The Cement Tiles also known as Portuguese tiles (concept name) is a very special product. Cement tiles have a long and rich history and are available worldwide in thousands of patterns and colors. Cement tiles started a new march at the beginning of the 21st century. A march like it has not seen before. And, as it appears, these wall and floor tiles are still unmatched, on the contrary, new patterns follow at a rapid pace, making the tile perfectly adapt to today's wishes and style.
Back in time
Centuries ago after the invasion of the Moors in southern Europe, southern Europeans became acquainted with the technique used to make tiles by pressing sand, cement, water and pigment. The mainly Islamic scenes and patterns were very characteristic of these tiles and are still available in Morocco, Portugal and Spain today. But France and Belgium also took part in this history and still process hundreds of square meters of cement tiles in their construction projects.
The cement tiles of Cementtiles.com are still made like centuries ago. Here and there, some perfections have been applied, but the production process is almost the same as the one back in the days. It is an ecologically responsible 'cold' process where no heating is required.
Cement tiles consist of a thick layer of cement, hence the name of "cement tile", and a top layer of marble powder and / or ground pellets with organic pigment which makes the top layer, the pattern layer.
An artificially soldered copper pattern template (mold) defines the pattern. A pattern may consist of a quarter or a whole pattern. For a quarter pattern, 4 tiles are needed to make 1 whole pattern. In a whole pattern, 1 pattern is on 1 tile.
The copper mold is placed in a counter mold of a tile pressing machine. The copper mold is now filled with the liquid-processed marble powder. Usually into different colors and shapes.
Once all areas of the mold have a liquid pigment, the mold is removed and cement powder is poured over it straight away. This ensures that the patterned lines stay in tact and fastens the drying of the liquid. The press compresses it all together and the tile (still upside down in the counter mold) can be taken out.
The pressed tiles are transported to a water basin and left there for 24 hours to harden out. After the water bath, the cement tiles are placed into drying racks where they will have to dry for a week. After a week of drying the encaustic tiles are ready to be packed in boxes, waiting for their new owner. The production process contains a lot of handwork and asks specialism from the artisan. By seeing the tile being produced, it will give you more appreciation for these sort of tiles.
Proporties of cement tiles
Portuguese cement tiles are porous. Because they are not made from clay and thus are not fired like ceramic tiles, their surface contains miniscule holes. The top layer, the colored layer, must be protected against stains, moisture and dirt. There are various sealing products on the market these days. Cementtiles.com has been producing its own label (Azule) for impregnation and maintenance products for many years, and sells it to other cement tile and natural stone suppliers worldwide. Good impregnation of a cement tile consists of a basic impregnating agent (sealer) that draws deep into the tile, such as Azule Tile Sealer followed by a secondary product such as Azule Color Intensifier or Azule Tile oil.
The actual impregnation only begins when the floor is placed and put into service! The floor should be weighed weekly with a fatty acid-free soap, especially during the first 6 months. We have developed a special tile soap called Azule Tile Soap. This product saturates the pores and builds a microfilm over the tiles. This very thin but hard layer gives perfect protection to cement tiles.
In all cases care should be taken with acids. As with marble and other natural stone types, cement tiles cannot resist acids like vinegar, antikal, all-purpose cleaner etc. These products leave behind ugly stains that can only be removed with abrasives. (but will never bring the old looks back). The placing and treatment of cement tiles should therefore be done with care. Cement tiles are thicker than other ceramic tiles. The thickness varies between 1.5 and 2 cm and is therefore thicker than regular. This has an effect on the weight of cement tiles which is around 35 kg per square meter. A single tile of 20x20 cm weighs around 1.3 kg. For a kitchen area of 10 m2 you probably need at least 350 kg of cement tiles. Not to mention the tile adhesive and grout. So transportation is usually done by our transport partners that are used to heavy loads.
Encaustic tiles come in different sizes and shapes. The most sold variant is a square of 20x20 cm. In the Middle Ages the most popular size was 14x14 cm. This dimension is still sold a lot. In addition to squares, we also see rectangles, hexagons, octagonal fillets, Laterna's (kind of Portuguese lanterns) etc.
Skirting boards are also made in the same way. There are even 3D tiles with a pattern rising a few millimeters out of the surface of the tile. This method lets patterns really come to life.
Cement tiles are usually used as floor tiles, partly due to their thickness. Yet, in recent years, we have seen more applications like wall tiles. For example, behind the stove, in the bathroom or as a paneling in a hall. Portuguese cement tiles are also widely used in furniture such as table tops, cabinets, coasters, etc. The magazines are full with cement tile creations and the possibilities seem endless.
The funny thing about the name Portuguese tiles is that this name is only used in the Netherlands. If you’d ask for a Portuguese tile in Belgium or Germany they’ll think that you meant a glazed wall tile with a painting on it. In the rest of the world these products are just called cement tiles or encaustic tiles.
We suspect that the name Portuguese tiles originated in the Middle Ages when a lot of Delft Blue Tiles were made in the Netherlands for the Portuguese Nobility, to paste the outer sides of the houses. During that time many cement tiles came from Portugal. They kept sticking with our southern neighbors though, because in Holland the Terrazzo and Granito from Italy were in fashion. It could therefore be possible that the name of Portuguese tiles was given at that period.
In 2007 we visited Curacao for a stock exchange in which we encountered a lot of cement tiles, to our surprise. Perhaps this is a remnant of colonial times. We know however that the cement tiles that are still to be found in the old buildings in Puna and Pietermaai are from old factories from Santo Domingo, Venezuela and Colombia. All old Spanish colonies.
A Patchwork is a collection of different patterns and / or colors (cement tiles) laid together without any real interconnection. (it might be but it’s not necessary).
Thus, with a patchwork, the most varied pattern of tiles will be put together. This can result in a very brightly colored mix of tiles, but one can also mix a more sophisticated color.
Cementtiles.com has often got leftovers or tiles that go out of the basic assortment. We collect and mix them ourselves into a colorful mix. The mix is usually supplemented with tiles from our basic assortment. Patchwork is very popular. Even large companies in the fashion industry, Airports and travel industry have had the courage to order and apply these colorful mixes in their offices.
Patchwork can also be compiled in 2 ways:
1. From our patchwork container, full of leftovers. These tiles are priced extra low.
2. Through the basic assortment as shown on our website. This adds an extra charge as it is a lot of work to put together a patchwork and we need to open boxes for just a few loose tiles.
Using our online tile planner, you can make a patchwork as desired. It is possible to indicate which tiles you want to process in a patchwork floor. With one press on the button, the program generates a patchwork and thus gives you a perfect idea of how the floor will look like.
The pigment used in Portuguese tiles is organic and is derived from natural raw materials. It is mixed with ground marble and pebbles to form a solid top layer / color layer on the top of the tiles.
Because organic raw materials are used, the number of colors is limited. It's not like a paint mixer that one can choose from hundreds of colors, nor with precise RAL colors. Cement tiles have a color palette with about 75 to 125 colors available. Mostly pastel colors. Still, beautiful color combinations can be made with it.
In the past, we have tried to make bright pink tones. Almost neon pink. It turned out, however, that these pigments did not stay well in the tiles and that sunlight caused them to quickly become faded and pale as soon as they were placed outside. This is not the intention of course, so we don’t recommend placing bright pink tiles outside.
One of the first things we ever developed was an online tile planner. We wanted to make it easy for our customers to build a floor. Pattern tiles often exist, as the name says, of patterns. But also edges, so-called borders and corner tiles. In order to be able to process this nicely in a program, within a predefined space, the tile planner offers you a result you’d want.
Nowadays our tile planner (also called floor planner) is a highly advanced piece of software! It not only gives convenience but there are many possibilities. Users can make almost any shape of space that has to be tiled. In the final step, you can see exactly how many square meters of tiles one needs and a quote can be requested. Very handy also unique because you can even design your own tiles and use them in your floor plan!
This way there are countless variants and possibilities, and one can make a floor that nobody else has.
Designing your own tile is something we offer. The delivery time might be a bit longer, but the uniqueness of your own designed tile (floor!) is unmatched! Customers can use existing patterns and fill them with other colors from the color pallet and thus design a completely different tile. We can also produce a completely new mold. We do this regularly for architects and project developers and sometimes for consumers. As long as the patterns are rights-free and are not patented by other companies, we can produce a pattern designed by yourself, or just reproduce a very old pattern.
Cementtiles.com designs many patterns themselves and deposits them at the European brand agency EUIPO. This is unfortunately a necessary measure since there are still a lot of copycat competitors, at home and abroad.
The more tiles the bigger the stock. Well, that's one of the disadvantages you would think. Over the years, after our official start in 2006, we have always added our profits in our stock. We wanted to be able to deliver immediately so that customers didn’t have to wait for their orders. This was a success right away, and our stock got bigger and bigger. Today we have about 16,000 m2 of tiles in stock. That’s more than 3 football fields full of tiles!. If you come to shop and warehouse in Breda (The Netherlands), you’re able to take a look at the warehouse. It's very impressive, well that’s what we think. We can also tell you about the production and the entire logistics process from and to our warehouse. With our large stock, our customers are assured of fast delivery and color differences are minimized.
Cementtiles.com (licensed under Designtegels.nl) has brought back the product ‘cement tiles’ with new patterns and colors, suited for this era, after it had been out of grace for a long time. Our passion for these products has left its mark and has not been left unnoticed. Construction markets and small shops jump into the cement tile hype and try to grab a grain. We believe in authenticity, creativity and courage. And we are trying to show that for many years with our beautiful and varied tile collections.
This was also noted abroad where a growing demand for our cement tiles arose.
Our reseller channel grew steadily and today we sell to many dealers worldwide. As a result, we also became very handy in the logistics branch of sport. Our stock is connected to a self-built inventory and logistics system, which gives us quick insight into our stock, orders and deliveries.
At this moment we work with 20 passionate colleagues (March 2017).