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Tile Glossary

Tile Installation and Repair Glossary  

Tile Excellence DIY Blog


A general class of resinous polymers derived from esters, amides or other acrylic acid derivatives.


A term frequently (but improperly) used as a synonym for addition or admixture.


The state in which two surfaces are held together by interfacial forces which may consist of valence forces or interlocking action, or both.


Any material used as a base over which a finished material is to be installed.

Bonding agent

A substance applied to a suitable substrate to create a bond between it and a succeeding layer as between a subsurface and a terrazzo topping or a succeeding plaster application.

Bright gloss

Colorless or colored ceramic glaze have a high gloss.

Broke joint

Ceramic tile installation featuring each row offset for half its length.


A trim tile with a convex radius on one edge. This tile is used for finishing the top of a wainscot or for turning an outside corner.

Bull-nose corner

A type of bull-nose trim with a convex radius on two adjacent edges.

Caulking Compound

A soft, plastic material consisting of pigment and vehicle, used for sealing joints in buildings and other structures where normal structural movement may occur. Caulking compound retains its plasticity for an extended period after application. It is available in forms suitable for application by gun and knife and in extruded preformed shapes


Usually refers to portland cement which when mixed with sand, gravel, and water forms concrete. Generally, cement is an adhesive; specifically, it is that type of adhesive which sets by virtue of a chemical reaction.

Ceramic tile

A ceramic surfacing unit, usually relatively thin in relation to facial area, made from clay or a mixture or clay; and other ceramic material, called the body of the tile, having either a "glazed" or "unglazed" face, and fired about red heat in the course of manufacture to a temperature sufficiently high to produce specific physical properties and characteristics.

Colored grout

Commercially prepared grout consisting of carefully graded aggregate, portland cement, water dispersing agents, plasticizers and color fast pigments.


A composite material which consists essentially of a binding medium within which are embedded particles or fragments of aggregate; in portland cement concrete, the binder is a mixture of portland cement and water.


A trim tile having a concave radius on one edge and a convex radius with a flat landing on the opposite edge. This base often is used as the only course of tile above the floor tile.

Decorative tile

Tile with a ceramic decoration on the surface.

Dry pack

Concrete or mortar mixtures deposited and consolidated by dry packing.

Dry packing

Placing of zero slump, or near zero slump, concrete, mortar, or grout by ramming into a confined space


Strong, water resistant ceramic tile base.Brand name.  

Epoxy grout

A two-part grout system consisting of epoxy resin and epoxy hardener, especially formulated to have impervious qualities, stain, and chemical resistance, used to fill joints between tile units.

Epoxy mortar

A two-part mortar system consisting of epoxy resin and epoxy hardener used to bond tile to back-up material where chemical resistance of high bond strength is a consideration.


Projected cost of materials and labor for a construction project or portion of a project.

Field tile

An area of tile covering a wall or floor. The field is bordered by tile trim.


An expression used to indicate the filling of natural voids in stone units with cements or synthetic resins and similar materials

Flat trowel

The flat trowel is used in conjunction with the hawk for the transferring of mortar from the mortarboard to the wall or to other vertical surfaces. It is frequently used for spreading pure cement on the finished float coat. The flat trowel also is used for spreading mortar on floor surfaces before tiles are set.

Floor tile

A ceramic, glazed or unglazed paver, quarry or mosaic tile resistant to abrasion and impact.

Frost proof tile

Tile produced for use where freezing and thawing conditions occur.

Glass mosaic tiles

Tiles made of glass, usually in sizes not over two inches square and 1/4 inch thick, mounted on sheets of paper. Usually sheets are twelve inches square.

Glazed tile

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


A rich or strong cementitious or chemically setting mix used for filling tile joints

Grout Float

The rubber trowel used for grouting is a non-porous synthetic-rubber-faced float that is mounted on an aluminum back with a wood handle. This trowel is used to force material deep into tile joints and to remove excess material for a perfect finish.


A water emulsion of a synthetic rubber or plastic obtained by polymerization and used especially in coatings and adhesives.

Latex grout

A Portland cement grout with a special latex additive which results in a less rigid, less permeable grout than regular Portland cement grout.

Latex mortar

A mixture of Portland cement, sand, and special latex additives which is used for bonding tile to back-up material. It is less rigid than Portland cement mortar.
Layout Lines
Lines drawn or snapped on a floor for tile placement


A sedimentary carbonate rock, composed chiefly of calcite, but sometimes containing appreciable dolomite.

Marble tiles

Marble cut into tile sizes twelve (12) inches squares of less, usually 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch think. Several types of finishes are made, polished, honed, split faced, etc.


Organic tile adhesive.

Mexican paver tile

Terra cotta-like tile, used mainly for floors, and handmade. These tiles vary in color, texture and appearance, from tile to tile and within each tile. They are available in squares up to 12 inches, and in various shapes. These tiles are coated with various types of sealers because of their soft adsorptive characteristics. The coatings provide a wearing surface on the pavers which would otherwise powder away under wear.


A mixture of cement paste and fine aggregate; in fresh concrete, the material occupying the interstices among particles of coarse aggregate; in masonry construction, mortar may contain masonry cement, or may contain hydraulic cement with lime (and possibly other admixtures) to afford greater plasticity and workability than are attainable with standard hydraulic cement mortar.


Small tiles or bits of tile, stone, or glass. These are used to form a surface design or an intricate pattern.

Mounted tile

Tile assembled into units or sheets by suitable material to facilitate handling and installation. Tile may be face-mounted, back-mounted or edge-mounted. Face-mounted tile assemblies may have paper or other suitable material applied to the face of each tile, usually by water soluble adhesives so that is can be easily removed after installation but prior to grouting of the joints. Back-mounted tile assemblies may have perforated paper, fiber mesh, resin or other suitable material bonded to the back and/or edges of each tile which becomes an integral part of the tile installation. Back-mounted and edge-mounted tile assemblies shall have a sufficient exposure of tile and joints surrounding each tile to comply with bond strength requirements. Tile manufacturers must specify whether back-mounted and edge-mounted tile assemblies are suitable for installation in swimming pools, on exteriors and/or in wet areas.

Notched trowels

Notched trowels are available in the serrated and square-tooth design. The teeth are made in various sizes. The correct tooth size and depth must be used to apply the thickness of bonding mortar specified. These trowels are used to apply all of the various kinds of bonding materials for ceramic tile. When the teeth become worn, the trowel has to be resharpened or replaced.

Paper mounted ceramic mosaics

Ceramic mosaic tiles mounted on paper. Paper is applied to face of tile in sheets approximately twelve (12) inches wide, twenty-four (24) inches long.


A glazed or unglazed vitreous ceramic whiteware used for technical purposes. This term designates such products as electrical, chemical, mechanical, structural, and thermal wares when they are vitreous.

Quarry Tile

Mostly clay and earth tone colored tile 1/2" to 1/4". Ideal for high traffic areas.

Shower pan

Terminology used in some areas for Waterproof membrane.


T, Y and X shaped, they are used in installation to separate tile on walls and floors. They are manufactured in various thickness from 1/16 to 1/2.


A term used to describe the bonding of tile with suitable materials applied approximately 1/8 inch thick.


A term used to describe the piece of stone under a door separating two rooms.

Tile cutter

The tile cutter is one of the most efficient and economic tools in the tile setting trade. A popular model is the hand-drawn tile cutting board that is adjustable.

Tile nipper

Special pliers that nibble away little bites of ceramic tile to create small, irregular or curved cuts.


The tumbling process gives these tiles softer, rounded edges for a more aged, antique appearance.


An application of a relatively thin layer of mortar primarily used to level out-of-plane surfaces such as concrete slabs.

Wall tile

A glazed tile with a body that is suitable for interior use and which is usually non-vitreous, and is not required nor expected to withstand excessive impact.

Waterproof membrane

A membrane, usually made of built-up roofing, to provide a positive waterproof floor over the substrate, which is to receive a tile installation using a wire reinforced mortar bed.


Opening at the base of a shower drain to collect moisture collected above membrane and dispense it into drain.

Wet area

Interior or exterior tiled areas subject to periodic or constant wetting. Examples: showers, sunken tubs, pools, exterior walls, roofs, exterior paving and interior floors.

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