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Porcelain Tiles – Are They All They Seem? Part 2

When Porcelain tiles were first launched, they were produced by just a few companies in Italy and they set pretty exacting standards. The resulting products had the following typical characteristics:

  • The tiles were much more dense and harder-wearing
  • They could be coloured in a much greater variety of shades, opening up design possibilities
  • They had extremely low water absorption figures for example, they could have a WA figure of 0.5% or lower compare this with 2 -3 % for a typical unglazed quarry tile of the time.
  • All the advantages of being unglazed (better slip resistance, harder wearing) without the colour or design restrictions
  • They could also be glazed

These first generation porcelain tiles were easy to keep clean and in general were so dense and non-porous that they did not need sealing. However, things have changed, a lot. In future articles I will discuss each of the issues in greater detail but for now at least anyone considering buying porcelain (and as more and more factories are switching to porcelain production, it almost unavoidable) should be aware of the following ‘potential’ issues.

As the popularity of porcelain has grown, and with the growth in the worldwide economies, there has been huge increase in porcelain production, all over the world; the biggest producer now by far is no longer Italy but China. With this proliferation, comes a greater variety of standards and quality control. Companies looking for a competitive advantage or areas where they can cut costs can take seemingly small short-cuts or use lower cost raw materials and/or production equipment and machinery, all of which can result in issues such as:

  • Staining, due to exposed micro pores in polished porcelain
  • Fine scratches due to poor polishing quality control
  • White marks fused to the surface (from ‘kiln release’ transfer off the back of the next ‘tile in the stack’)
  • Grid-mark impression in the face. Again from the back of adjacent tiles
  • General cleaning issues of standard finish porcelain due to micro-surface texture
  • Factory-applied wax coatings that can be difficult to remove
  • Residues from factory-applied nano-sealers

In future articles, I will look at the causes and some possible solutions to these issues but for now the phrase “buyer beware” comes to mind.

Copyright Ian Taylor and The Tile and Stone Blog.co.uk, 2013. See copyright notice above.

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  1. nicden | Sep 16, 2014 | Reply

    I have just had high gloss porcelain tiles fitted by professionals. When they grouted they allowed the grout to dry and then used a black tile scourer to remove residue. This resulted in the whole floor being covered in shiny swirls- scratches like you would see on a car after washing it with a sandy cloth. They are now trying to tell me the solution is to put LTP MPG sealer on it. I am reluctant to accept this as I am not convinced this will cover the scratches, also, will this be the start of many applications in the future. Could this be a fault with the tile or could it be the way they grouted them that has caused the problem ?

  2. Ian Taylor | Sep 16, 2014 | Reply

    Hi, sounds like they are pulling a fast one in my opinion:

    First of all, a black pad is too course for this, they should not have got themselves into so much trouble grouting. However most porcelain tiles are really tough so I am not convinced that they have actually scratched the tile surface (although it is not impossible). It could be that there is a wax coating or some kind of nano sealer on the tiles and it is this they have scratched.

    I would try buffing with a white nylon pad (the polishing grade) and see if it improves the look, you can also try a little solvent like some nail varnish remover in a small spot, to see if that removes anything that should not be there.

    If you have some success call them back (have you already settled their bill?) and ask them to clean the floor again, this time correctly and with non-scratching products – show them your tests.

    As far as LTP MPG – this is nonsense – it is an impregnator – a sealer designed to penetrate the tile (if it needs sealing, and not all porcelain does) – it is NOT a coating sealer that will put a gloss on the surface that can hide scratches. From LTP’s own site:

    Impregnating sealer for polished porcelain, marble, limestone, slate & granite. Colourless and easy to apply impregnating sealer.

    It may or may not be useful as a sealer (does not need reapplying every month – rather once every few years) but you need to resolve the ‘scratches’ first

    If they have actually scratched the surface there is not a great deal you can do, in theory porcelain can be re-polished – but it requires professional equipment and knowledge and it can be extremely expensive.

    Hopefully there is some waxy coating on them and it is this that has the swirls in it. This can hopefully, be removed.

    Hope this helps

    Ian

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