|What is a porcelain tile?
Porcelain tiles are merely a form of ceramic tile. Whilst the preparation of both types of tiles are similar, it is the pressing and firing process which results in the porcelain tiles having the superior characteristics of being much stronger and less porous with a water absorption rate of 0.5% or less.
What are the main types of porcelain tile?
a. Polished or semi polished: as the name suggests, an elaborate technique is used to finish the tile after the firing process. Generally, this process means that the tile must be sealed, unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer. A polished surface is not actually a glaze, so do not be fooled into thinking that polished porcelain is glazed.
b. Glazed porcelain: various techniques are employed by different manufacturers to glaze a tile. Once a porcelain tile has been glazed no further treatment is required in the sense that these tiles are considered non-porous.
c. Matt or natural porcelain: generally speaking, this type of product comes out of the kiln in this form and undergoes no further processing. Normally, sealing is not required.
d. Rock finish or structured porcelain: This type of porcelain is extremely textured and quite often used for external purposes. Normally sealing is not required.
Sealing Porcelain Tiles:
a. First and foremost, you should ask your tile merchant whether the product you have purchased required sealing. You then need to determine what kind of sealer is best suited to your porcelain tile. Generally, the sealing of porcelain tiles is seen as an aid to the prevention of staining. As a rule, due to low levels of porosity found in porcelain tiles, it is generally accepted that a penetrating sealer be used for this purpose. Normally it is polished porcelain that requires sealing, as the process of polishing can cause minute surface micro pores.
b. Pre sealing, prior to grouting, should generally be carried out where dark coloured grout is to be used on porous tiles. This will ensure that the grout colour does not bleed into the tile. In some instances, you may wish to pre-seal dark porcelain tiles where light grout is to be used.
Cleaning Wax Residue From Your Tiles:
In the production process, wax is often added to the surface of the tile to protect it, to keep it clean and to keep it safe from scratching when in transit. There are various effective products on the market to clean this residue from the surface of your tiles and you should ask your merchant which product is best suited to your porcelain.
Laying Your Porcelain Tiles:
In all cases, the appropriate type of adhesive must be used. The substrate must also be adequate for the material to be used, that is, the flatness of the surface is paramount. If not, tile lipping may occur. In the case of floors, uneven surfaces may be leveled out with the use of a floor leveler. Your tile fixer will be able to guide you through any concerns you might have, so don't be afraid to ask questions.
Cleaning and Maintenance:
a. Once again, it is best to ask your supplier what kinds of products should be used to clean and maintain your porcelain. Significantly, different types of stains may require different cleaning products and/or cleaning procedures. If you are unsure of what type of cleaner is most suited to your porcelain tiles, it is recommended that a spot test be carried out with a general purpose cleaner in the first instance. Your tile merchant should be able to assist with the selection of the most suitable type of cleaner.
b. With regard to maintenance and sealing, a good quality sealer should last 5 to 10 years. This can be ascertained from the manufacturer of the sealant used.
During manufacturing, this is a process whereby porcelain tiles are cut, generally with a watered diamond blade, to ensure that all tiles are consistent in size.
Cost of Laying
In many cases, the end result of laid porcelain requires a very straight and level surface or substrate . Some tilers will therefore charge a higher rate for laying and leveling of porcelain, if the substrate is uneven.
It is recommended that a qualified tile layer be used for any tile laying job.
Post Installation Cleaning
a. Wax on porcelain: In some instances, the manufacturer will coat their tiles with a protective wax layer. You should consult your tile merchant about the timing and removal technique for the protective layer.
b. Physical protection layers: As the name suggests, this is the presence of a film on the tiles typically to protect it in transit. We would recommend this layer be removed from the tile prior to grouting in most cases, depending on the type of layer present.
c. Slip Resistant Tiles: Generally, the fact the tile is considered slip resistant means it has a more textured surface, which may prove more difficult to clean. Dependant of the surface type, the use of scrubbing equipment, high pressure water and cleaning products may be necessary. If required, clean with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly with clean water.
d. Initial Cleaning: This operation may require a concerted effort as there may be some grout haze present. The tiling contractor should not leave any adhesive or excessive grout residue on the tile surface. Normally, there is a requirement for some post installation cleaning. Damage can occur to tiles if incorrect chemicals or cleaning methods are used. Be aware that high pressure water cleaning done incorrectly can damage grout.
All surfaces require a regular clean so that contaminates do not build up.
a. Glazed Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles: maintaining these surfaces can be achieved by sweeping or vacuuming and then washing the area using a specialized tile cleaning agent available from your tile merchant. Rinse surface thoroughly afterwards, using clean water. Residual streaks, detergent marks and films can result from excessive use of cleaning agents. In some instances, on advice from your tile merchant only, acidic cleaners may be needed for optimal results. These products must be recommended by your merchant as suitable for your particular tile application. Do not use acid, unless recommended by your merchant, to clean tiles as this may affect or damage the surface.
b. Polished Porcelain: Generally, the cleaning and maintenance of polished porcelain is not too dissimilar to that of ceramic tiles. Different brands of polished porcelains may, however, recommend varying methods of cleaning and maintenance. It is suggested that you ask your tile merchant what is the most suitable product and method for your particular tile. Do not use acid, unless recommended by you merchant, to clean polished porcelain as this may affect or damage the surface.
c. Glass & Metallic Tiles: When cleaning these tiles be careful not to use abrasive applicators such as scouring sponges.
d. Unglazed Tiles: All unglazed products do have a level of surface porosity which usually means more attention is required to retain cleanliness. Spills or accidents that result in contaminates on the surface may stain. Often, unglazed tiles are sealed for ease of maintenance or future cleaning.
Many grouts on the market have mould inhibitors which can help reduce mould growth. Mould can still occur if the conditions are severe or if a grout without mould inhibitor has been used. Mould can be removed using specialized grout cleaners. Gels are particularly effective, as they can be left on the grout on badly affected areas, before washing off. Heavy duty cleaners can help remove soap scum and other dirt build-up in extreme circumstances.
Mould or discoloration is basically the result of build up of soap, shampoos and other residues left to dry. If this occurs, a heavy duty cleaner may be necessary. Freshly installed tiles may be covered overall or in patches with grout haze. There are a number of commercial products available for this problem from your merchant.
Efflorescence is a white discolouration caused by minerals in the cement that are soluble in water, being dissolved and transported to the surface as the water evaporates. It is most noticeable on dark materials but can occur on any cement based system. This is not normally a problem as only insignificant amounts of white discolouration make it to the surface of the grout during normal curing. However, because it is water soluble, under certain conditions the migration of the discolouration to the surface can be increased. Therefore if the system takes longer to cure or if there is more water present during curing, there is more time available for it to be carried to the surface. Sometimes minor efflorescence can be removed by using normal cleaning methods, while more difficult stains can be treated with specific products from your merchant. Ensure the grout has had sufficient time to cure or you may make it worse by increasing the water on the surface.
Specific Stain Removal
Generally, the longer a stain has been left on a tile, the more difficult it will be to remove. Where possible, consult your merchant about the type of stain you are trying to remove, as there are specialist products for cleaning the particular type of tile.
Cleaning & Maintenance Standards
Should you have any further or more specific questions, the Australian Standards are available to all members of the public for reference.
The relevant document being Standard AS3958.1.1-2007. Appendix C Cleaning & Maintenance.