LifeStyle Interiors Blog

Design that makes a difference

Tile Discovery: Part 2

Last time we covered the different types of tiles, what makes them awesome, and the best settings for each.  If you missed it, click here!  Hopefully you’re more tile enlightened and better prepared to navigate through your next project.  Today’s post will help you sound like an expert!  I’ll guide you through some of the most common, weird, and wonderful terms associated with the world of tile.  Let’s begin!

Tile:  Anything set with mortar/thinset/mastic and grouted.  Contrary to popular opinion the word ’tile’ does not refer to a specific type.  Though often it is used to describe porcelain or ceramic.

Porcelain Penny Round & Field Tile

Thinset:  This is the ‘glue’ that holds the tile to the wall, floor, ceiling or other surface.  There are different kinds of adhesives, but thinset is not only the most common, but the most versatile.  There are also different kinds of thinsets – discuss your options with your favorite tile setter.


Mastic:  Mastic is a less heavy-duty type of an adhesive.  It’s appropriate for walls, but if you want a great installation for a floor use thinset.  Many times people want to use mastic for glass tile because it’s white…I always caution against this because it has less adhesion strength for such a non-porous surface and can yellow over time causing your installation to dull.  Be sure you’re using a white, glass approved thinset for your glass tile!

Grout:  This is the cement looking stuff that goes between the tiles to help keep them in place and to protect the sub-surface.  Grout comes in a variety of colors, some even with glitter!!  Grout is porous unless you use a urethane based grout.  Urethane grout is more expensive, but for peace of mind I think it’s totally worth it!!  Regular cement grout can be sealed, but must be sealed regularly to maintain.

Grout. Thrilling, isn’t it??

Field Tile:  This term is used to describe the main tile used for the ‘field’ of the job…not the decorative stuff.  If, for instance, you were tiling your bathroom floor with 12×12 porcelain and used a glass decorative tile too, the 12×12 porcelain would be referred to as the field.  Field tile does not refer to a specific size or type, only to the main body of the installation.

Bullnose:  This tile is extremely boring compared to it’s name.  It is simply a field tile (usually smaller) with a rounded edge that looks finished.  No decoration, no fancy molding, no nothing…just a rounded finished edge.  But these pieces are perfect for where your tile needs to come to an end and you don’t want to draw attention to the area!

Deco:  This term is pretty generic.  Not surprised?  Me neither.  There are so many elements that you can add in as a decorative piece that the term ‘deco’ is kind of a catch all.

Gothic Deco by Country Floors

Chairrail:  When installing a wainscot (tile up the wall part way, typically 3 feet or higher) it can be topped off with a bullnose or a more decorative piece called a chairrail.  Chairrails are beautiful but can add up fast, so be sure you explore your options.

Liner:  Kind of like deco, the term liner is a bit generic.  It refers to any piece that is linear in shape and used in a decorative manner.  A liner can be used as an element in and of itself, it can be used to frame an area, it can be used to highlight an edge…so many ways to use liners!

Chairrail and Liner

Listelle:  A fancy word for liner.  Usually refers to a very traditional looking piece.  All 3 terms, Listelle, Chairrail & Liner can be referred to as trim.

Insert:  Any decoration that is ‘inserted’ into the field.  Could be as small as a 1×1 piece of glass used to ‘dot’ an area or could be an entire artistic panel installed above a range in a kitchen.  Also can be called deco.

Rectified:  This term is used in reference to a porcelain tile.  A rectified porcelain has a precision edge that is perfectly straight.  This is important in areas where you want a very small grout joint or want to cut the tile without having edges that don’t match.  Not all porcelains are rectified, so if this is important to you be sure to check with your favorite pro!

Through Body/Color Body:  This is also a porcelain term.  Some porcelains are colored and/or patterned all the way through.  This is very important in commercial settings or exterior applications where the tile will endure a harsh beating.  In most residential homes it’s not necessary, though they are quite common.

Subway:  This popular term refers to a rectangular tile.  Typically to a 3×6 ceramic wall tile, but could be used to describe any rectangular tile.

Subway Tile

Well, really, I could go on…but my nerdiness is starting to show!   These terms will help you communicate more clearly with your designer and tile setter when the time comes.  They may even think you’re a pro yourself!  Be watching for Part 3!!!  I’m sure you’re just as excited as I am!


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This entry was posted on November 7, 2012 by in Inspiration and tagged , , , , , .
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