What Makes a Tile Floor Shiny?

Written by sarabeth asaff
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What Makes a Tile Floor Shiny?
Some newer porcelain tiles make use of both a glaze and a finely ground surface to produce a shine. (David Oxberry/Photodisc/Getty Images)

A highly polished tile floor can give an appearance of elegance and rich depth of colour to a room. Reflective tiles draw the eye with their light-reflecting properties and the deeper colour that a polished surface gives. Depending on the type of tile used on the floor, there are many ways to give it that high shine. Some are applied at a factory while others can be created after the floor is installed.

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Stone Tiles

Stone tiles that are hard and dense enough, such as granite, marble and some limestone tiles, can be ground to a high shine. Abrasives are used to grind away at the surface of the stone using finer and finer grits of material until the surface of the stone is reflective and glossy. Polished stones can lose some of their shine over time due to etching or scratches. Minor etching and scratching can be eliminated by the use of shine-enhancing sealer. These topical sealants boost the shine of the stone, but will not render a dull or honed-finish stone polished.

Glazed Tiles

Ceramic tiles that have been glazed can have a polished, shiny finish. Glaze is actually a thin layer of glass that is melted and fused onto the tile. Not all tile glazes are suitable for floor use; some can be extremely slippery when wet. Sometimes a glossy glaze will be given to a textured tile to produce a shiny tile that has grip. Glossy ceramic tiles can also be installed on floors in mosaic form because the grout joints act as a slip resister. Glazed tiles can scratch, etch and lose their shine over time, and there is no way to reproduce this finish once the tiles are installed.


Terracotta tiles and saltillo tiles are extremely porous red clay tiles that must be sealed multiple times after installation. These tiles can be sealed with a number of different materials that can deepen their colour and in some cases produce a high-gloss finish. In some cases wear and tear on the terracotta tiles, combined with a sealer, will also produce a shiny or glossy finish. Walking on, cleaning and sweeping the terracotta eventually wears down and gently polishes the surface of the tile. The sealers then penetrate far enough into the tile that the result is a shiny terracotta floor.


Terracotta, terrazzo and some stone tiles can be given a shiny, high-gloss finish after installation with the use of a wax. Sealing waxes can produce either dull or high-gloss finishes on the tiles they are applied to. To achieve the shine, the wax is frequently applied with a buffing agent that polishes and shines the surface of the sealed tile. Frequent applications of wax, as well as stripping of the old, must be done to keep the high gloss shine in place. Left alone, the gloss will dull and the tiles will yellow slightly.

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