are cement tiles right for me? what you need to know.

by clé tile | published: Apr 21, 2021

since clé first launched cement tiles almost a decade ago, they have gained huge momentum. but these intricately formed and expertly handmade tiles still elicit a lot of questions.

if cement tiles are new to you, rest assured that in other parts of the world they have graced the halls and walls of fine homes and cool cafes to regal hotels and stately institutions for at least a century. most people think they are a newly minted tile- when in fact- they are only new to clients in the u.s.

if you’ve been wanting to add cement tiles to your tile project, read on…

what are cement tiles?

cement tiles are best known and loved for their distinctive matte, silky finish that can only be achieved with the encaustic cement tile craft. each and every tile is hand formed and takes on the natural pigments in a varied and soft-to-the-touch surface.

cement alhambra in federal blue, white + nautical blue. alhambra. design: ruthi daugherty / photo: sterling reed

what is the biggest misconception about cement tiles?

many people think that cement tiles are a concrete tile that has been hand painted with paints or glazes to achieve their masterful patterning and details. however, cement tiles are not painted at all. in fact, they are created from three layers.

  • the artful top layer is actually composed of natural pigments mixed with ground marble dust and the finest white portland cement that is hand poured into molds. when the mold is carefully lifted – like magic the pattern is set in place.
  • the middle layer is a mortar made of fine sand and portland cement that provides for compression reinforcement for heavy traffic and furniture.
  • then the bottom layer is solid concrete filled with larger pebbles and stones that make a strong layer that allows for impact strength before and after installation.

the tiles are not fired in a kiln, but are cured in water for a lasting cement surface that is as stunning in its finish as it is good for the environment.

how much variation should i expect?

the handmade process of cement tiles means that no two tiles are ever alike and clients should expect variation of color, pattern, and shade that will create subtle contrast in an installation. this variation of color and pattern (or wabi sabi element) is why cement tiles are very popular. the natural “wiggle” caused by these variations is exactly what draws the eye to this type of surface and gives the tiles a more rich and lustrous finish than mass-produced tiles or finishes. we refer to this unique hand crafted quality as being perfectly imperfect. in short, if your design tendencies do not lean towards imperfection, then cement tiles are not for you!

cement tiles are rated v2-3 for color variation, t1 for texture variation, more information is outlined in our tile variation reference guide.

cement solid in basil rectangle. design: jr corleto / photo virtually here studios 

is patina your thing?

with a top layer that is mainly marble dust and pigment powders, cement tiles have mineral similarities to limestone, and their care and maintenance resembles that of french limestone. with time the initial appeal of the bold, colorful patterns and inviting matte texture of unworn cement tile will give way to a natural patina, very much like a wood floor. and just like a wood floor, periodic cleaning and resealing is recommended for cement tiles.

cement arc in black + white. design: modern studio / photo: austin hyler

cement big spin in leaf, kelly + federal blue. design: vidal design collaborative / photo: staci marengo

are cement tiles considered eco-friendly?

cement tiles are a great choice for clients and projects seeking a tile that is even more eco-friendly than other types of tiles.

here are just a few benefits:

  • cement tiles are not fired in kilns- but cured in pools of recycled water.
  • materials are locally sourced.
  • pigments are naturally sourced.
  • minimal production waste.
  • concrete and cement are all easily recyclable.
  • cement tiles are more long lasting than ceramic tiles due to their ability to be refinished.

for any further questions, please refer to our cement material guidelines.