Tile 101: Patina

Appreciate the natural wear of handmade tiles

By Clay Imports

We live in times where almost everything is mass-produced and made almost instantly. This, of course, can provide us with a plethora of items and materials in no time, giving us more choices and options. However, there are many people who enjoy the contrary: small handmade batches  that have natural and unique imperfections made by hand and made to last. These details not only are synonymous with a natural product but are also among the most beloved traits in design for both professionals and aficionados. At Clay Imports, we also cherish these distinctions. That's why today, we'll talk about one of the most popular characteristics of terracotta tiles: Patina.

What is patina in tiles?

What’s Patina?

Patina refers to the changes in the surface appearance of an object that develops over time as a result of natural aging, weathering, or use. It can show as a thin layer of tarnish, rust, or corrosion on metals, or as a weathered, aged look on materials such as wood, stone, or leather.

In the context of tiles, patina refers to the natural wear and aging on the surface of the tile due to factors like exposure to sunlight, moisture or foot traffic. This can include subtle variations in color, texture, or surface finish.

Patina is often prized for the character and charm it adds to an object, especially to tiles. Metal objects can achieve this distressed look through various chemical reactions and procedures. However, on tile, this authentic characteristic cannot be faked: the patina of a tile develops only with use and time, giving it a sense of history and authenticity.

What is patina?

What's the difference between patina and crazing?

While both phenomena are inherent in terracotta tiles, they have different characteristics. Patina, as mentioned earlier, refers to the natural surface aging or weathering that occurs on materials over time. Crazing, on the other hand, is a specific type of surface defect that occurs in glazed ceramics. It appears as a net of fine cracks on the surface of the glaze, resembling a spider web effect.

Unlike patina, which develops over time, crazing typically occurs as a result of their fabrication: while being glazed, the tile will endure a different thermal expansion which causes the cracks in the glazing. This results in the formation of micro-cracks in the glaze, which may or may not extend into the ceramic body beneath.

We have an article discussing everything related to crazing, but please, keep in mind that both patina and crazing are NOT defects, but rather inherent traits of natural materials like Terracotta. These variations in color, texture and sheen 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.

Why do tiles patina?Differencing Patina from tile damage

Patina is a natural trait that develops because of wear, but that doesn’t mean your tile cannot be damaged. A natural patina tile will exhibit a subtle decoloration or some light scratches, with subtle changes in the tile texture. These changes are often uniform and contribute to the character and charm of the tiles. In contrast, damage may manifest as cracks, chips and scratches that feel deeper than surface levels, and they could show irregular or inconsistent discoloration due to chemical reactions or water absorption. This could mean there’s something happening underneath your tile installation or your tiles are not sealed properly.

Consider the location and extent of the changes: patina is more likely to develop gradually and uniformly across the surface of the tiles, especially in the areas where the tile is more exposed or heavier foot traffic. Damage, on the other hand, may be localized or concentrated in specific areas within the tile that have been subjected to impact, abrasion, or movement under the tiles.

Finally, consider the history of maintenance and care. Properly maintained tiles are less likely to develop significant damage over time and will be well conserved despite the patina. That's why we recommend taking 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.

What is patina?

Design by Stampworthy Goods

Find your patina tiles online

Patina is one of the most recognized and cherished tile features that can add a new layer of design to your terracotta installations. To appreciate the subtle variations on each tile will help you identify an authentic, handmade product and will inspire you to keep using this gorgeous type of tile. If you want to know more about terracotta tile textures, you can take a look at our digital catalog or take a look at our guide on how to take care of your terracotta tiles. And remember, if you have any questions or require more information, don't hesitate to reach out to us at contact@clayimports.com