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Giorgio Timellini Carlo Palmonari

How and why

Buyer’s and user’s guide
to Italian ceramic tiles
Handbook promoted by
Association of Italian Ceramic Tile
and Refractories Manufacturers
Viale Monte Santo 40
41049 Sassuolo (MO) - Italy
Tel. +39 0536 818111 Fax +39 0536 807935

Giorgio Timellini, Carlo Palmonari
Centro Ceramico, Bologna

Graphic project
maiarelli rathkopf inc.

Composition an layout
Stefania Bortolotti
Centro Ceramico Bologna

DTP and print

Calderini Industrie Grafiche
Ozzano Emilia (BO)

© Copyright Edi.Cer. S.p.A., 2000

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form
without written permission of Edi.Cer S.p.A., except
by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages for
inclusion in magazines or newspapers.
Edi.Cer S.p.A.
Viale Monte Santo 40
41049 Sassuolo (MO) - Italy
Tel. +39 0536 804585 Fax +39 0536 806510

Italian ceramic tiles are on display every year at

International Exhibition of Ceramics for the Building

Industry and Bathroom Furnishings
Bologna - Italy

April 2000

Presentation 1

Part 1 Part 3

Why Ceramic Tiles 9 From tiles to tiled surface 165

Introduction 10 Introduction 166

1.1 - Available materials 17 3.1 - The tile job 173

1.2 - What are ceramic tiles 24 3.2 - Tile supplies 184

1.3 - Broad selection 33 3.3 - Installation 188

1.4 - Functionality and durability 37 3.4 - Use and maintenance 194

1.5 - User safety 49 3.5 - Defects and complaints:

1.6 - Environmental responsibility 60 prevention and management 198

Part 2 Appendix

Which Ceramic Tiles 75

1 - EN ISO norms for ceramic tiles

Introduction 76 Testing methods 206

2.1 - Types 83 2 - EN ISO norms for ceramic tiles

2.2 - Regulations 95 Requisites 217

2.3 - Technical properties 108 3 - UNI designation 225

2.4 - Technical specifications 133 4 - Categories of selection 228

2.5 - Environments for potential use 140 5 - The Centro Ceramico in Bologna 230

2.6 - Technical standards for selection 147 6 - Ceramic Arbitration Board

2.7 - Aesthetic standards for selection 149 Constitution and Rules of Procedure 234

This is a guide to the purchase and use of ceramic tiles.

Ceramic tile is a construction material specifically intended to

cover floors and walls. As a construction material, it is the

purview of the professional engineer, just as bricks and

reinforced cement for buildings are. But as a finishing material

that contributes to the look of an environment, ceramic tiles also

have a design function, and must appeal to the final user.

The final user is not an expert in materials and construction but

s/he has clear decision-making power in the selection and

purchase of tiles; thus s/he plays an important part in the

planning of the tiled surface.

Appropriate tile selection will critically affect the quality and

durability of the tiled surface, and hence the user ’s level of


This guide is addressed to all those involved in
the selection of ceramic tile, as well as to all end-
users: both “professionals” in the field like
designers, engineers and tile installers, and fi-
nal users of the tiled area who are generally not
technical experts.

The non-professional user we will call the

Homeowner. In this guide she represents the
final user of the tiled area: an individual with specific needs and expectations,
but only scant technical knowledge of the materials involved or of construction

The professional user we will call the Specifier. In this guide he represents an
expert in home construction and in particular of floors and walls covered with
ceramic tile.

The structure of the guide reflects its double orientation: every issue is considered
on two levels. One level is simpler and quality-oriented (but not superficial or
obvious), and employs no technical terminology; this is addressed to the
Homeowner. A second, more detailed level of inquiry, complete with data,
measurements and methodology, is addressed to the Specifier.

We come now to the contents and structure of the guide.

The diagram on page 7 presents the Homeowner and the Specifier standing
before a floor or wall that must be covered with a material that meets both their
By the end of the process, we would hope that the Homeowner and the Specifier
will cover the floor or wall with ceramic tiles for a successfully finished surface
that is beautiful, lasting and safe. (We will consider each of these qualities below.)

The contents of this guide trace the stages of the process that will lead the
Homeowner and the Specifier toward this resolution. Because there are three
such stages, the guide is divided into three parts:

❑ The first part (WHY Ceramic Tiles) leads readers to consider the general
properties of ceramic tiles in order to make an educated selection among them.

❑ The second part (WHICH Ceramic Tiles) follows the Homeowner and the
Specifier as they identify the type of ceramic tiles most suitable for the area to be
tiled, and most appropriate for their respective needs.

❑ The third part (From TILES to the TILED SURFACE) guides readers
through an analysis of the various stages starting with the selected tiles
and concluding with the actual tiling. The critical importance of these
activities (design, installation, use and maintenance) is stressed so as to
insure the full achievement of our final purpose: a beautiful, lasting, and
safe tiled surface.

The structure of this guide clearly reflects its final aim.
The Italian ceramic tile industry is the world leader in tile quality and production
and the originator of product and process innovations. Active on all world
markets, it has vastly increased its product range in recent years to offer tiles
distinguished by great beauty and ever more sophisticated technical properties.
The range of environments in which tiles can be suitably used has expanded
just as rapidly. The user of ceramic tiles enjoys an extremely broad selection,
with infinite technical and design possibilities. This broad selection accounts for
Italian tile’s highly competitive status in the industry: a broad selection whose
value is enhanced not only by the promotion of a broader use of ceramic tiles,
but also by an all-important education in the correct use of these tiles, as a critical
precondition to consumer satisfaction.

These are the multiple aims of this guide: to promote the value of ceramic tile, to
highlight the advances made through intensive research and development, and
to contribute to the complete satisfaction of an educated consumer equipped to
make an appropriate selection and use of ceramic tile.


Part 1
ceramic tiles

Part 2
ceramic tiles

Part 3
From TILES to the



Ceramic Tiles

As illustrated on page 15, the first stage begins as the Homeowner and

the Specifier stand before a floor or wall that must be covered with a

material that meets their specific needs.

We wish to support our “users” in their decision to select ceramic tile, by

offering some pertinent considerations.

The covering to be used on a given wall or floor must serve two functions:

❑ an aesthetic function, as a design element;

❑ a technical function, as a construction material capable of withstanding

a range of environmental stresses without breakage or wear.

These two functions are basic and essential; both are indispensable.

The buyer/user knows that both these functions
can be served, in theory at least, by various types
of surface coverings. We say “theoretically”, since
in general there are a variety of practical and
economic options to choose from. In specific cases,
though, the number of alternatives is much smaller,
and sometimes only one material is technically
suitable and economically advantageous.

In the first phase of this process, readers are guided to identify and consider, by general
type, the variety of materials available (§ 1.1). These are strikingly diverse not only in
appearance but in origin, production technique or treatment, composition, structure,
properties and behavior. These are the materials that the Homeowner and the Specifier
see on display in their visit to the showroom. The first choice must be made at this level.

The focus then shifts (§ 1.2) to ceramic tile, whose general properties (those common
to all tiles and ceramic materials) are presented and illustrated with regard to
manufacturing technology, structure and composition.

How does ceramic tile “rate” in terms of fulfilling the “aesthetic function?” Section
§ 1.3 considers the likelihood that the Homeowner and the Specifier will find a type
of ceramic tile on the market that can fulfill their aesthetic and design needs. We see
that the range of selection among tiles is almost limitless.
Functionality and durability, the subject of section § 1.4, concern a covering
material’s capacity to fulfill its technical function. The general properties of ceramic
products, which stem from their structure, composition and production techniques,
highlight the excellence of ceramic tile from this point of view. This “technical
advantage” of ceramic tile also makes for an “economic advantage”: the cost/
durability ratio is another aspect of the superiority of ceramic tiles over other

The satisfaction of the user’s aesthetic and technical needs cannot be separated from
considerations regarding user safety and environmental responsibility.

User safety is the subject of § 1.5, where several safety-oriented properties - properties
which again stem from the ceramic nature of these tiles are highlighted and analyzed.

Finally, § 1.6 contains some considerations of the environmental impact of ceramic

tiles over the course of their life cycle (from the mining of raw materials to the
demolition of a tiled surface and its disposal). The life cycle also includes the production
stage. From the early ’70s on, the Italian tile industry has been committed to limiting
the environmental impact associated with tile production. Today, Italy’s industry is
the world leader in the use of technologies that minimize both the consumption of
resources like water and energy, and the leakage into the environment of polluting
substances and materials. Ceramic tile can be considered an ecologically responsible
In brief, this section demonstrates that ceramic tile is
❑ available in an endless range of styles (colors, sizes, decors, surface textures, etc.);
❑ functional and durable, and hence ultimately economical;
❑ safe,
❑ environmentally responsible.

These considerations support the Homeowner and the Specifier in their decision to
select ceramic tiles.


Available materials

What are ceramic tiles

Broad selection

Functionality and durability

User safety

Environmental responsibility


1.1 - Available materials outdoors as well, or between tiles suitable

What floor and wall coverings must the for many environments and those for

Homeowner and the Specifier consider, at specialized use. As a result, not all the

least in theory, when seeking a product materials listed may actually represent true

suitable to their aesthetic and technical alternatives, in serving the needs of the

needs? Homeowner and the Specifier. However, a

general overview of available materials will

As our buyers enter a well-stocked be useful in supporting the following two

showroom, they face a vast selection of concepts that the buyer of any type of floor

choices: materials of various kinds, shapes or wall covering must bear in mind:

and origins, with different looks, technical ❑ every property of a material - whether

properties and uses. In what follows we will technical or aesthetic - is based in its nature,

clearly present these various materials, composition and structure;

offering some considerations in support of ❑ every material, of any kind, must be selected

a buyer’s preference for ceramic tiles. and used in the proper manner; and the

user’s aesthetic and technical expectations

For current purposes we will not distinguish must be based on the properties - that is, the

between floor and wall tiles, between tiles nature, composition and structure - of the

exclusively for indoors and those for material.


Materials of different kinds Ceramic

A first criterion for classification of available products obtained by mixing raw materials
floor and wall covering materials is the widely available in nature (clays, sands, etc.),
material’s “nature”. The categories are as and working this mixture in its unfired sta-
follows: te into the desired form. The product is then

dried and fired at temperatures from 1000(C

Materials of different expectations, with a
kinds specific aesthetic to 1200 (C , depending on the composition
impact [look and feel]
The nature of a given that evokes a particular
material corresponds to response. A textile,
and type. It may be glazed or unglazed.
its specific structure with its weft and its
and composition, and “thickness”, creates a Examples: ❑ ceramic tiles, bricks.
hence to its technical sense of softness,
and aesthetic silence and warmth,
properties. Deferring whereas a shiny, hard
until later a preliminary surface, even one of Stone
discussion of technical the same color as the
properties, we consider textile, creates an effect
here how every material of brightness,
tiles or slabs obtained by cutting blocks of
is associated, in the cleanliness and
user’s mind and strength. particular rocks available in nature.

Examples: ❑ natural stones, like marbles and


Bonding materials

unshaped materials that are ceramic in na-

ture (and hence obtained by firing mixtures


of raw materials containing clays and or wall covering. Some metallicized wall-

carbonates, or calcium sulfate, etc., which are papers are however available, although

then ground to a fine powder). They inclu- these are actually composites made of a thin

de cement, chalk and plaster. Such products, layer of aluminum, whether solid color or

mixed with water and sand, form pastes print, soldered to a non-flammable paper

which set and harden over time. This backing with a layer of synthetic resin.

property can be used in making layers of

covering for floor and walls. Polymers

Examples: ❑ cement-based plaster, chalk-based synthetic organic materials, commonly

wall coverings, ❑ cement bedfor flooring. termed “plastics”. Such materials are useful

for making rolls of material or tiles (like

Composites vinyl, linoleum and rubber for floors, or

a mix of stone fragments scattered in a vinyl wall-covering), or synthetic fibers for

cement or polymeric bonding material, to be textiles (like polyester- or polyamid-based

applied on the floor surface. These materials carpeting).

are available also as slabs or tiles.

Vegetable or animal organic materials

Metals organic products like those described above,

metals are rarely used as materials for floor but obtained from materials directly
available in nature, in the animal or ❑ natural stone ❑ wood ❑ cork ❑ vinyl ❑ lino-

vegetable world. leum ❑ carpeting.

Examples: ❑ wood, ❑ cork (for wall and floor

coverings), ❑ wall-paper, ❑ fabrics (carpeting) Loose materials used in installation

in natural fibers (wool, cotton). Examples: ❑ plaster ❑ screeds ❑ conglomerates.

Materials of different natural stone,

Materials in different forms forms conglomerates and
wood - require more
Materials in rolls (as complex application
The above-listed materials are available in well as materials of the techniques, which
same kind in tiles, like recommend the use of
different forms. which obviously affect carpeting and vinyl) professional installers.
require relatively simple Installation is a
installation techniques and appropriate use. installation techniques, lengthier process, since
and are thus available an actual substructure
From this perspective, we can divide the to non-professional do- must be built to insure
it-yourselfers: the roll both the visual appeal
needs only to be glued and the functionality
materials in question into three main types: to the properly prepared and durability of the
floor or wall surface to installation. Replacing
be covered. The speed tiles is also a lengthier
of installation is greater and more difficult
Rolls of material than for other materials, matter, since it requires
and the process of the demolition of the
Examples: ❑ vinyl ❑ linoleum ❑ rubber replacing such covering existing surface, the
materials is simpler. preparation of a new
Tiles and slabs- one and the installation
❑ carpeting ❑ cork ❑ paper. especially ceramic, of the new material.

Tiles, slabs, etc.

Examples: ❑ ceramic ❑ bricks ❑ conglomerates


Materials with various properties properties relevant to use and behavior.

Every type of material (like ceramic materials, The broad classification most commonly

plastic, etc.) has a unique structure and used, from this perspective, divides

composition, and hence also unique technical materials into two groups:

Materials with diffe- (like furniture legs),

rent properties without buckling or
perforation. Hard
The property of materials are highly
hardness signifies in resistant to
essence a resistance deformation: they are
to scratching, scoring rigid and thus will not
and puncturing by fold or grow
pointed implements, appreciably shorter or
and hard materials are longer. However, they
in general less are also fragile: this
vulnerable to such does not mean that
stresses. Hardness is they are “weak” - in fact
associated with they are quite “strong”,
resistance to wear and as noted above - but it
tear, an important does mean that, when
property, as will be subjected to an
discussed below in extremely heavy load,
connection with or to impact from an
ceramic tile as a floor equally hard body,
covering material. they may break
These materials are suddenly, without
also highly resistant to warning or first
compression: installed suffering deformation
and well anchored to a (as occurs instead with By contrast, “soft” sufficiently resistant to are notably inferior:
floor, they are highly ductile materials). materials are more puncture (so that they they are more
resistant even to Hard materials are easily deformed, are often “resilient”). vulnerable to cuts,
extremely heavy and therefore “non shock-resistant, and, in However, their surface scrapes, scratches and
concentrated loads resilient”. many cases, mechanical properties wear and tear.

“Hard” materials ❑ rubber ❑ cork ❑ wood.

Typical examples: ❑ ceramic ❑ natural stone In this context, ceramic tile can be described

❑ conglomerates. as follows:

❑ nature: ceramic

“Soft” materials ❑ format: tiles/slabs

Typical examples: ❑ carpeting ❑ vinyl ❑ property: “hard” material.

1.2 - What are ceramic tiles mixes of clays, sand and other natural

Ceramic tiles are variously sized slabs of substances. After proper treatment, such

ceramic material, used to cover floor and mixes are molded into a desired shape and

walls. then fired at high temperatures (from 1000°C

to 1250°C, depending on the type of tile).

A slab (or tile) is defined as a “component There are many ceramic products in

with a flat surface, whose length and width common and everyday use for the

are distinctly greater than its thickness”. Tiles Homeowner: for instance, kitchenware

come in different sizes, ranging from mosaics (plates, cups, etc.), bathroom units (sinks,

whose surface measures less than 90 cm2, to bidets, bowls, etc.), brick-type materials

tiles with sides as long as 1 meter. The (bricks, roof tiles, flooring slabs, etc.).

thickness of tiles ranges from about 5 mm Ceramic material is one of the oldest human

for some small wall-covering tiles, to 20-25 products: consider terracotta statues and

mm for extruded and large-sized tiles. vases, witnesses of remote civilizations. But

it’s also one of the most contemporary and

The term “ceramic” describes the kind of progressive materials: special ceramic

material that composes the tiles. As materials are coming into increasing use in

suggested in the section above, the term the electronics and chemical industry and for

“ceramic” refers to products derived from machinery and nuclear plants.

The general properties of ceramic material,

and hence of tiles, are traceable to their

structure and composition, as determined by

their specific type of production. These

general properties are:

❑ hardness and mechanical strength

❑ rigidity

❑ fragility

❑ inertia.

The “hardness” - which as we noted in the

previous section, is a distinctive property of

ceramic tiles as opposed to other families of

materials - is the result of reactions and

transformations that occur in the tile body

during firing. These reactions lead to the

formation of a partially glass-like structure,

compact and with a high level of internal

cohesion: in brief, a “hard” material. The


specific nature and strength of the chemical A ceramic tile floor, therefore, is not

bonds created among the elements that com- “resilient” the way that a vinyl floor is.

pose this structure make ceramic tile highly

resistant to breaking and also to damage: The compounds formed in the ceramic high-

like all ceramic materials, tiles cannot be temperature firing process are stable

deformed or bent: they are “rigid”, even compounds that tend to react either not at all

under loads heavy enough to break them. A or extremely little with other substances or with

material which reaches a breaking point the environment. Ceramic tiles are hence

without first buckling (or undergoing a “inert”. Ceramic materials are insoluble and

“plastic” deformation, to use the technical inalterable not only from contact with water,

term) is termed “brittle”, while a material but also with most chemical substances (only

that behaves in the opposite way is called a particular acid, hydrofluoric acid, is able to

“ductile”. It must be stressed that brittleness dissolve glass, and therefore also ceramic). This

is not a defect. Brittleness is associated with inertia occurs not only at room temperature,

a moderate degree of shock-resistance that but also at high temperatures: not even the

typifies all ceramic material: just as a plate flames of a raging fire can alter the composition

may break when dropped, so too a tile that of ceramic tiles: a material produced through

receives a blow - for example, from the a firing process at temperatures higher than

impact of a heavy falling object - may break. 900°C.

Ceramic tile is, we repeat, a floor- and wall- it remains a covering, which must be seen

covering material. Although its hardness as intimately linked to the basic structure on

and mechanical resistance gives ceramic tile which it is applied. It is this basic structure

the capacity to sustain relatively heavy loads, that must serve the load-bearing function,

The raw material

The making of shine, design) and
ceramic tiles technical ones (like
impermeability and
Ceramic tiles are made hardness) that the
through the same body alone cannot
process that typifies insure to the required
most ceramic products. degree. Therefore
The process involves glazed tiles are
various phases during composed of two
which, through a series layers of differing
of treatments, the initial structure and
raw materials are composition: the
gradually transformed surface glaze and the illustrated in Part 2 of to the fired body. Raw materials for the
into the final product, underlying body. By this guide. The third cycle body
the ceramic tile. contrast, unglazed tiles The first cycle pertains pertains to glazed
Ceramic tiles can be are homogeneous and to unglazed tiles. monocottura tiles, The mixes for the
either glazed or uniform throughout. The second cycle a process during manufacturing of
unglazed. In glazed The manufacturing pertains to glazed which glazes and ceramic tiles are
tiles, the surface is process varies in double-fired tiles. decors are applied to blends of various raw
covered with a detaildepending on the This process is so a body before firing, materials, including:
relatively thin layer of type of product, glazed named because it so that only one final ❑ clay-like raw
basically glassy or unglazed, to be involves two distinct thermal treatment is materials, whose
material whose produced. Roughly thermal treatments, involved. In a function is primarily to
composition differs speaking there are one to consolidate the “mono-cottura” or give the humidified mix
from that of the body of three basic cycles body and one to “mono-firing the the plasticity needed in
the tile (the bisque); the (Fig. 1) involved in the stabilize the glazes ceramic body is to order to obtain,
function of this surface production of the entire and decors, which consolidated and the through a shaping
is to lend aesthetic range of ceramic tile (as the diagram glazes are stabilized process, tiles which
properties (like color, types, as will be illustrates) are applied simultaneously. already in their unfired


not the tiles that are applied to it. Take the furniture or even moving vehicles), only if

case of a floor covered with ceramic tile: it the tiles are properly anchored to the

will not break under heavy loads (the weight foundation.

of people walking on it, or the weight of In order to achieve a durable tiled surface, it

Mills for wet grinding of needed to limit the appropriate grain size the dry method, that
tile body raw material.
dimensional variations distribution so as to be consists in a dry
that invariably result relatively fine, and with grinding of the raw
from the treatments of enough water for the materials and the
drying and firing; subsequent molding subsequent regulation
❑ feldspathic and process. At the end of of humidity by means
carbonatic raw this phase, the mixture of special
materials, containing may consist of: a humidification devices,
feldspaths (silico- powder with a 4-7% and the wet method,
aluminates of sodium, water content (for consisting of the
potassium, calcium pressure molding); or a grinding of the raw
etc.) or carbonates 15-20% water content materials in water, and
(especially calcium), (for extrusion molding) thesubsequent spray-
whose function is to In both cases, the drying (atomization) of
produce, during firing, basic operations of this the resulting
a melted, viscous production phase are suspension or slip. The
phase, which results in three: grinding, mixing- choice between these
the relatively glassy blending, and two processes
and dense structure of regulating the water depends on the kind of
the finished product. content. mixture and on the
Some comments must qualities of the product
The preparation of be made on the to be made.
state have the materials, composed the mixture preparation of powders
mechanical properties basically of quartz for pressing (in regard Shaping
that will allow them to sand, whose function is The preparation of the to the shaping
be manipulated, to form the virtual mixture consists in a technique used in over Most of the tiles
transported and skeleton of the ceramic series of operations 95% of Italian ceramic produced in Italy are
moved; body: a structural and that homogenize the tiles). There are two molded by dust
❑ quartz-like raw reductive function, material, with the available techniques: pressing. During the

is thus of critical importance that the tile It is not too soon, though, to stress that a thin

installation be correctly planned and slab of ceramic may be hard and resistant,

implemented, as we will see in the third part but it is not made to independently fulfill a

of this guide. load-bearing function.

pressing process, the Drying the surface of the tiles. Tiles coming out from
mixture — a powder The speed of this the presses.
with an average The drying phase has process (which takes
humidity of 4-7% — is the important function about 30-60 minutes)
compressed between of removing water from depends on proper
two surfaces, with an the shaped product conditions for thermal
average pressure The conditions for exchange, adequate
between 200 and 400 removing this water ventilation and the
kg/cm2 that causes the from the mixture are relatively high
reorganization and critical to the integrity temperature of the air
partial deformation of of the product, and for drying.
the grains, so as to hence must be
produce a sufficiently rigorously monitored so Glazes and glazing
dense and resistant as to prevent
tile. distortions, cracks or Glazes are mixtures of
Some products other damaging different minerals and
(terracotta and clinker phenomena. composites (frit, which
tile) are molded by the The most commonly is prefabricated glass,
plastic method, starting used dryers in the kaolin, silicious sand,
with a mixture whose ceramic tile industry various oxides, coloring
humidity content today are hot air rapid pigments) that are
ranges from 15 to 20%, dryers. applied to the surface
depending on the type These are used in such of the tile and then surface the specific and their grinding in
of product. A a way as to both heat fused to it. properties noted water, so as to obtain a
continuous ribbon of the material (to draw During the subsequent above. suspension containing
material is emitted by the water from the cooling phase, the The preparation of the about 40-50% water
the extrusion machine, interior to the exterior), fused layer hardens to glazes consists of the which is ready for
and is then cut as and evaporate and form a layer of glass, dispensing of the application.
desired. remove the water from which gives the tile various raw materials This glazing process


Fig. 1 - Technological can be performed

cycles for the either on a fired body,
Raw materials for body Raw materials for glazes
manufacture of the
in the double-fired
different types of
process, or on a body
ceramic tiles.
that is simply dried, as
in the case of
monocottura tiles.
Preparation of the The instruments for
mixture application are various
(bell-waterfall dripping
or orifice machines,
Shaping disk-sprayers,
aerographs) and are
integrated into entirely
automated systems
which also include
decorating equipment
such as silk-screen
Decorations can be
added even after the
glaze is baked;
Firing First firing (bisque) this requires a third

The firing
Preparation of Preparation of
glazes and glazing glazes and glazing As is the case with all
ceramic materials, tiles
emerge from the firing
process with the
Second firing (gloss) Firing mechanical properties
required for their
various specific uses,
and the associated
1 2 3 properties of chemical
Cycle of Cycle of Cycle for inertia.
unglazed double-fired single-fired These properties are
products glazed products glazed products
achieved through
chemical reactions and

transformations of both suitable melted phase cases where the the type of product and temperature regulation
the tile body and, in the is formed, which binds desired product is less the type of loading. consistency, flexibility
case of glazed all the particles firmly porous. Toward the end of the and automability.
products, the glaze. together and leads to The firing is the 70s, the single-layer
The firing takes place the creation, after production phase that rapid firing method was The selection
in continuous ovens cooling, of a strong has most introduced, in ovens
consisting of tunnels structure. conspicuously evolved where the material to The firing is the
where the tiles are These structural in the last ten to fifteen be fired is loaded in a concluding technical
moved along on transformations, which years. single layer and moved phase of the production
special transportation are important in In the 1970s, ceramic on rolls. cycle of ceramic tile.
systems, which lead relation to the tile ovens were almost The firing cycles in The material that
them to be first microstructure and the all tunnel ovens in these ovens range emerges from the oven
preheated and then is the final product, with
brought to firing the exception of
temperature (which specific surface
A fast firing one layer
ranges from about treatments for some kiln for ceramic tiles.
900 °C to over types of products, like
1250 °C, depending on the polishing of
the product). porcelain tiles.
The tiles are kept at Before they are sent to
firing temperature for be packaged and
some time, after which warehoused, tiles
they are gradually undergo a careful
cooled - while still selection.
inside the oven - to a The functions of this
temperature that will phase are basically
allow them to be safely three:
removed from the oven. ❑ elimination of
In the course of the defective pieces;
firing, various reactions application properties which tiles were loaded from about 40 to 70 ❑ separation of top-
and transformations of tiles, are further and moved in piles or minutes, depending on grade from inferior
take place that accompanied by a boxed in special the type of product, grade tiles;
determine the rearrangement of the refractory supports. with further basic ❑ grouping of tiles by
properties of the particles, with size These ovens featured benefits regarding category, by work size
product. shrinkage that is firing cycles of 12 to 24 energy conservation, and by chromatic tonality
At high temperature a generally greater in hours, depending on evenness of firing, (so-called “tone”).

In Section 1.1, we saw what materials were available on

the market for floor and wall coverings; in Section 1.2,

we introduced ceramic tile, highlighting a few of its

intrinsic properties associated with, its composition and

production methods.

We will now lead the Homeowner and the Specifier to

reflect on some important consequences of the concepts

here presented, and to consider how effectively ceramic

tiles serve their particular needs.

1.3 - Broad selection

The Homeowner and the Specifier have

distinct personal tastes and aesthetic and

decorating needs. How likely are they to

find ceramic tiles that suit these tastes and

fulfill these needs?

Ceramic tiles are obtained through the

various combinations of many raw

materials, for the purpose of obtaining

products with pre-defined properties.

Consider any color, any chromatic texture,

design or decor: ceramic technology can

reproduce it. The palette of colors

obtainable with ceramic glazes is indeed

infinite. Furthermore, any shade can be

executed in a glossy finish or a non-

reflecting (mat or satin) one. Existing


techniques allow for the faithful available in a wide range of colorations,

reproduction the most complex and thanks to the use of special pigments in the

articulated design, like a painting or a mixture. For unglazed products, the

photograph. Even the surface of a natural coloration is uniform for surface and body.

stone like marble or granite can be Solid colors can be created, as well as more

reproduced in ceramic. complex chromatic textures (such as

For unglazed tiles the possibilities are granular looks, with grains clearly outlined

slightly less vast, but even here, the range against a background, or with overlapping

of expressive options has broadened grains and areas of solid color, as is the case

greatly in recent years. Porcelain is by now with some natural stones). Further
expressive possibilities are created, variations will alter the “network” and the

especially among unglazed tiles, by surface visual impact of the connections between

reliefs that can be introduced in the the various tiles, to achieve a startling

pressing stage to achieve any design in range of distinctive decorating effects.

relief or any degree of roughness. The most common shapes are squares and

Equally vast is the selection of formats. A rectangles, but other polygonal shapes

tile’s format is its shape and size. The (hexagons, octagons, etc.) are also

format of the pieces that make up the tiled available, as well as more complex forms

surface creates a distinct aesthetic effect, including Moorish, Provençal and the like.

no less than the color and decor. Shape At least in theory, current technologies

market with a color, design and format that

meets their specific design needs, whatever

these may be.

The broad selection of ceramic tiles

available today is due not only to the

versatility of the ceramic process, but also

to the ongoing research and innovations of

the Italian ceramic tile industry.

Today’s large sizes, as well as many of the

colors and decors, did not exist a mere ten

allow for the creation of any shape. As for or fifteen years ago.

size, tiles range from only a few So as the Homeowner and the Specifier

centimeters a side (mosaics) to slabs as consider selecting ceramic tile, they are

long as a meter wide. choosing a product with high technological

content, the product of intense research

In conclusion, the Homeowner and the that distinguishes the Italian industry

Specifier are sure to find ceramic tiles on the around the world.

1.4 Functionality and durability surface finish will continue to exhibit the

Among the critical requirements for their technical and aesthetic functions for which

floor and wall covering, the Homeowner and it was chosen This time comes to a close

the Specifier must include functionality and when the finish has deteriorated enough to

durability. be no longer “functional” in the sense

described above. At this point, no ordinary

❑ The concept of “functionality” is or special maintenance can recover the

associated with the types of application and functionality of the surface finish, which has

restoration. A covering will be that much thus come to the end of its “useful life”, and

more functional if its installation and its must be replaced. It will not escape our users

maintenanceare simple. By maintenance we that the question of durability has important

mean the set of operations required to re- economic implications.

establish and maintain the surface finish of

a covering material so that it fulfills its The Homeowner and the Specifier wish to

technical and aesthetic functions. select a covering material that is functional

and lasting. What are their chances of finding

❑ The concept of “durability” has to do with an answer to their needs in ceramic tile?

time: the time over which, in the specific

conditions of use and maintenance, the Let us first consider functionality, in terms

(for example, natural stones like marble and

granite) cannot simply be “glued” onto the

surface to be covered.

The strength and tenacity of the bond between

the ceramic tile and the support are not only a

basic requirement of a successful installation

but also a guarantee of the installation’s

durability. There are tiled surfaces that are still

of ease of installation. We have seen that perfectly functional and intact many decades

ceramic tiles are slab-shaped and thus after their installation - a boast which cannot

require, for the covering of a floor or wall, a be made, in general, for materials with simpler

strong, firm bonding to a support that has techniques of application.

been properly designed and prepared. As the This strong, firm bonding of ceramic tiles to

third part of this guide will show, the the tiled surface will still exist when, many

installation of ceramic tiles is a relatively years down the road, the Homeowner may

complex process, which generally requires decide to change her tiles. The procedure

the involvement of professionals both in the required at that time will be much lengthier

planning stage and in the execution. Ceramic and more complicated than the stripping of

tiles, like all hard materials of the same shape a surface covered with a fabric or material
in rolls: the tiled surface must be literally The above considerations point to the fact

demolished, since the combination of tiles, that durability and ease of installation,

setting material and background become, strength of the system and ease of

after installation, a single indivisible system. replacement of individual pieces of the

The same considerations will impact the covering are separate needs which cannot be

partial replacement of a tile floor or wall satisfied simultaneously to the same degree.

covering in the course of its useful life. The Ceramic tiles are highly competitive with

ease of such replacement will depend on respect to durability of installation, quite

how firmly the covering is anchored to the apart from the question of ease of installation

subfloor. The partial replacement of ceramic and replacement of individual pieces.

tiles some time after installation is possible

in theory but not easy in practice. We will

return to this subject in the third part of this

guide, where we stress the importance of

taking utmost care in the planning and

installation stages of the tile job (so as to

prevent errors and defects which would be

difficult or inconvenient, if not impossible,

to remedy after the fact).


move chairs, carts or other objects, subjecting

the surface to abrasive wear, and exposing

it to the risk of scratches, cuts, and blows.

Hard materials absorb these assaults fairly

well, in clear contrast to other types. The only

limitation, as noted above, is the limited

resistance to blows that distinguishes hard

The matter of “durability” merits further materials from “resilient” ones.

reflection. ❑ liquid substances, sometimes even

chemically aggressive ones, can spill onto the

As a material that is “hard” in the sense tile and remain there for extended periods.

defined in the preceding pages, tiles are All hard materials are highly resistant to

highly competitive compared to soft water: unaltered by it, they absorb either

materials, in the matter of durability. none or extremely little of it, in contrast to

Consider nature, and the number of possible other materials. Thus hard materials are less

stresses that the environment can inflict on at risk of deterioration than materials like

the surface finish of a floor or a wall. fabrics or wood. But ceramic surfaces are

For example, on a floor: unique, among hard materials, in their

❑ people walk, often with dirty shoes, or resistance to chemically aggressive liquids,
and generally enjoy a resistance that is even cleaning is almost unbelievably easy: in the

higher than many natural stones. (Much home, a cleaning with a moist rag or at most

marble is composed of calcite, a mineral that a detergent for hard surfaces will usually be

is soluble even in diluted weak acids, like sufficient.

lemon juice and Coke.) With appropriate and frequent maintenance,

❑ dirt is tracked in along with substances floor tiles will never need any special

that may contaminate the environment cleaning in the entire span of their useful life.

(dust, spores, pollen, microorganism, etc.); All types of soiling can be generally removed

the floor thus must be cleaned and from a ceramic surface - even the mark of a

disinfected. Hard materials generally have lit cigarette, which would cause much

fairly smooth and compact surfaces that are greater, and permanent, damage to organic

impermeable, not filamentous, inert or at

least minimally reactive: surfaces that do not

absorb liquids or vapors, odors, smoke. The

high degree of chemical inertia of ceramic

surfaces, due to their structure and their

production technology, makes them among

the least soilable surfaces and the most easily

and effectively cleaned. The average


materials. Successful cleaning is also used (according to the instructions given in

guaranteed thanks to the generally high the second part of this guide);

resistance of ceramic surfaces to the chemical ❑ that the tiled surface has been properly

and abrasive effects of strong detergents planned and installed, following the

needed to remove particularly deep stains guidelines set forth in the third part of the

(like those caused by lit cigarettes): guide.

detergents that, if applied to other less

resistant materials, might not remove the With due regard to the above, we reach the

stain without damaging the surface. following conclusions:

In brief, ceramic surfaces are the most easily ❑ in the universe of floor and tile coverings,

cleaned and hygienic that exist. ceramic tiles are extremely competitive with

In the discussion above, we have often used respect to durability and functionality in terms

the term “in general” with statements about of ease of maintenance;

the quality of tiled surfaces. The term is used ❑ by contrast, they are more demanding in their

to stress that the claims we are making will installation methods;

be sustained depending on two conditions: ❑ the cost/benefit ratio (factoring in the cost of

❑ that the ceramic tiles have been properly materials, of installation and of special

selected for the area where they are to be maintenance, as well as the technical durability
of the tiled surface) is, however, superior for So the Homeowner and the Specifier can

ceramic tiles, as detailed in the addendum “The definitely find ceramic tiles that will satisfy their

costs of flooring materials”. respective needs for functionality and durability.

The cost of flooring calculation must be strictly on material and 4. Wood allowing a valid
materials global,including not installation costs. 5. Cork comparison of cost
(taken from: only the construction The data used in this 6. Rubber data, we have limited
Ceramicaacta n. 6/97) cost but also the cost study has been 7. Vinyl our inquiry to a
of any special obtained from a 8. Carpeting. specific room in the
Introduction maintenance and survey of a home: the living room.
Cost constitutes a possible replacement representative Method and The inclusion of
basic selection that can be projected sampling of flooring geographic coverage rubber and cork
criterion for flooring over the life span of distributors (materials of the survey among the materials
materials. the home in question. + installation) in Italy. For every type of considered in the
However, the cost of We seek below to An analysis of the material, a survey may be
materials and supply the data, results obtained yields questionnaire was questioned, since
installation alonedoes techniques and a complete economic prepared and these are not likely to
not represent a information necessary comparison between delivered to numerous be used in such an
complete economic for making a thorough the various materials. manufacturers and area; but we have
evaluation of the comparison between construction and included them so as to
available solutions, or the various types of Research approach installation companies generate comparative
an accurate flooring, calculated in with a substantial data for these
comparison of the terms of the total costs Materials considered presence on the materials as well.
various options. to be sustained over The study undertaken market and distribution Costs for the various
A full economic the useful life of the considers the following in northern, central operations are based
evaluation must floor. types of flooring and southern Italy. A on a living room of 20
consider the total This is a more materials: total of 92 completed square meters.
expense of the flooring complete and accurate 1. Ceramic tiles questionnaires were
in relation to the useful comparison than the 2. Natural stone returned. Definitions for the
life of a building: the simpler one based 3. Conglomerates For the purpose of life cycle of flooring


Table I - Life cycle of keeping with data in techniques and costs

floors and related FLOORING Period, from the time of installation, during which the
the CRESME (1997) ❑ types, techniques
materials. Service life flooring is able to satisfy the functional and aesthetic
report on the state of and costs of possible
requirements of the user.
residential surface treatments
construction in Italy. ❑ special
MATERIALS Period, from the time of installation, during which the
This is the maximum maintenance: types,
Physical material maintains its functional and aesthetic
time considered in the frequency and costs
lifetime features.
survey taken: for any ❑ methods and costs
material, it is thus of demolition and
Technological Period, from the time of introduction on the market,
assumed that, after 40 removal of the floor at
lifetime during which the material is competitive regarding the
years, the construction the end of its life
progressive technological and production advances.
or home itself will cycle.
Market life have concluded its life
Period, from the time of introduction on the market,
cycle, prompting Analysis of the data
during which the material is in line with
demolition or at least a As explained, the aim
fashion trends.
radical restructuring of the survey was to
AVERAGE LIFETIME OF THE BUILDING: 40 YEARS that will necessarily calculate and compare
involve the floor as the total costs of‘ the
well. We are thus various flooring types.
materials and installation of the considered to be the supposing that after The definition of total
The parameters of the floor. briefest of the three, 40 years, any floor cost is set forth in
life cycle of the Obviously, the although the must be replaced and Table II.
flooring types durability of a floor, in sometimes reconstructed, For the calculation,
considered in the specific working inconsistent results regardless of its reference has been
questionnaire, as conditions, will depend made it difficult to condition. made to the time
terms of reference for on proper planning statistically define the schedule and the cost
subsequent analysis, and installation, and relation between the Format of - pegged at Septem-
are listed and defined will suffer greatly in end of a product’s questionnaire ber of 1997 - of the
in Table 1. the absence of these. market life and the As noted, for every various operations to
The useful life of a We are presupposing actual replacement/ material covered in the be conducted over the
floor is defined as the that the flooring reconstruction of the survey, an appropriate 40 year life of the
briefest among: the material itself was related floor, when the questionnaire was building.
physical life, the adequately material’s physical life devised, structured in Established formulas
technological life and serviceable for the use has not yet ended. sections that concern of financial
the market life of the levels associated with As a general reference the costs associated mathematics, also set
flooring material. the area in question point for evaluative with: forth in Table II, were
As regards the (the living room of a and comparative ❑ different types of used.
physical life in private home). purposes, we have material It was assumed that
particular, our Survey answers assumed an average ❑ pre-installation any floor has no
calculations are based suggested that in useful life of a building techniques and costs residual value at the
on a proper planning general, market life is to be 40 years, in ❑ installation end of the 40 years.

As can be seen, the that is different, and Table II - Global cost of
GLOBAL COST: Initial capital, assumed to be at the disposal of the flooring: definition,
unit interest rate to be briefer, than the
Definition user at the time of purchase and installation of the calculation, parameters
used is a function of physical life.
flooring, including the indexed costs of construction, used.
the inflation rate and Table III shows a clear
maintenance, treatments, renovation, etc., to be
the bank interest rate. distinction between expected during the service life of the floor
For these two “soft” materials, which
parameters, the generally require at
selections made are least one S
set forth in Table II. reconstruction over Calculation of the (1+i)n

the 40 years, and hard indexed costs where

Results and ones (ceramic, natural (1+ib )
i= −1
discussion stone and (1+ii )
conglomerates) for and therefore
We summarize below which the physical life (1+ii )n
the main results of this will generally be
(1+ibi )n
survey. equivalent to the
useful life of the with
Table III presents a building, given that no P = initial or current amount of money
chronological profile of intermediate S = future or accumulated value of P after n years
the actions that will reconstruction is i = unit interest rate
generally need to be necessary. ii= inflation rate
taken for each type of “Soft” and “hard” ib = bank interest rate
floor over the course materials could thus
of the 40 years of the also be respectively
building’s useful life, defined as “temporary” Parameters and Cost reference date: September 1997
with reference to the and “permanent” references used ii = 2 %
physical life of the materials. ib = 3 %
floor covering
materials used. On the basis of price average values of the treatment/s required 3. Cost of
In the case of ceramic and unit costs following costs (all in before floor is ready reconstruction,
tile and extracted from Euro per sq.m.). for use. including:
conglomerates, the responses to the ❑ cost of demolition of
time line of such questionnaire, and 1. Construction cost 2. Cost of special the existing floor,
actions is different for considering the time of the floor, including: maintenance, ❑ cost of removal of
market life than it is schedule of the ❑ cost of material to including: the rubble,
for physical life. actions presented in be installed ❑ actions beyond ❑ cost of the
Ceramics and Table III, a profile of ❑ cost of preparation standard cleaning that preparation of
conglomerates are in costs has been of the support must periodically be a new support
fact the only products created as seen in surface, undertaken to insure surface
for which the data Table IV. ❑ cost of installation, optimal floor ❑ cost of construction
suggests a market life This chart shows the ❑ cost of later surface maintenance. of a new floor.


Table III - Summary of

Year 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40
the interventions on the
various types of floors
to be expected during CERAMIC TILE ★
the lifetime of the • Single-fired tile ★ ▲
building (40 years), in
• Terracotta tiles ★ ● ● ● ▲
reference to the
• Stoneware tiles ★ ▲
physical lifetime of the
material. • Klinker ▲

• Marble ★ ● ● ● ▲
• Granite ★ ● ● ▲

• Marble-cement ★ ● ● ▲
• Marble-resin ★ ● ● ● ● ▲
• Siliceous resins ★ ▲

WOOD ★ ● ❏ ● ▲

CORK ★ ❏ ❏ ❏ ▲

RUBBER ★ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ▲

VINYL ★ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ▲

CARPETING ★ ● ● ❏ ● ❏ ● ● ❏ ● ❏ ● ● ❏ ● ❏ ● ● ❏ ● ▲

Key: ★: Construction ●: Maintenance ❏: Renovation ▲: End of the lifetime of the building

4. Total cost (with (price) of material; ❑ the materials higher; in general the most
respect to both market ❑ cost of construction; defined above as ❑ for many materials attractive material
life and physical life), ❑ total cost, based on “temporary” are, as to (in particular for all economically, thus
calculated as physical life. be expected, the most permanent materials- supporting the
illustrated in Table II. expensive from the ceramic, natural information collected
The diagram in Fig. 1 point of view of total stones and in a preceding survey,
Fig. 1 compares the indicates the following costs, while the conglomerates), carried out with the
following costs (again conclusions: “permanent” materials the cost of same methodology in
expressed in Euro per ❑ the average total are from this same construction is 1984.
sq.m.) for the various cost is substantially point of view more appreciably higher
types of flooring different from average economical although than the purchasing If, instead, total costs
materials: purchase price and their construction cost of the materials; are calculated with
❑ cost of purchase construction costs; costs are generally ❑ ceramic emerges as reference to market

Table IV - Summary of
Cost Costs Costs Global cost Global cost
the costs.
Product construction maintenance renovation (market life) (physical lifetime)
(E/m2) (E/m2) (E/m2) (E/m2) (E/m2)

Ceramic tile
• Single-fired tile 42 62 195 42
• Terracotta tile 55 13 75 89 89
• Porcelain stoneware tile 61 80 191 61
• Clinker 42 62 142 42

Marble (prepolished)
• Sicily pearl marble 67 15 90 106 106
• Guatemala green marble 128 15 152 166 166

Granite (to be polished)

• Sardinia Pink 94 18 112 122 122
• Indian Juaparanà 141 18 159 169 169

• Marble-cement 102 18 120 245 146
• Marble-resin 94 18 111 415 138
• Siliceous resins 76 93 308 76

• Iroko 75 13 91 183 183
• Teak 101 13 117 231 231

Cork 63 79 260 260

Rubber 41 57 375 375

• PVC 38 55 358 358
• Asbestos-free vinyl 33 50 324 324

Linoleum 41 57 376 376

• Needled fabric 31 8 48 425 425
• Synthetic bouclé 35 8 52 451 451
• Synthetic pile 40 8 57 484 484
• Valuable bouclé 90 8 106 823 823
• Valuable pile 98 115 881 881


Fig.1 - Global cost, in

reference to the
physical lifetime of the
material, construction
cost and purchase
price of the material, Vinyl
for various types of
flooring materials.





Natural stone

Global cost (physical lifetime)

Construction cost
Ceramic Tile Price

Cost/price 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700


life, the picture ceramics and market life are that for natural stone, percentage terms.
changes somewhat. conglomerates, since considered identical. whereas conglomerate In every case, ceramic
As mentioned above, for all other products, The total cost for costs are higher, in maintains an excellent
changes regard only physical life and ceramic is similar to absolute as well as competitive position.

1.5 User safety which the covering material is installed, due

The Homeowner and the Specifier are to the material’s emission of toxic or noxious

conscious of the importance of user safety, substances, or due to the material’s tendency

and consider this factor when choosing a to absorb any substances from the

covering material for a floor or wall. environment that may be dangerous to the

health of the residents;

How do ceramic tiles rate as regards risk ❑ in the case of floors, the risk of falls due to

factors for user safety? slipping or tripping;

❑ again in the case of floors, physiological

To answer this question, we will seek to disturbances due to the surface’s

identify the major user risks potentially accumulation of static electricity;

associated with floor or wall covering, ❑ in the case of fire, risks to personal safety

considering both the risks inherent in normal regarding the ability to reach safety.

use and those due to accidents and under

emergency conditions. Safety from environmental pollution

The superiority of ceramic tiles from this

The risks we will consider are the following: point of view is due to the very nature of

ceramic materials, and specifically to their

❑ risk of pollution of the environment in chemical-physical inertia achieved through


firing process effectively prevents the

leaching of any polluting substances. In

other words, the chemical elements that

make up the material are combined in

insoluble, stable compounds and thus

immobilized in a compact and inert


Therefore, for floors and walls covered with

ceramic tiles and under conditions of normal

use, no metals contained in the glazes are

released or dispersed into the environment.

(In the case of tiles due to be in contact with

the high-temperature firing which concludes food, the release of metals is specifically

the production process, as detailed in the monitored, as will be demonstrated in the

preceding pages. second part of this manual.) It must further

Whatever the chemical composition of the be stressed that, even in conditions of heavy

tile surface (especially in the case of glazed use, the material removed from the tile

tiles, whatever the composition of the surface due to wear is practically negligible

glazes), the structure achieved through the (given, naturally, that the tiles in that location
have been properly selected, considering and “produces” substances dangerous to the

properties and services needed). At any rate, health (dust, pollen, spores, bacteria and

the material to be potentially removed must even germs) which can accumulate and be

be considered inert, toxicologically speaking trapped by some surfaces or objects, thus

and with respect to environmental impact. exposing people who live in this

environment to the risk of sickness.

The properties of chemical-physical inertia

also make ceramic tiles the safest material “Carpeting is responsible for 90% of asthma

in terms of the risk of absorbing dangerous in children” was the headline some years back

substances from the environment, thus in the weekly journal of the National

exposing the user to their effects. This subject Federation of the Order of Physicians,

was introduced in the preceding section, commenting on the conclusions reached by a

where it was shown that ceramic surfaces convention of allergists from fourteen

are the most easily cleaned and hygienic countries. This quote was cited in a preceding

surfaces available. In fact where the problem edition of this manual (Ceramic Tile, User’s

of pollution of internal environments does Manual, ed. Edi.Cer., Sassuolo, 1984).

exist, it is due to inadequate cleaning and With their hard, inert, dense, non-

hygiene measures of all surfaces, including filamentous surface that can withstand the

floors and walls. The environment contains most vigorous cleaning, ceramic tiles contain

all the properties that make for easy and or tripping, and thus regard only floors. The

effective cleaning; indeed, the original, risk relates to the physical and geometric

traditional use of ceramic tiles was in areas properties of the surface: with the properties

where cleanliness was most important: of regularity (for example, the different

bathrooms and kitchens. Ceramic tiles, with levels of contiguous pieces, which can cau-

their superior qualities and features made se tripping) as well as the properties of

possible by unflagging research and roughness (which can influence the

development undertaken mostly by the slipperiness of the surface). As is well

Italian industry in cooperation with research known, slippage risks depend on many

institutions like Centro Ceramico Bologna, factors other than the floor ’s covering

are today the favorite and most popular material. One of the most important is the

covering material specified for public and presence of liquids on the surface (for

industrial areas where issues of hygiene are example, water in an exterior floor or on

paramount: hospitals, the food industry, poolside walkways; oils or other liquids in

community kitchens, etc.). an industrial environment).

A properly planned and installed tiled

Accident prevention surface can be considered safe from the risk

Accidents associated with surfaces treated of tripping. This will be confirmed in the

in this manual are mostly falls from slipping third part of this manual.
As for slippage, it can be generally stated that

a floor will be that much more slippery to

the extent that the material covering it has a

surface that is smooth, glossy and

impenetrable. Therefore a slip-resistant

material must have a rough surface; the

purpose of this roughness, in case of the

presence of liquids, is to prevent the

formation, between the sole of the shoe and

the surface of the floor, of a continuous

“layer” or “film” of liquid. In the presence For instance, there are ceramic tiles on the

of such a layer, the adherence (the friction) market that are specifically designed to be

between sole and pavement is greatly slip-resistant. The issue will be taken up in

reduced, and the risk of slipping increases detail in the second part of this manual (Sec.

substantially (this same mechanism explains 2.3, Safety Properties), but we can already

the high risk of accidents that occur on a wet note that the surfaces involved here must be

road). either rough or with suitably designed

We have frequently noted that with ceramic reliefs.

material we can obtain any kind of surface. The conclusion is that, if the specific area of

application entails a risk of slipping, there chemical resistance, enough to endure even

are ceramic tiles that make it possible to the most vigorous cleaning without

contain and prevent this risk, whatever it alteration or deterioration.

might be.

But this is not all that can be said on behalf Safety from static electricity

of ceramic tile. If we compare the conditions Some types of flooring materials allow for

for good slip-resistance with the conditions the accumulation of static electricity on the

for easy and effective cleaning, we will see surface. This accumulation, which can be

that these are in opposition to each other. In generated and activated by the rubbing

fact, slip-prevention requires rough and action that occurs when a person walks, can

scabrous surfaces, while easy and effective lead to an electric shock, often to the person’s

cleaning requires smooth surfaces. But body. Some materials are able to inhibit such

ceramic tiles are the material which most an accumulation: this property is generally

successfully resolves this “contradiction”. associated with not extremely low levels of

The solution is supplied by ceramic tiles - electrical conductance (linked to the

available on the market - which are slip- material’s capacity to transport electric

resistant (having a rough surface or a surface charges, according to the definition given in

with reliefs), and characterized as well by a the addendum).

high degree of surface hardness and The use of anti-static materials for floor
covering insures, on the one hand, the achievement of more complete safety in

absence of physiological disturbances: that those particular environments (operating

is, of the discomfort to the human body, rooms, laboratories or chemical plants)

however slight, that is generally caused by where the presence of potentially explosive

an electric shock; and on the other hand, the substances could entail the risk of explosion

Electrical electrical current (as recently built floors, or bed, which serves to Fighters) to ascertain
conductitvity - long as they are not less than 108 Ω for establish the that an installed floor
antistatic properties wet, in which case it floors built over one equipotential of the conforms with required
would be the water, year ago. (See the system, as well as to standards.
The electrical with the salts it CNR-CEI norm n. 64-4/ allow the system to be The same method may
conductivity of a contains, that would 73: “Standards for grounded. also be used in a
material is associated transmit the electrical Electrical Systems in laboratory, for the
with the flow of charges). This is an Environments Equipped Electrical conductitivity purpose of obtaining
electrical current that important safety for Medical Use”): is not a standardized useful information and
crosses a portion of the feature. Most ceramic standards which regular property for ceramic data for designing the
material itself. Its tiles have extremely ceramic tiles generally tiles, and is thus not system. Testing can be
opposite bears the high levels of electrical do not meet (whatever included in the EN ISO done either on a
name electrical resistance, and are the composition of the norms. specifically prepared
resistivity (or specific well-suited to other layers that The CNR-CEI norm n. floor sample, or on
resistance). Materials environments such as compose the floor). 64-4/73, quoted earlier, individual tiles. The
with high resistivity, and floors for operating For such specialized presents a method for latter test is especially
thus low conductance, rooms, laboratories and use, tiles characterized measuring a floor’s important, if one
constitute that class of chemical plants, where by a greater electrical insulation resistance. considers that the level
materials termed safety is a primary conductance than It should be specified of insulation resistance
“electrical insulators”. concern. regular tiles are that this is a testing of tiles above the levels
Ceramic tiles belong to In some clean rooms, specified. method normally used cited earlier is already
this class, as do the floors must have an This kind of application by the technical experts sufficient to prevent the
great majority of insulating resistance generally requires a of the appropriate floor in its entirety from
ceramic materials. Tiles greater than 2 x 104 Ω, metal net lath or similar authorities (Health conforming to required
block the passage of but less than106 Ω, for surface under the tile Organizations, Fire standards.


tendency to accumulate static electricity on

its surface (unlike many types of carpeting,

for instance), so that the use of ceramic tile

as a floor covering insures the absence of

physiological disturbances.

Should the Specifier be specifying a floor for

a hospital operating room — that is, for an

even from such small electric shocks as we environment with very specific anti-static

are considering here. needs — he would find special ceramic tiles

Ceramic tiles are typified in general by a very available, designed and produced to satisfy

low level of electrical conductance. This such needs.

property too is the direct result of the Deferring further details to the addendum

chemical structure of ceramic materials, and that follows, we stress these conclusions:

is thus inherent to all ceramic materials. ❑ in general, ceramic tiles do not create

(Consider that electrical insulation is for the physiological disturbances from static

most part made in ceramic material — the electricity;

so-called “electrotechnical porcelain”). ❑ for specific areas, special tiles are available

Experience demonstrates that despite this that can insure the strictest conformity with

fact, ceramic materials show no substantial required anti-static standards.

Safety from fire hazards where construction materials come into

Fire resistance is an important aspect in the accidental contact with flames or

assessment of the quality — and thus the incandescent bodies, but also to specific

expected durability — of building materials, industrial environments where the presence

in relation not only to residential spaces, of flames is virtually a working condition.

Behavior in a fire 1. Properties of in a fire (for example, index”, or the minimal as the velocity with
resistance to the changes in mechanical concentration of oxygen which the flame
A detailed study of the destructive action of resistance, consistency, required to maintain propagates from one
behavior of construction flames: over and above size, etc., due to high combustion; “ignition surface of a material to
materials in a fire is “combustibility”, or the temperatures); and auto-ignition the other;
included in the book: C. possibility of 2. Properties that temperatures” , or the 3. Properties that
Palmonari, F. Vaughan spontaneously reacting describe any way the temperature at which define the emission of
“Behavior of building with oxygen with a materials may feed or materials take fire, both fumes and toxic
materials in a fire”, Ed. highly exothermic propagate fire: among in the presence and in substances: these are
CEC, Basilea (1979). reaction, there are other these we note the the absence of flames; the “quantity of fumes”,
A material’s behavior in properties, which vary “calorific value”, or the the “development of the “density of fumes” and
a fire is defined by depending on the quantity of heat flames”, or the velocity “toxicity of fumes”
several properties that material, that will developed by the of advancement of the emitted by the material
can be classified into describe its behavior complete combustion of flames; the “length of in the case of fire. The
the three following and its response to high the weight unit of the the flame” and terms are self-
groups: temperatures reached material; the “oxygen “flammability”, defined explanatory.


human lives depends on other features too,

such as the quantity and nature of gaseous

substances developed during combustion,

or the effects of the fire on the integrity and

stability of the building.

From the point of view of insuring the safety

of the residents in a building, ceramic tiles

— like most inorganic materials — rate

Fire resistance is especially important for extremely high.

floor and wall coverings since it is these With respect to fire resistance, in fact, the

materials which, after furnishings, are most properties of ceramic tiles are quite different

exposed to the risks noted above. from those of most other floor covering

The fire resistance of floor and wall materials (specifically wood, cork, carpeting,

coverings is an equally important vinyl, etc.). Unlike these materials, which are

consideration for human safety in case of variously combustible, ceramic tiles are by

accidents like fires. The seriousness of a fire nature absolutely inert to flames, and

depends on the quantity of combustible generally invulnerable to the high

materials involved: materials which feed temperatures potentially reached during a

and propagate the flames. The safety of fire. A ceramic floor or wall covering is not
damaged by contact with flames, it does not In conclusion, as regards user safety and the

spread or feed a fire, and it does not emit elimination of related risks, both under

substances of any kind in case of fire. On the conditions of normal use and in emergency

contrary, it has been demonstrated that in situations, ceramic tiles are absolutely superior

case of fire, ceramic tiles constitute an to many other materials.

effective protection of the surfaces on which

they are applied, greatly reducing their So the Homeowner and the Specifier will

exposure to heat and the consequent danger find their needs for user safety fully satisfied

of collapse. by ceramic tile.

1.6 Environmental responsibility
The Homeowner and the Specifier care
greatly for the protection of the environment.
Alerted by the media to potential threats to
the environment, and concerned about the
environmental degradation that seems upon
us at the start of the third millenium,
consumers now prefer to use
“ecocompatible” materials that respect the
environment, especially as regards floor and
wall covering materials.

Is the selection of ceramic tiles compatible

with this environmental consciousness
among our consumers?

The answer to this question is “yes”,

especially as regards Italian ceramic tile. In
fact, the attention given to environmental
protection and the reduction of negative
environmental impact began in the early promoted by Assopiastrelle and illustrated
1970s, for the Italian ceramic tile industry; on page 62.
this too is a “world first” which the Italian
ceramics industry can boast. National laws Beyond the industry’s concern for
that have been gradually passed, as well as environmental protection, how can a user
various local and regional environmental determine if - and to what degree - a
regulations that are severely restrictive, have product is sensitive to the environment?
most certainly encouraged this focus on the And how do ceramic tiles rate from this
environment, a focus which has recently point of view?
grown in importance for reasons that go The instrument used for this evaluation is
beyond the question of respect for the law. known as the “life cycle analysis”. This
Some manufacturers of ceramic tiles have analysis considers the product “from cradle
been among the first companies in Italy, and to tomb,” where the “cradle” represents the
the first in Europe, to adhere to the EMAS raw materials as they are extracted from the
scheme (regarding which more detailed environment, and the “tomb” is the final
information can be found in the addendum). disposal of the material (including all refuse)
The Italian ceramic tile industry’s after use. Every activity included in this
commitment to the environment is sequence has an impact on the environment:
documented in the campaign entitled an impact traceable not only to the emission
“Towards a Sustainable Development”, of polluting substances (gaseous, liquid or

Italian ceramic tiles

Towards a sustainable development

Italy’s ceramic tile industry is the world leader in production and technology,
distinguished by cutting-edge techniques, innovative raw materials and
the latest strategies for guaranteeing environmental and user safety. As a
floor and wall covering material, Italian ceramic tiles clearly rate as an
“ecologically compatible” material to be used in bioarchitecture.
Assopiastrelle encourages sustainable development through a range of
projects aimed at promoting quality as well as sustainability among products
and processes in the ceramic tile industry.

Italienischer of Italian
Verband Ceramic
der Tile von
and Refractories
Keramikfliesen Manufacturers
und feuerfesten Materialien

solid) into the environment that may alter life cycle, are measured and used to evaluate
its balances, but also the consumption of a product’s “ecological quality”. The
important resources (often either not ecological label “ECOLABEL” is granted to
renewable or only partially renewable) like a product depending on this life cycle
water and fuels. All these “environmental analysis, as explained in the addendum.
impacts”, produced in every phase of the Let us briefly review of some of the most

Ceramic tiles and “Ecolabel” for products, environmental ceramic tile Fig. 1 - "Ecolabel" Logo.
ecological labels and n. 1836/93, which performance and the manufacturers; and the
establishes a system for creation of an open and Sectorial guidelines on
In recent years, the environmental constructive the development of
Council of the European management and communication between integrated management
Union has supported auditing (EMAS) for the territory and the systems for
environmental industrial plants. public. The environmen- environment, health and
protection as a basic tal management system safety (EHS), supported
factor in in the The main aim of the is also regulated by an by Assopiastrelle. Both
framework of product Ecolabel insignia international norm (UNI these initiatives have
and process quality (Fig.1) is to promote the EN ISO 14001), which been carried out with a
management. The design, production, stipulates its contents qualified contribution by
proposed regulations marketing and use of and requirements. Centro Ceramico -
reflecting this products that have a low The Italian ceramic tile Bologna). Two Italian tile
“management” impact on the The EMAS scheme industry quickly took companies have been
approach to environ- environment over their (EcoManagement and action in this area among the first in Italy to
mental issues - where entire life cycle, and to Auditing Scheme) through promotional join EMAS; they are
the production company raise customer promotes the campaigns and initiati- also the first in the
volunteers to protect the awareness of the introduction and ves to raise awareness industry in Europe.
environment, in contrast environmental impact of implementation on the (for example, the pilot Fig. 2 - EMAS Logo.
to the “command and products. The Ecolabel part of manufacturers of action
control” approach of the has already been policies, programs and “Euromanagement-
preceding law - are the established for some environmental Environment”, partially ECO MANAGEMENT
products; its preparation financed by the AND AUDITING
community regulations management systems SCHEME
n. 880/92, which for ceramic tiles is aimed at the European Union, which
establishes the underway, with Italy in “continuous included the
ecological label the lead. improvement” of participation of ten


salient aspects and principle elements in the but are never such as to require particularly
evaluation of the ecological quality of demanding - and environmentally
ceramic tiles, and especially Italian ceramic significant - processes of separation,
tiles. enrichment, etc. The environmental impact
of the quarry and related activities regards,
We begin with the raw materials, their on the one hand, alterations to the landscape
quarrying and processing. These raw (for which, in most countries, recovery and
materials are widely available on the earth’s restoration are required by law at the end of
crust (as discussed earlier, ceramic materials quarrying activities); and on the other hand,
mainly include aluminum silicates: and in the consumption of resources (like energy
petrology, the rocky layer above the earth’s and water), the emission of dust, and waste
crust is called the “sial” – acronym for the production. In all countries, quarrying
chemical symbols of silicon and aluminum methods are designed to limit, to the extent
– reflecting the fact that the earth’s crust possible, the environmental impact of the
consists basically in raw materials that are quarries. Presently, many types of Italian
at least potentially ceramic). These are not ceramic tiles are made with imported raw
strategic materials, nor materials materials, because of the superior quality of
approaching depletion (like crude oil). these materials in terms of technical and
Quality requirements vary depending on the aesthetic properties desired, and also of
type of product and production technology, available technologies. Many Italian tiles are
still made with local raw materials, though, publications described in the addendum.
to whose use the industry remains Generally speaking, it can be said that the
committed. Italian ceramic tile industry operates in
conformity with “the best techniques
The production phase represents the most available”: production techniques which are
important part of the life cycle from the point industrially available thanks to recent
of view of environmental impact, and the technical advances, and which can ensure
part regarding which the Italian ceramic tile the highest level of environmental protection
industry has reached the highest degree of (see the 96/61/CE Directive of the Council
“environmental performance”. of the European Union).
The main environmental factors associated With regard to the individual aspects listed
with the manufacture of ceramic tiles are the above, here are some important examples of
following: “environmental performance” that Italian
❑ gaseous emissions; tile manufacturers can guarantee.
❑ water consumption and waste water
production; Gaseous emissions. For every kilogram of
❑ energy consumption; ceramic tile produced, the following
❑ waste/residues; substances are conveyed through gaseous
❑ noise. emissions and thus through the streets of the
These aspects are the focus of specific plant:

❑ from 0.16 to 0.42 grams of fluorine Over 90% of these polluting substances are
compounds; removed by purification plants (which by
❑ from 30.2 to 42.3 grams of particulate now are present in all Italian ceramic plants,
matter; using the best available purification
❑ from 0.01 to 0.09 grams of lead compounds. techniques), so that the quoted emission

Ceramic tiles, improvement” of environmental impact of In the manual “Ceramic associated with ceramic
environment and environmental the various products Tiles and The Envi- tile manufacturing are
energy performances and processes, on ronment” (Fig.3) each examined: gaseous
presupposes a deep which to base the of the principal factors emissions, water, waste
The “continuous understanding of the development of of environmental impact and noise. Every aspect
technologies for
reduction and
Fig. 3 prevention of environ-
mental damage. The
Italian ceramic industry
has just such an
understanding, thanks
to the activities
undertaken jointly
between the industry
(technical experts with
private companies and
Assopiastrelle), local
Fig. 4 regulatory agencies
(ARPA Emilia-Romagna
- Emilia-Romagna is the
region where about 85%
of national production of
ceramic tiles is
concentrated) and
institutional research
(especially the Centro
Ceramico Bologna; see
Appendix 5 for further

levels are respectively reduced to: ❑ from 0.001 to 0.009 grams of lead
❑ from 0.016 to 0.04 grams of fluorine compounds (a 90% reduction).
compounds (a 90% reduction);
❑ from 0.18 to 0.28 grams of particulate Water and water balance. Water is required
matter (a reduction of over 99%); for the production of ceramic tile, serving
principally to prepare the mixtures and the
is classified, Tiles and Energy”
characterized and (Fig. 4) features a data glazes and to wash down the production
quantified, according to base on the energy
the type of product and consumption of the lines. Some of the water used evaporates in
manufacturing various types of
technology. This production equipment the processes of drying and firing, and some
reliable knowledge used by the Italian
base is the springboard industry for constitutes waste waters: polluted waters
for the development manufacturing ceramic
and study of tile. This data base is
technologies of the final result of a
that cannot be returned to the environment
prevention, which are thorough campaign of
presented and energy audits, unless carefully processed. Most of the
described with special conducted by the
regard to their technical Centro Ceramico and Italian ceramic industries do not discard
and applicative SNAM with over 100
aspects. The Italian factories, as part of a their waste waters externally, but re-cycle
ceramic industry stands program promoted by
at the forefront in Assopiastrelle and them into production operations, with the
Europe and in the SNAM.
world, already using the
“best available These two “trade
following results:
techniques” (BAT - Best manuals” attest to the
Available Techniques) commitment and ❑ no dumping of waste waters...hence less
according to the EU practicality with which
Directive 96/61/CE of the Italian tile industry environmental pollution;
the Council of the has embraced the
European Union. objectives of protecting ❑ a substantially lower level of water
and safeguarding the
The manual “Ceramic environment. consumption than is needed. The water

consumed is drawn from the area’s water “digesting” most of the waste it produces
reservoirs...hence the conservation and (for example, all the discarded powders and
safeguarding of such reserves. tiles, both raw and fired; dusts separated by
the gaseous emissions control plants; waste/
Waste/residues. The ceramics industry is residues from water treatment processes).
capable of internally recycling and Many Italian industries do not dump any

Fig. 5 - Average specific 14.0

years this specific Italian ceramic tile What emerges with
Specific consumption of energy (GJ/t)

consupmtion of energy by 12.0 consumption settled industry in this regard perfect clarity is that the
Italian ceramic tile
10.0 about five GJ/t. can be seen in the Italian tile industry has
Therefore, as seen in diagram of “stabilized” its emission
the diagram of Fig. 5, in Fig.6, which presents a of carbon dioxide to the
6.0 the 1990’s, following 30-year comparison of levels of the 1970s,
4.0 the industry’s production and annual when production was at
technological and plant global emission of half of present levels.
innovations, the carbon dioxide (direct This is the result of the
0.0 emission, from the excellent energy
ceramic tile industry

lowered its level of combustion of the performances

Year energy consumption to natural gas consumed). discussed above.
less than half that of the
Fig. 6 - Annual emission of 1970s.
carbon dioxide by Italian Ceramic tiles and ❑ We can reflect on the 600 4.00
the Italian ceramic tile

di t/anno)
ceramic tile industry.

Energy industry can now boast: concrete


In the field of energy, ❑ Let us assume as considering the

the Italian ceramics indicator of energy introduction in Italy of
Produzione (Milioni

industry has made consumption the the carbon tax as a way 300 2,00

di CO2
extraordinary progress specific average total of reducing the

of carbon

in the last few years.

consumption (heat and emissions of carbon 1,00
These are the “energy electric) of the dioxide which are the 100

performances” production line, principal cause of the
(environmental expressed in GJ/t of greenhouse effect. 0 0,00
70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 98
performances) of which product. In the last few The position of the Year

such refuse; they recycle everything - often remarkable results, thanks to a vigorous
even the residues of other productive plants drive toward technological and plant
- with a consequent reduction of both innovation: consider that, today, to produce
environmental pollution and natural a square meter (or a ton) of ceramic tiles
resource consumption. As regards the refuse requires less than half the energy (heat and
that cannot be reused in production (like electrical) than was required and consumed
depleted oils, paper, wooden pallets, in the 1970s. The entire industry now
plastics, metal scraps, etc.), the Italian consumes about the same amount of energy
ceramics industry goes beyond mere it did in the 1970s, even though national
conformity with the law to professionally production levels have more than doubled.
filter and collect the materials, vigilantly This truly superior achievement in the area
monitoring all matters of environmental of energy conservation is matched by few
protection. other industries.

Energy. The ceramic processes, concluding We now come to the phase of installation and
with a high temperature firing of the use of ceramic tiles. This will constitute the
material which has first been shaped in its subject of the third part of this manual, but
raw state, naturally require great amounts we take a moment to review some concepts
of energy. But in this very area, the Italian useful for rating ceramic tiles against other
ceramics industry has achieved truly floor and wall coverings:

❑ the materials used for installation and for most competing products. No health or
filling the joints are generally materials of environmental risks are associated with the
little relevance with respect to toxicity and installation and use of ceramic tiles. On the
environmental impact: they are mortars, contrary, ceramic tiles are notable for their
which is to say mixtures of cement, sand and naturally high levels of safety and hygiene.
water, or adhesives that can be defined, for
the purposes of this discussion, as special We come finally to the conclusion of the life
mortars, whose above-cited ingredients are cycle: the replacement or removal of the tiled
complemented by organic additives (acrylic surfaces at the conclusion of their useful life.
resins, polyvinyl resins, etc.) whose function Two aspects of the demolition waste must
is to enhance some application or perfor- be considered:
mance properties. Tile adhesives contain no ❑ the inert nature of the scraps of ceramic
solvents: their dispersing agent is water. materials (discussed in the preceding pages).
There are some adhesives of a different type This inertia is acknowledged in the present
that do not share these properties, but they Italian legislation on waste products.
are only for very specialized and limited use The ability to reclaim tiled surfaces which
(for example, epoxy adhesives); can be returned to the environment without
❑ as for safety and environmental impact particular risk, and can even be used in the
when in use, we have seen in the preceding preparation of foundations and the like.
section how ceramic tiles are superior to Clearly this cannot be said of the demolition
waste from other floor and wall covering less consumption of material and energy,
materials, which cannot be re-used and compared to a surface covered with non-
recycled in any way and whose disposal may permanent material.
entail operations with a substantial Regarding this last phase of the life cycle,
environmental impact, like incineration; ceramic tiles rate extremely high.
❑ to this clearly positive fact about the life
cycle of ceramic tiles, we add the In conclusion, the Homeowner and the Specifier
observation, as documented in section 1.4 now know that by selecting ceramic tile they are
above on durability, that ceramic tiled choosing a product that is respectful of the
surfaces are absolutely unrivalled by other environment:
floor and wall coverings, in the area of ❑ a product whose environmental impact over
durability. A properly designed and installed its life span is lower, in various phases, than that
tiled surface can last as long as the building of other floor or wall covering materials;
in which it is installed. Therefore, in the life ❑ a product whose environmental impact has been
span of the building, a surface covered with substantially reduced over the years, thanks to a
ceramic material — or with any permanent vigorous and committed drive toward innovations
material — involves less waste and requires in technology, plant design, and productivity.

The Homeowner and the Specifier have thoroughly

explored the potential of ceramic tiles in relation

to all the types of floor and wall covering available,

and have discovered that:

❑ the vast range of tiles available on the market is

sure to include colors, styles and sizes that will

suit their taste and decorating needs, whatever

these may be;

❑ despite the complications of installation,

ceramic tiles are the most affordable covering in

the long run, since they are among the most

functional and durable materials;

❑ tiles feature the highest level of user safety;

❑ Italian ceramic tiles are sensitive to the

environment, impacting it only minimally thanks to

great technical progress.

The Homeowner and the Specifier are now convinced

that their aesthetic, technical, economic, safety, and

environmental needs will all be fully met. They thus

decide to focus their search on ceramic tiles.