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How to Identify Different Types of Tile and Stone Flooring


Today’s market offers an astonishing array of flooring materials and absolutely none of them are self-cleaning. Because of that, every hard surface requires some degree of maintenance and – eventually – restoration. Maintaining hard surfaces isn’t always a simple solution, though. Different surfaces carry different characteristics, such as strength or high porosity. Identifying flooring materials is a critical part of designing a successful maintenance plan. It can affect everything from the chemicals and tools used to the frequency of maintenance and even whether protective surface coatings are appropriate.

Although it may be easy to recognize an epoxy floor or vinyl composition tile, distinguishing between different tile types can be a bit trickier. Here are some traits to look for.

Ceramic tile


Ceramic tile is either porcelain or non-porcelain. It is the addition of feldspar, a type of crystal found in rock that makes ceramic tile porcelain. Non-porcelain tile can be produced from a variety of clays, and variations in the manufacturing process produce a wide assortment of ceramic tile colors and textures.

When it comes to facility floors and walls, ceramic tile is the most common. It is typically used in high moisture environments like restrooms, locker rooms and pool areas. Although ceramic tile is usually sealed, the accompanying grout lines must also be sealed to prevent the absorption of foul liquids and the breeding of bacteria and odors.

Without it, maintenance will be ineffective and the surface will require frequent restoration.

Porcelain tile


Porcelain is made from special clays and fired at an extremely high temperature. Although more costly than regular ceramic tile, its strength and density are often worth the price.

As Buildipedia states, “Porcelain ceramic flooring is more expensive than non-porcelain and can be harder to work with. However, it offers greater durability, natural stain resistance, minimal water absorption, and through-bodied color.”

Although porcelain is sometimes a lighter color than plain ceramic tile, dyes can make this difficult to judge. A porcelain tile should feel denser than a similar ceramic one and have consistent color throughout the tile. A water penetration test is the best way to tell the difference. If a tile soaked in water absorbs five percent or less of the water, it is most likely porcelain.

Quarry tile

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Commonly found in foodservice prep areas, quarry tile is made from clay and fired at extremely high temperatures. It gains its signature dark red look from minerals in the clay, but other colors can be produced through the addition of pigments or specific clays.

Quarry tile is typically unglazed and without any patterns. Brick pavers are similar to quarry tile but have a rougher texture and are often cut to mimic bricks. Although quarry tile and brick pavers are not suited for floor coatings, it is critical to seal the grout lines in these types of flooring materials.

Saltillo tile


Valued for its rustic imperfections, true Saltillo tile is made from clays found only in Saltillo, Mexico, although there are plenty of Saltillo-style tiles marketed.

Common imperfections in Saltillo Tile include uneven cuts, chipped edges, imprints of leaves or animal footprints, and a rough or dimpled surface. It is typically recognized by the color variation in each tile, swirling from tawny yellow to brick red and varying shades of burnt orange.

Natural stone tile



Granite is an igneous rock formed at extremely high temperatures and is largely made up of quartz and a combination of other minerals like mica, iron ores and feldspar. It is an incredibly hard construction-grade material that can receive a high polish or be left in its natural state.

You should not be able to scratch granite with a knife. Although typically resistant to staining and acid damage, it is somewhat porous and requires sealing. Granite can be recognized by its distinct speckled appearance, thanks to an abundance of different mineral chips, flecks or veins.



A dense, metamorphic rock, slate is prized for its strength and durability. Unless it is honed down, slate has a naturally textured appearance and appears in varying shades of dark, earthy colors.



Less dense than marble or granite, limestone is a sedimentary rock that typically appears in shades of beige, taupe, light blue-grey and off-white. Its finish is usually honed and it does not hold a high gloss polish. Limestone requires sealing as it stains easily, and is not suited for high traffic areas.



Travertine, a sedimentary rock, is a type of limestone that features a mottled, crystalline appearance in varying shades of white, yellow, beige and tan. It is a fairly soft, porous stone that has natural divots and surface voids, which are usually filled with plastic resins or other fillers. Over time, these fillers can decay and fail.

Unless resealed, travertine will eventually accumulate dirt and bacteria within those surface voids.



Marble is a metamorphic rock containing calcium carbonate and can be identified by the veins of color streaking through the stone. It can be honed, tumbled for a softer look or polished to a high shine. It is porous, prone to staining and can be scratched with a knife, unlike granite.

Carter Rosenbloom

About Carter Rosenbloom

Carter serves as the General Manager of SaniGLAZE International. He has taken on numerous roles in the company such as marketing and logistics. If there is an area that needs assistance, he is there to help. As a Rosenbloom, working with his Father, CEO, Percy Rosenbloom III, and brother Hoyt, he is proud to be a part of the SaniGLAZE family business.