Let’s Talk Terra-Cotta Saltillo Tile

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About Saltillo by Lauren Jones.

Saltillo tile, a type of terracotta tile, is an incredibly beautiful addition to a residential or commercial project. But, what separates it from other types of clay or ceramic tiles?

Where is Saltillo made?

When thinking about Saltillo tile, look to its name for the biggest hint. Saltillo tile is a tile that is produced and manufactured in Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila in northwestern Mexico. And like Champagne that can only carry that name when its made in the Champagne region of France, Saltillo tile can only be called Saltillo when it comes from that specific region of Mexico. All Saltillo tile is made of terracotta, a naturally occurring red clay, but not all terracotta tile is classified as Saltillo. Make sense?

How is it produced?

Saltillo is handmade and fired at a relatively low temperature. Natural Clay is hand – packed into wooden molds of the desired shape. The shaped clay is then left in the sun to dry. Lastly, dried tiles are hand-stacked in wood burning-kilns where they are fired for 24 hours.

Pros and cons?

Like every kind of tile, Saltillo has its advantages and disadvantages. A low-firing process results in high color variations because varying temperatures are hitting individual tiles from different angles. The flame is uncontrolled, much like it would be in a barbecue pit. Low-firing also leads to size variations and porous, highly absorbent tiles. Because of this quality, Saltillo tiles require sealant or oil which transforms the pieces into gorgeous shades of dark terracotta and amber. Each Saltillo tile that is produced at Clay Imports comes pre-sealed, so what you see in the box is representative of how the tiles will look after install. We require a minimum order of four pieces so our customers can fully understand the size and color variations.

One of the coolest pros of Saltillo is the fact that it’s eco-friendly. Unlike many other kinds of tile, Saltillo is made of pure clay from Saltillo, Mexico, and water. It’s organic and biodegradable!

Antique vs. Traditional ?

Because Saltillo is hand-molded, there’s a lot of opportunities to put a unique twist on the traditional flat face of each tile. So, we experimented and created our Antique line of Saltillo by pressing burlap bags onto our wet tiles to create a more textured, distressed look. This yields a whole new aesthetic and looks fabulous in outdoor areas!

Glazed vs. Unglazed?

Fun fact: 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, but three years ago we asked how one could go about glazing. Thus, we took glazing technology from Morocco and brought it to Saltillo and other parts of Mexico. Glazed Saltillo is now one of our most popular products.

How is it installed?

Saltillo is installed similarly to our clay offerings. But, because each piece of Saltillo differs in size due to firing under an uncontrolled flame, installers maintain a slightly larger joint. Most of the time, tile is installed with a ¼ inch or ½ inch grout line, but Saltillo can be installed up to ¾ inch. But, if you want more of a quirky, hand-made look, butt the tiles against one another.

Is Saltillo expensive?

Because Saltillo is low-fired, and uses relatively little energy to produce, it’s pretty affordable. However, there is a catch. Saltillo is heavily varied and irregular in size. It definitely takes skill and lots of experience but is a beautiful product that enhances every space it is in!

How to order?

Glad to hear that you are considering ordering these natural products! First things first, we recommend reviewing samples prior to purchase. You can check out up to five samples at no shipping cost online

Ready to order the full amount? Double-check your measurements. Please add at least 15% extra for cuts and waste. You can purchase online or email your sales and design consultant. You may also reach out on our general inquiries line at contact@clayimports.com

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