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Ceramic tile is one of the world’s oldest flooring materials. Tiles are a natural clay (earth) product baked at very high temperatures. Ceramic tiles are inert and generally odorless. And, they are recyclable.


Glazes are a glass-like surface derived from sand. Some manufacturers offer tiles containing recycled glass light bulb waste, automobile windshield waste and a waste product from feldspar mining.
Ceramic tiles are growing in popularity for many reasons. They are highly durable, freeze-proof and easy to clean and maintain. They also have a high thermal storage capacity which means they retain their heat and emit it slowly — especially good in climates which are warm during the day and cool at night.
Tiles are available in many varieties, glazed and unglazed, mosaic and quarry tile and in various sizes, surface textures and colors. Unglazed, often called Mexican pavers, are all clay usually requiring a coat of protective sealant before or after installation to prevent soiling and bacterial growth. They are usually less expensive than glazed. Glazed tiles are water-resistant, require no sealant and permanently retain both their hard quality and their surface color.
Sustainability issues can include the mining of raw materials which can produce soil erosion, pollutant runoff and habitat loss. Although relatively abundant resources, clay and sand are nonrenewable. Tile manufacturing is energy-intensive, but the industry is making many improvements in this area. Some glaze pigments are obtained from heavy metals and some conventional tiles can have radioactive glazes, particularly cobalt blue and some yellows. Radiation detectors are available to test the levels. Still, when chosen carefully, tile can be a good sustainable choice.
Tile installation involves adhesives and grout which are typically derived from petrochemicals and can contain plastic additives, considered inert when cured, but can emit VOCs while curing. When making your choice of tiles, remember that larger tiles require less grouting joints to fill.

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