Tile 101: Crazing

Everything you need to know about tile crazing

By Clay Imports

We share your passion for glazed tiles. From the artesanal craftsmanship to the diverse color palette, their beautiful finish, and the versatility they offer in terms of shape and application. However, there's an intriguing aspect of glazed ceramic tiles that you may not be aware of—the mesmerizing crackling effect that can develop over time. This is known as crazing, and in this article we will teach you everything about this phenomenon: why you shouldn’t worry, how to take care of it and how you can use it in your favor.

Blue and turquoise fish scale tiles

What is crazing?

Tile crazing is when small hairline-like cracks appear on the glazed surface of ceramic tile. Crazing is a natural visual effect of ceramic tile production and can occur anytime: straight out of the kiln, while the tiles are still in the box, sometimes right after install, months or even years after installation, and sometimes crazing will never appear.

How does crazing happen?

The glaze of tiles is made of powdered glass added on the surface of the tile. During the manufacturing process, the glaze and the body of the tile are bonded together using extreme heat in a kiln. These two materials can expand and contact at different rates naturally and this is what causes the crazing.

Is important to know that the color or sheen does not contribute to a tile crazing: it is a natural, unpredictable process, unique to each and every batch of tile.

When does crazing happen?

Crazing can occur before installation, and you may notice it happening by sound (yes, you may hear it!), but there's no need to worry as this is completely normal.

It's also possible for crazing to occur during installation, which is why we suggest using grout with low-contrast and low-pigment levels on your glazed tile. Dark, heavily pigmented grout can seep into the cracks, making it extremely difficult to remove once it has settled.

Crazing may also develop weeks, months, or even years later. While it's impossible to predict when or if it will happen, being aware of the possibility helps you better understand what to expect from your authentic handmade materials.

Is crazing bad?

Not at all! Crazing is something that happens naturally and can continue over time. If you have any object made of ceramic or clay that is glazed, chances are that object has crazing lines or could in the future. You probably love your plates and vases because of that. 

Crazing is going to give more depth and visual texture to your tiles and it’s good to be prepared and know that the look of your ceramic tile will change with time; it is a signal that your tile is totally handcrafted.

Handmade tiles exhibit natural variations, which are inherent traits of natural products like Terracotta. These variations are not defects but rather a natural part of the product. We highly recommend ordering samples before making a final purchase to confirm and appreciate these natural variations in each tile.

As we discussed earlier, this natural feature of your glazed tile, although is not predictable, can be induced. Here, in Clay Imports, all of our glazed clay products from glazed terracotta, recycled clay, printed patterns, vintage clay, and Poco x Clay ceramics can craze with time.

We even offer “pre-crazed” tiles, that we call ‘crackles’. The variance of crazing can vary per piece and product, so make sure to check them out here and find the option you like the best.

Are crazing and cracking the same?

There are some key differences between crazing and cracking. Crazing is a cosmetic surface cracking that does not affect the durability of ceramic tiles and happens naturally. Crazing can affect all tiles in an application, but always individually; the pattern is unique, small in scale and surface level. 

Full tile cracking, on the other hand, are visible fractures or breaks in the whole tile body that expose the clay within the tile and feel more aggressive to touch. Another sign of full tile cracks or signs of substrate issues are if a large crack is continuous through multiple tiles of an installation.

Crazing is simply a natural feature that adds character and charm to any classic or modern design and installation. While cracking can lead to structural issues and need repair, crazing poses no such risks: it does not compromise the tile's strength or functionality and their aged and vintage appearance adds an appealing touch to any space.

Maintenance for crazing tiles

Although crazed tiles are completely safe, it is important to have considerations for their maintenance. First of all, crazing tiles can be installed pretty much anywhere, but we do not recommend them for commercial kitchens, steam showers and pools and harsh freezing conditions. We also recommend dip sealing handmade clay tiles if used in exterior applications.

To keep your crazing tiles clean and in a good condition, we recommend to sweep or vacuum the tile surface regularly to remove loose dirt and debris and use a pH-neutral tile cleaner and a soft mop or cloth to clean the tiles. Avoid using abrasive cleaners, harsh chemicals, or scrub brushes that could potentially damage the glaze and the appearance of crazing.

We invite you to take a look at our Clay Care products. These maintenance items have been carefully tested with our products, and they are designed to preserve your tiles' beauty, ensuring their longevity and durability. From sealers to cleaners, purchasing these maintenance items together with your tiles not only simplifies your order but also prepares you to enjoy your tiles for a long time.

Turquoise crackled tiles in backsplash and bar


Crazing is a completely natural occurrence for your glazed tiles. Is not a signal of a damaged or defective product, but rather, a signal of a handcrafted tile. And we can assure you that you’ll be crazy in love with the crazing of your tiles.

If you can’t wait and want to have a pre crazed product, you can check our collection of crackled tiles here. And remember, if you have any questions or require more information, don't hesitate to reach out to us at contact@clayimports.com.