Tiling Glossary

Glossary for Tile Terms


When you set out on a tiling project it helps to know what you’re talking about!

Like any craft, tiling has its own terminology, and if you want to do a professional-looking job as an amateur, it’s best to start out by learning some basic tiling terms, so that when you go to the tile store you know what you want and need, and how to ask for it.

So here is a list to help you speak the language of tiling:

Abrasion resistance rating is applied to ceramic floor tiles. It’s based on an international standard and designates how well the tile will stand up to wear and tear, on a rising scale of 0 to 5 (the PEI scale).

Absorption is another rating applied to tiles, expressed as a percentage amount of water that a tile will absorb in a testing procedure. Porcelain tiles are generally the least absorbent at 0.5%, while stoneware tiles, for example, would be rated 6%. This helps you decide which type of tile is suitable for a particular area or surface.

Adhesive is the “glue” which fixes tiles in place. There are many formulations of tile adhesive on the market for different areas of use, both interior and exterior. Salisbury Tile Store stocks a range of fibre reinforced powder adhesives, most suited for floor tiles, and buckets of pre-formulated paste adhesive for wall tiling.

Backer Boards are installed underneath tiling – particularly in bathrooms (especially showers) and wetrooms. They provide a waterproof, flat and stable substrate to apply tiling on.

Biscuit is the clay body of a ceramic tile which can come in various densities. Usually the biscuit base is glazed and fired in a kiln. The biscuit remains visible on the underside.

British Standards has a code of practice relating to interior wall and floor tiling. This is designated as BS 5385-1:2018 and can be purchased online for £246.00.

Bullnose edged tiles (also known as round edge tiles) have a curve on one edge and are used for steps or windowsills.

Cove tiles are shaped with a curve to be used at the base of tiled walls instead of a baseboard, so as to create a seamless, waterproof transition from bathroom wall to floor or kitchen splashback to counter.

Butt Joint: This is when a tile is applied right up against its neighbour (or the adjoining wall) with no gap left in-between to accommodate grout. This method is generally not recommended by professional tilers.

Crackle Glaze is a finish on a tile which makes it look aged, achieved by deliberately cracking the glaze in the manufacturing process.

Encaustic tiles are made of clay and have a pattern which appears to be inlaid into the tile surface. This is achieved by bonding two layers of clay in the firing process.

Grout is a specially formulated type of silica sand and cement mixture used to fill in the gaps between the tiles once they are applied. Grout should be impervious to moisture, staining and chemicals. It is available in a multitude of colours.

Lippage is when tiles are badly installed – usually on the floor – ending up with uneven edges where one edge of a tile is higher than the one adjacent to it. This can be a tripping hazard, and also spoils the appearance of the finished project.

Listello is a band of (usually decorative or textured) tiles used to provide a visual break in a large expanse of tiles, generally used on walls but listellos can be integrated into tiled floors too.

Mitreing is the process of cutting a tile with a tile cutter at an angle.

Nippers are special tilers’ pliers used to snip away small pieces of tile to fit around doorways etc.

Snap tile cutter is a tool used for cutting tiles. It works with a wheel which is used to score across the tile at the required cutting point, then the tile is snapped along the score line.

Spacers are small plastic T-shaped separators used during tiling to ensure that the grouting gaps between the tiles are even.