Ceramic tiles with their endless variations of colour, shape, size, texture, and finish have enhanced homes since ancient times. These versatile and hardy products have been used for floor surfaces, walls, ceilings, inside pools, as part of aqueducts, inside tunnels and in just about any part of a home. Curving ceramic tiles are routinely used on roofs to protect homes from fire and in the same home, colourful Mexican tiles might be found adorning a courtyard garden. Ceramic tiles have many finishes but the most popular and most common finish is glazed.
Place cooled bisque-fired clay tiles on a work surface. Tiles are made of clay that is either rolled flat and cut or pressed into tile moulds. These wet tiles are cleaned up and dried out. When dry, they are fired in a kiln (a super hot oven) until they are hard. This first firing is called a bisque firing.
Glaze the cooled tile using rollers and brushes. Commercial glazes come in a variety of colours and they often include firing recommendations. Often the glaze dries out quickly, requiring that it be stirred before using. Always paint the glaze on three times for proper coverage.
Fire the dried tile on a flat shelf that has been dusted with silicate sand. Border the tile with rolls of clay (like a moat) to keep the edges of the tile from baking faster than the centre of the tile. You want the tile to fire evenly. Firing times vary depending on the type of finish you want on the tile.
Remove the tile after it has cooled completely. Keep in mind that tiles shrink during the firing process and plan your tiles somewhat larger than you need. Your tile should also be thicker than most commercial tiles. Commercial tiles are made using special drying processes that allow the tile to retain its shape while still being thin. Tiles may be porous on any part of the tile that isn't glazed. Porous areas are subject to staining.
Accent tiles and custom-made tiles are a great way to personalise a tile project. Make extras as you will likely have failures along the way. Your local pottery store can assist you with the correct type of high-grog clay, glaze colours and finishes and they can even fire your tiles for you.