Cement tile is a type of tile which is made from cement, as the name implies. These tiles are very durable and sturdy, being especially well-suited to high traffic areas, and they come in a range of patterns and colors. Cement tile tends to be about twice as heavy as ceramic tile, and it is less subject to breakage and chipping. Morocco, Portugal, and Latin America are especially famous for their brightly-colored cement tile designs.
More properly, these tiles are actually made from concrete, a mixture of the binding agent known as cement and some type of aggregate. In basic cement tile products, the cement is blended with a pigment while it is being mixed, so that the resulting tiles are colored. These tiles often have dark, earthy colors, a result of the natural dark gray of the cement blending with the pigment. They can be glazed for a glossy finish or left matte, and they are typically sealed to resist moisture and staining.
It is also possible to find encaustic cement tiles, which are made by creating a pattern from several different colors. Encaustic tiles are brightly colored and very bold, with meandering designs which often have a heavy floral or geometric influence. Many encaustic tiles are designed to interlock to create a repeating pattern. This method of cement tile production was developed in the 1800s, and the persistence of bright colors in tiles dating back to this period would suggest that encaustic tiles are a good choice for people who want very durable flooring.
Like other types of tile, cement tile is designed to be laid on a hard, flat surface and then grouted. The tiles and grout can be sealed after installation to prevent the seepage of water, grease, and other spills, keeping the floor in good condition. In some cases, cement tile is laid over a heated floor, with the floor conducting and slowly releasing radiant heat to keep the structure warm.
Home supply stores usually carry or can order cement tile, and some people like to make it at home, mixing their own pigments and building molds for their tiles. Home made tiles can also be made with inclusions which are pressed into the tiles as they set. It is also possible to order tile through specialty companies which import cement tile from traditional centers of production in Morocco, Portugal, Italy, and Latin American nations.
Special cutting tools are required to trim cement tile, because it is quite hard. Some hardware stores rent out tile cutting equipment so that people do not have to purchase it for tile installation, and it is also possible to use the services of a professional flooring company, for people who do not feel up to installing their own tile.