Ceramic Industry Blog

Guest Blog: Tile Tech Notes

March 3, 2010

What’s in a Name?

Every box of tile has a secret. If you read this entire blog entry and promise not to post bad comments, I’ll tell you what it is. First though, I’ll tell you where it is.

Once tile is mixed, pressed, decorated and fired, it goes into a carton. A label is applied on one side of the carton. The label is either an actual label that is stuck on the box, or information that is ink-jet printed on the side of the box. That’s where the secret is.

Before I spill the beans, though, the carton itself usually includes some important information. Almost all cartons will tell you the country of origin. Typically, there is also a statement to the effect that the tile inside complies with ANSI 137.1, the standard for ceramic tile. In a future blog post, I’ll go through what is in ANSI 137.1 and why it’s important. For now though, if the carton says that the tile complies, then that means that the consumer is protected if there is a significant problem with the size and shape, or any potential defects.

Other things that might appear on the carton include certifications. For instance, the tile might be Certified Porcelain, which means that it has been tested to have an absorption of < 0.5%. Perhaps it is GREENGUARD certified, which means that it has been tested and doesn’t give off volatile organic compounds. There are also certifications that apply to the factory and process, such as ISO9000 and ISO14001. If the company is a member of the Tile Council of North America, that logo might appear, as well as logos for the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) or other trade groups.

Quite often, the size of the tile inside and coverage information will also be included on the carton. The coverage information details how many feet of floor the tile and grout joint should cover. There may also be some disclaimers reminding the consumer to mix from different cartons and pallets and to inspect the tile prior to installation. These are tips worth remembering.

Now, on to the label. Since the label is printed individually for every carton, there is usually a wealth of information here, too, as well as the secret. The label usually includes the name and shape of the tile, sometimes the name of the series, and a number that the manufacturer uses to identify this item. There is usually also a barcode, which the manufacturer uses to track their inventory. There may also be a UPC barcode, a picture of the item inside or other information.

You’ve been patient, so now on to the secret. There is almost always a shade identifier and caliber identifier on each carton. These are VERY important if the tile is going to be mixed. For instance, Florida Tile uses a shade code that reads something like “L50B3.” The L is a factory code and means the tile was made in our Lawrenceburg factory. The 50 means that it wasn’t significantly darker or lighter than our original target pieces. If it was darker, it would be a 60 and if it was lighter, it would be a 40. The B is a run number or “dye lot,” as the carpet folks call them. The 3 is the caliber, a number that is assigned as the tile goes down the line and is measured by a laser size-gauge. Other manufacturers use other systems, but generally, at least a shade and a caliber will be included on the label. Quite often, you will find the date the tile was produced, too.

So how do you use this secret code to your advantage? First, make sure all the boxes you receive are the same shade. If they aren’t, open them up and visually make sure they look good together before you start to install the tile. If you have to re-order to make up for a shortage, ask for the same shade. If you are mixing colors to make a pattern, make sure the caliber is the same, or not more than one number different.

The next time you receive some tile, take a minute to look over the carton. Once you’re done reading, don’t forget that cardboard, pallets and plastic are all recyclable!


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