Tim Chavey

Flooring Specialist

Ceramic Tile

The United States has a standards body known as ANSI, which stands for the American National Standards Institute. The organization monitors the Accredited Standards Committee on Ceramic Tile (A108, A118 and A137) to ensure that a fair set of standards are developed. The definition under 137.1 is: A ceramic surfacing unit, usually relatively thin in relation to facial area, made from clay or a mixture of clay and other ceramic materials, called the body of the tile, having either a glazed or unglazed face and fired above red heat in the course of manufacture to a temperature sufficiently high to produce specific physical properties and characteristics.

Ceramic Tile

There are many names used to describe tile. You may have heard many of these terms such as: quarry, mono cottura, faience, pavers, mosaics, wall, Saltillo, Italian, porcelain, and many other terms. Below are the ANSI A137.1 and the new ISO 13006 definitions. a. ANSI: There are two broad categories used by ANSI. They are Unglazed (UGL) and Glazed) GL). The sub-categories under these are ceramic Mosaic (GL & UL). Quarry Tile (GL & UGL). Paver (GL & UGL), and Wall Tile (GL only).

Types of Tile

Ceramic Mosaic Tile: "Tile formed by either the dust pressed or plastic method, usually ΒΌ to 3/8 inch thick, and having a facial area of less than six square inches. Ceramic mosaic tile may be either porcelain or natural clay composition and they may be either plain or with an abrasive mixture throughout."

Quarry Tile: "Glazed or unglazed tile, made by the extrusion process from natural clay or shale usually having a facial area of six square inches or more."

Paver Tile: "Glazed or unglazed porcelain or natural clay tile formed by the dust-pressed method having a facial area of six inches or more."

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 or be subject to freezing and thawing conditions."

This is it. There are no more ANSI definitions and there are no more types of tile defined by the industry. All of the other names for tile are sub-categories of these types. However, there were some terms introduced in the above definitions which need to
be defined.


Porcelain: An impervious tile, i.e. one with water absorption of less than 0.5%.

Vitreous: Tile with water absorption of more than 0.5%, but not more than 3.0%

Semi-Vitreous: Tile with water absorption of more than 3.0%, but not more than 7.0%.

You can see that the water absorption is a critical parameter in determining the type of tile and its subsequent use. Please note that the determination of mosaic versus non-mosaic tile is based on the size of the tile face. Tiles less than six square inches are mosaic tiles whether they are porcelain or not. This equates to square tile size of about 2.4x2.4 inches or less.