Cotto vs Saltillo: What are the differences?

We’ll review the differences between our two favorite terracotta tiles.

Saltillo Tile vs. Cotto Tile | Tile 101 By Clay Imports

Saltillo vs Cotto Tile

Let's compare the differences between our two favorite terracotta tiles. Before we proceed, we’ll review the definition of terracotta tile. Terracotta loosely translates to baked earth. Terracotta is generally a clay based, fired earthenware or ceramic. Unless specified, terracotta is typically unglazed and porous. Terracotta is often used for tableware, pottery, roofing, building materials and of course tiles.

Cotto and Saltillo are two types of terracotta tiles with their own unique characteristics.

Color Variation

Cotto tiles are available in three color options: red, gold, and brown. Each color option has slight color variations, ranging from darker to lighter shades.

Traditional Saltillo tile has a wide range of colors, ranging from dark reds to gold tones.

Terracotta red square tiles on a table clay imports

Terracotta tiles can vary in color within the same tile.

Size Options

Both Cotto and Saltillo tiles are available in various shapes and sizes. From conventional squares to interlocking patterns. Note that Saltillo tiles are going to be significantly thicker than Cotto tiles. Saltillo tiles are about ¾ inch thick. Whereas Spanish Cotto tiles are about ½ inch thick.

Keep in mind that Saltillo tiles will range much more in size than Cotto tiles. Often Saltillo tiles will have variations in size up to ¼ inch different from one tile to another. Due to size variation, Saltillo tiles are going to require a larger grout joint than Cotto tiles. Larger grout joints are ideal for achieving design aesthetics like “hacienda” or “old world”. Cotto tiles have far less size variation and can be installed with tighter grout joints.

Tile worker installing terracotta tile onto floor clay imports

Keep size variation in mind for smooth installation!

Density

You should also consider density when comparing both tiles. Saltillo tiles are hand pressed into wooden molds using the weight of the tile maker. This makes Saltillo tiles less dense.

Tile worker pressing terracotta clay with his hands into a wooden mold clay imports

Saltillo tiles hand pressed into wooden molds makes them less dense.


Cotto tiles are denser because of the use of machinery. Cotto tiles are denser than Saltillo tiles and can be fired at a higher temperature. Saltillo tiles are fired at a lower temperature which makes them porous

The differences in density and firing temperatures result in Saltillo tile being more irregular, slightly “pillow topped”, and porous. Cotto is more refined and less porous.

Tile worker presses clay tile on pressing machine clay imports

Density of terracotta tiles vary based on how they were pressed. Cotto tile is denser due to machine pressing.

Sealing

Saltillo tiles will require sealing due to their porous nature. Saltillo tiles are available in a range of sealed finishes from high gloss to matte.

Often Saltillo seal finishes are referred to as glaze. However, sealer is not glaze. Sealer is dried onto the surface while glaze is fired. Unlike glazing, sealers must be maintained and eventually reapplied. Saltillo tiles that are not adequately sealed are highly susceptible to staining. Saltillo tiles should always be sealed. Read more about Saltillo tile sealer options here.

Cotto, a much denser product does not require sealing. In some cases, sealer application can actually damage Cotto tile. Because Cotto tiles are so dense, it may be difficult for a thick sealer to penetrate properly and dry evenly on the face of the tile. As a result, the sealer will eventually start flaking off the surface.

Only penetrating sealers should be used on Cotto. We recommend the usage of a high quality penetrating sealer such as 511 Impregnator or 511 Porous Plus. ALWAYS test a small area before sealing all of your tile to ensure compatibility.

Slip Resistance

It's important to consider how slippery terracotta tile is when using it on the floor. Saltillo tiles are generally going to be more slippery, since they require a sealer and have a smooth surface. They’re not suitable for uncovered outdoor space.

Cotto tiles have a significantly rougher surface than Saltillo, making them ideal for indoor or outdoor uses. Cotto tiles are not slippery when wet. However, because of the heavier texture, Cotto tiles tend to trap more dirt and require more maintenance to keep clean.

Pricing

Cotto tiles are more expensive than Saltillo because they require more time to produce and are fired at a higher temperature. Saltillo tiles start at $3 a square foot and Cotto tiles start at $10 a square foot.

We hope this answered all of your questions regarding Cotto and Saltillo tile. If you have any questions feel free to email us at contact@clayimports.com or chat with us on our website.




Disclaimer: since the installation of tile greatly determines the integrity of the project and the tile itself, Clay imports does not warranty this product and is not responsible for dissatisfaction of material following installation. Please inspect all tile upon receipt and notify us immediately if you have any quality concerns. This guide is meant to serve as a general resource. Because each project is unique, consult your tile installer before installing your tile.

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