How to Install Glazed Terra-Cotta Tile

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How to Install Glazed Terra-Cotta Tile
A step-by-step guide for a successful Glazed Terra-Cotta installation.

Handmade Glazed Terra-Cotta tiles are an excellent choice for those going for a distinctive look. And here at Clay Imports, we want to make sure you are enjoying your Glazed Terra-Cotta tiles for years to come. Let us guide you through the installation process. 

What is Glazed Terra-Cotta tile?

Glazed Terra-Cotta tile is our take on a durable colorful rustic tile. Clay Imports’ Glazed Terra-Cotta tiles come in various shapes and sizes. What all have in common is the perfectly imperfect characteristics: distressed surfaces, and moderate to high variation in color and shade. Furthermore, we use Saltillo clay to create our Glazed Terra-Cotta products. Did you know that Clay Imports was the first company in the world to glaze Saltillo tile? For more than 300 years, people have been firing Saltillo in Mexico, and then we asked how one could go about glazing. Thus, we took glazing technology from Morocco and brought it to Saltillo!

The Preparation

Glazed Terra-Cotta tiles show variation in colors and design. So, naturally, Glazed Terra-Cotta tile will not be identical piece to piece. Mixing tiles from different boxes during setting is suggested to produce a beautiful naturally rich appearance. 

Expect to find a few pieces of tile with glaze chips. Though you can sort these tiles out and use them for cuts, including tiles with chips, flakes and irregularities will emphasize the handcrafted look of your installation. If properly installed, our Glazed Terra-Cotta will result in a beautiful, durable, easy to maintain surface that can be enjoyed for many years.

Installation Materials You will Need

  • Flexible tile adhesive, suitable for natural stone
  • Flexible stain resistant grout, recommended Mapei Ultracolor Plus FA
  • Grout Release: We recommend Miracle Sealants Grout Release Sealer
  • Water-cooled tile saw with a diamond blade
  • Notched trowel 1/2”
  • Yellow application sponge
  • Grout trowel
  • Wax pencil or chalk line 
  • Wedge spacers

Glazed Terra-Cotta Tile Care and Inspection

  • Inspect all tiles upon receipt of your order. Expect to find a few pieces of tile with chips and glaze flaking. This is an intentional feature of this product.
  • Though this product works well in wet areas such as showers and backsplashes, prior to installation, the unglazed back of your tile is susceptible to absorbing moisture. Until you are ready to install, do not let your tile get wet. Excessive moisture absorption can damage your tile.
    1. Do not leave the tile outdoors for long periods of time.
    2. Do not let the boxes of your tiles get wet. 
    3. Store your tile in a dry area.
  • Protect your work space. Setting materials can stain your walls and potentially harm your countertop or other surfaces near the installation area. Cover all areas that are susceptible to damage with a durable, protective construction covering.
  • Prepare your grid. Based on your specific installation, determine how to best design your installation. Draw a grid of the layout on the installation surface.
  • Prepare your cutting tool. Test your cutting saw to ensure that you are using the right blade for cutting this material. We recommend using a wet saw with a high grade, continuous diamond blade. If you notice excessive chipping, upgrade your blade. 
  • Ensure that the surface you are installing over is well prepared for tile. The setting surface must be properly cleaned and dry. Do not install over excessive paint overspray, oily or polished concrete or unsecured surfaces.
  • Prepare your adhesive. Depending on your specific installation and subsurface, you need to determine which type of adhesive to use. This product is comparable with high grade, flexible thinset and mastic tile adhesive.

Glazed Terra-Cotta Tile Installation Step by Step

1. With your 1/2” Trowel, begin spreading adhesive evenly to the installation surface. Spread adhesive in small sections. 

2. Apply a small amount of adhesive to the back of your tile. Note that depending on the type of adhesive you are using, you may need to dampen the back of the tiles (the unglazed clay side) to prevent the adhesive from drying too quickly.

3. Press tile to the installation surface. Adjust the tile as applied pressure to ensure that contact is firm and fluid. Do not let the tile contact the setting surface directly. Ensure that setting the material is completely filling the space between the tile and the setting surface. There should be no air pockets between the tile and the setting surface. When cutting tile with a wet saw, keep the glazed side of the tile facing up when placed on the cutting table.

4. As the tile is being installed, use your wedge spacer to secure the spacing between the tiles. Clay Imports recommends installing Glazed Terra-Cotta with a joint spacing of, Min 1/16” and Max: 1/2”.

5. Following placement of the tile, allow 1 day for the adhesive to fully dry.

6. Prior to grouting, apply a coat of grout release to the surface of the tile with a clean sponge or non-fibrous cloth. This will ensure an easy grout clean-up. 

Grouting

7. Apply grout to the tile surface in small sections. Apply pressure, ensuring that the grout is filling the joints completely. Clean the area before applying grout to the next section. Note that this method of installation will result in grout filling the surface pits of the tile.

Optional: If your preference is to leave the natural surface voids unfilled, we recommend using the “grout bag” technique. This technique is similar to a pastry bag technique: fill the mixed grout in a grout bag (or a plastic bag with a small hole in it). Then squeeze out the grout, applying it directly to the joints only. This way, you do not apply grout across the tile face. As with all installations, we recommend you test your grouting technique on a small area before grouting an entire installation.

8. As the grout dries, a thin layer of grout residue will develop over the tile surface. Wipe away the residue with a clean damp cloth. If you have used a stain resistant grout, there is no need to seal the finished installation. If you notice that the grout is absorbing moisture. The grout should be sealed.

Final Thoughts

  • Please be sure to read all instructions on the products used. 
  • For safety purposes, Clay Imports always recommends that you wear safety gear when installing tile. Gloves, safety glasses and close toed shoes can prevent injury. 
  • Mixing tiles from different boxes leads to the best results.
  • Clean your tile occasionally with soap or a household, non-acidic cleaner.

If you wish to share or print these instructions, we got you! Please download the Glazed Terra-Cotta Installation Guidelines in English or Spanish. If you are uncertain about what steps to take for your installation, feel free to contact Clay Imports where we can provide our expertise on the next steps required.

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