materials; generally made up of 50% feldspar.
  • A spray dryer removes the excess moisture, and then each tile is pressed at 7000 pounds per square inch.
  • Molds of different sizes are used to form the contours of the tile.
  • Tiles are then dried again, and fired to 1200 Celsius.
  • Patterns and colours are then added, sometimes by inkjet printers.
  • The final step is the application of the glaze.


  • Four main types: Smalti, Fused, Sintered and Cast
  • Two main surface treatments: Slumped and Etched.
  • Smalti are colorful, textured and small tiles used for mosaics.  Silica is melted with sodium or potassium carbonate, then metal is added for stability and metal oxides for colour.  Fired at high temperatures, then cut into small rectangles.
  • Fused manufacturing takes flat glass, fires it and then applies colour either on top or under the glass.  Translucent, with a visible layer of opaque colour.
  • Sintered glass tiles are made by pressing glass powder into a dye and then fusing with heat.  Colour is added to the powder prior to heating, or directly to the tile afterwards.  Versatile, they are uniform in shape, with a milk-like finish that is scratch resistant. 
  • Cast tile is made by melting chunks of glass which have been placed into a mold.  Frequently used for recycled glass.


  • Stainless steel typically contains a mix of chromium and nickel, so that they withstand rusting.  For brass finish, stainless steel tiles are coated.
  • Copper tiles are manufactured from brushed finish copper.
  • Coloured finishes may be applied to stainless steel.
  • Different backing styles are available, each having benefits for certain applications such as kitchens, bathrooms, backsplashes, walls, etc.


  • Usually 2 inch or smaller pieces, commonly squares, but can be various shapes, styles and materials.
  • Glass, ceramic, porcelain and metal are the most common, with mixes in materials and sizes.
  • Mosaic tiles are made by hand or by robotic fabrication systems.

The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) developed a testing system to rate the strength of the glaze that is applied to tile to prevent scratching and wearing, with 1 being the least resistant and 5 being the most resistant.  This rating guide will help you decide which tile is best suited to your project.
PEI 1 – very light traffic

  • indoor wall applications, countertops, light-use interior bathroom floors. Not for heavy traffic or commercial use.

PEI 2 – light traffic

  • indoor wall applications, countertops, light traffic residential interior floors. Not for heavy traffic or commercial use.

PEI 3 – moderate traffic

  •  indoor wall applications, countertops, and most residential interior floors. Not for heavy traffic or commercial use.

PEI 4 – moderate to heavy traffic

  • indoor wall applications, countertops, all residential interior floors, all light commercial applications. Not for heavy commercial use.

PEI 5 – heavy traffic

  • For use on indoor wall applications, countertops, all residential interior floors, all heavy commercial applications. Extremely durable.

Scale used to determine the degree of slippage on a tiled surface in both wet and dry situations.  The more textured a tile is, the less slippery.