Category: Link Blog

30 Nov 2016
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What are encaustic tiles?

Encaustic tiles are ceramic tiles in which the pattern on the surface is not a product of the glaze but of different colors of clay. They are usually of two to as many as six colours. The pattern appears inlaid into the body of the tile. Typically they are square and less than 20 x 20cm in size.

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Modern ink-jet emulation of a selection of Portuguese encaustic tiles.

Encaustic is Ancient Greek meaning “burning in” which was also applied to a process of medieval enameling. Victorians thought that the two colour tiles strongly resembled enamel work and so called them encaustic. Despite the error, the term has now been in common use for so long that it is an accepted name for inlaid tile work. In both medieval times and in the nineteenth century Gothic Revival, tiles were most often made for and laid in churches. Even tiles that were laid in private homes were often copies of those found in religious settings. Encaustic tile floors exist all over Europe and North America but are most prevalent in England where the greatest numbers of inlaid tiles were made.

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Encaustic tile moulds.

Encaustic tiles are now more of historic interest than anything else. Although there are some demonstration production lines in living museums, the process is no longer used widely.

There are a very few encaustic tile makers these days and studios in the UK, US, Australia and Morocco are prominent. They use a two-part moulding process. The ‘inlay’ colour is moulded first. For multiple colours, a mould with cavities for each colour is used and the individual colours are filled carefully. This coloured clay is then placed face-down in a mould that is backfilled with the body colour. The tiles are then fired.

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Pouring the second layer of clay into the body then scraping smooth.

These days modern digitally printed ink-jet tiles are produced to emulate the look of encaustic tiles. These are often used for feature walls around fireplaces, kitchen and bathroom spashbacks, small wet-room walls or floors like showers or guest toilets.
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Modern ink-jet emulation – 16 tiles printed on one 60×60 body.

24 Nov 2016
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How to make more profit by selling better tile adhesive.

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In our disclaimer on our tile boxes it says “Ask your supplier to recommend the correct adhesive, curing time and cleaning materials.”
So…when your customer asks you to recommend a suitable adhesive (and even if they don’t!) look at the tiles that they’ve selected and in your best professional voice say:

“Well, these are 1st grade tiles, they’ll last forever if they’re installed properly, you should use this adhesive.” 

Point them towards your premium brand. Then go on to recommend your best grout and cleaning products. Also, always make sure that your customer is buying the recommended extra 10% to allow for breakages, trimming and spares.

The beauty of this approach to selling is that you’re not selling your customer short. On the contrary you’re offering the best professional service. Would you use cheap adhesive, I certainly wouldn’t. The benefit is that your customer leaves with a higher opinion of the tiles they’ve bought which means that they will talk about them and in all likelihood be back for more… and you’ve increased your profit by more than 10%! Plus, you can be confident that by using the best adhesives there’s far less chance that the customer will return with a complaint.

This upselling technique works!

15 Nov 2016
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What is Polished Porcelain and What is Nano?

The dense, hard surface of porcelain has made polishing a viable alternative to a glazed surface. This means that a tile can be fired, then a polished creating a shine without a glaze.

However polished porcelain may need sealing, where ordinary glazed tiles do not. Unsealed porcelain can attract stubborn stains and can become brittle when in contact with chlorinated water and acids.

When porcelain is first made, it is not absorbent, but the polishing process for making the unglazed surface shiny cuts into the surface, leaving microscopic pinholes exposed and prone to absorbing stains, in the same way as natural stone tiles. Unless they have a suitable, long-lasting treatment applied by the manufacturer like nano, polished porcelain tiles will need sealing. Porcelain sealants are either solvent-based or water-based. Water based sealants are cheaper, but don’t last.

Porcelain tiles with a nano treatment are more dirt and stain resistant, glossier and have more intense colour. Nano treatment is more complex than you might have thought. It consists of applying two different compounds up to ten layers deep to the surface of the tile, polishing between each application and then firing again at 1250ºC.

Here are two microscope images of a porcelain tile surface before and after nano treatment.


A nano polymer compound is pressed into the pinholes of the polished porcelain tile surface. This consists of very light and hard organic nano particles ranging in size from 5nm to1µm. The surface is then polished and a second layer is applied, polished again and a third layer applied. The particles are smaller than the tiny pinholes and cracks in the tiles so they fill these gaps and these pores become permanently sealed.

The second compound applied is a solvent flourine polymer then the tile is polished again. Flouropolymers are characterized by a high resistance to solvents, acids, and bases. With repetitive plating, applied through high pressure sanding and polishing, the nano particles combine with the tile substance to form an organic nano film with a high density and stability, which achieves the distinguishing characteristics of nano treated tiles. Generally at least six layers of polymer application and polishing cycles are completed then a final water wash before high temperature firing.

The technique of application, polishing and firing ensures that the nano particles polymerise (chemically bond) evenly on the surface of the tiles. The high surface sheen of nano tiles creates a protective layer so dirt cannot penetrate the tiles and they are easier to keep clean. The granular material of the protective layer enhances the tiles’ durability and slip resistance making them suitable for both domestic and commercial applications and after firing have a hardness equivalent to that of granite.

But it’s not just a long process, it’s tricky too. The specially designed polishing heads must operate at an ideal temperature of between 35ºC and 70ºC, they must also be carefully aligned to move consistently over the surface of the tile polishing each part with the same even pressure. The amount of compound applied to the tile must also be very finely controlled to ensure even distribution of the particles.

Our Classic Super White, Super black and Ivory tiles are all rectified, nano-treated polished porcelain. View brochure here.

09 Nov 2016
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What are Coefficients of Expansion and why are they important?

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A coefficient of expansion is a measure of how an object expands when exposed to heat or water. It’s important with tiles because unless you understand the principles and apply preventative measures when installing, tiles will expand and crack or lift causing floor failure.

Tiles expand for two reasons: being heated and absorbing water. These are respectively defined by the coefficient of thermal expansion (CoE) and the coefficient of moisture expansion (CME). The thermal coefficient is the amount of expansion (or contraction) per unit length of the material resulting from a change in temperature. In the tile industry the moisture coefficient is normally expressed as a percentage change in size after immersion in water. In tiles the effect of moisture expansion is around ten times larger than that of the coefficient of thermal expansion.

With tiles moisture expansion is commonly called ‘irreversible’ because once water is absorbed in the microscopic holes in the tile there is really no way for it to escape, especially with glazed tiles which are effectively sealed from above. In addition tiles also experience hydration, the chemical capture of water molecules in the tile body. Moisture expansion in tiles is the primary cause of ‘tenting’; when tiles push together and lift from the floor base. It is also the reason for delayed crazing.

The coefficient of moisture expansion is fundamental to the  design of movement joints, the proper installation of which will prevent tenting and cracking. This is even more critical in areas exposed to moisture such as bathrooms and outdoor spaces.

If the CME is a percentage multiply by 10 to give expansion in mm per metre. This can be used to calculate adequate movement joints. But 10% extra should be added.

Class Tile type             Water absorption          Expansion
B1a Porcelain                      < 0,5%                       5 mm/m
B1b Gres porcelain          0,5 – 3%                      30 mm/m
B1b Ceramic                     0,5 – 3%                      30 mm/m
B2a Ceramic                        3 – 6%                      60 mm/m
B2b Fired clay                     < 10%                     100 mm/m

Note the huge difference between possible expansion of real porcelain to fired clay tiles like Terracotta.

05 Jul 2016
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Vision Large Format Porcelain

This is Vision, another absolutely stunning new tile range designed and produced in Brazil. Vision is a premium inkjet porcelain. Tiles are large format rectangles measuring 51 x 103cm. All tiles are rectified and have a smooth satin finish. Vision has four different plain and four different deco faces. The deco can be used as room edging, in feature areas or as mix & match accents scattered among the plain tiles. The design is sophisticated and resembles an age-faded fresco painting of flowers and vegetation that might have graced an old conservatory. The plain tiles are colour matched and two have a very subtle irregular pattern that mirrors the deco design. Vision also lends itself to wall applications. Enquiries for Vision are welcome. Contact us here.

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28 Jun 2016
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Hyperealistic Porcelain Planks

This is part of our Legno series. Legno is Italian for wood. Giordano and Native are two top end tile ranges from Brazil. The series has a rough hewn look with evident saw marks producing a very rustic effect. Each design includes ten different faces which means that the floor appearance is natural with no evident repetition. Planks are rectified 25cm x 103cm. The surface finish is a smooth satin with gentle, wood-like texturing. These tiles are incredibly realistic with deep colour detail. Legno are all real porcelain and imminently suitable for high traffic commercial spaces.

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Legno Native Noce

 

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Legno Giordano Noce

 

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Legno Native Patina

 

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Legno Giordano Patina

Enquiries for Legno Giordano and Legno Native are welcome. Contact us here.

21 Jun 2016
Floor-and-Tile-Cleaning-Tips

What to do about “Tiles that just won’t stay clean.”

How often have you heard a customer complain that their tiles “just don’t stay clean.” They will claim they clean them but then the next day they look dirty again. “even though no-one has even walked in that area!”

Now tiles as you know are very easy to clean and maintain. Normally tiles require very little time and effort to keep clean: you should only need a bit of water and vinegar once a week.
On the other hand, some tiles will seem like they’re impossible to keep clean: they’re always either dirty, or they become dirty really quickly after cleaning. This is one of the more common complaints we hear, but despite customers complaining that there must be something wrong with the tile surface in reality it’s not a problem with the actual tiles, and is very easily fixed.
What’s the real cause?

  1. Grout haze. When tiles are laid and grouted, there will be some grout left on the surface of the tiles which should be removed. If not, a thin film of almost invisible grout remains hardened onto the tiles and traps dirt. The dirt can be washed away, but the grout film is very hard and remains. As soon as the tile is dry it will start picking up even airborne dust all over again.
  2. Soap scum. The other cause, ironically, is detergent. If detergent (or anything containing soap) is used to wash a floor, it needs to be rinsed thoroughly. A film of detergent “soap scum” can dry on the tiles and trap dirt. Continuing to wash with detergent can even make the problem worse. The layer of soap scum can build up to the point where the tiles actually appear to be going white. To test for detergent build-up like this is to pour a couple of tablespoons of water on a small area of the floor and scrub with a green scouring pad. If you can get suds to appear, the floor is soapy.

 

What’s the solution?
Both problems have the same simple solution: Clean the floor properly! A 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water and some elbow grease with a scouring sponge should do the trick. Alternatively a heavy duty tile & grout cleaner or a speciality grout haze remover, which is normally a mild acid formulation, may be necessary. These will remove both the grout residue an any detergent build-up. It is vital to follow the directions and most importantly to rinse thoroughly afterwards or you will have the same problem over again.

Our brochures are available here.
Product enquiries are welcome. Contact us here.

14 Jun 2016
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New Brazilian Porcelain

This is Vanguard, an absolutely stunning new tile range from Brazil. Vanguard is premium inkjet porcelain. It comes in three colours, ivory, grey and grafiti each with a stunning deco version shown below. The deco is intended for feature areas like the counter wall in the photo above or as mix & match accents scattered among the plainer tiles.

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Deco tiles. These and the plain tiles measure 51 x 103cm. All tiles are rectified and have a smooth satin finish.

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31 May 2016
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Tile hardness; understanding the Mohs scale.

The Mohs scale of mineral hardness is a qualitative scale that characterizes the scratch resistance of various minerals through the ability of a harder material to scratch a softer material.
It was created in 1812 by the German geologist and mineralogist Friedrich Mohs.
A common requirement in our industry is to find out whether a tile is real porcelain or ceramic. You can use commercially available professional testing kits like the set depicted above or do a Mohs test yourself using commonly available materials you can find around the house or office.

Hardness of some common items on the Mohs scale.
2-2,5 Fingernail
2,5-3 Gold or silver jewelry
3-3,5 Copper coin
4-5 Iron
5-6 B2b ceramic tile
5,5 Steel knife blade
6-7 Glass
6,5 Steel nail
7 B1a porcelain tile
7+ Hardened steel file
8,5 Masonry drill bit
9 Quartz crystal
10 Diamond


How to test tile hardness in 5 steps.

1. Find a clean surface on the tile to be tested. This is the ‘unknown’.

2. Try to scratch this surface with the point of an object of known hardness, by pressing it firmly into and across your test specimen. For example, you could try to scratch the surface with the point on a crystal of quartz (hardness of 9), the tip of a steel file (hardness about 7), the point of a piece of glass (about 6), the edge of a copper coin (3), or a fingernail (2.5). If your ‘point’ is harder than the test specimen, you should feel it bite into the sample.

3. Blow or wipe off any dust. Examine the sample. Is there an etched line? Use your fingernail to feel for a scratch, since sometimes a soft material will leave a mark that looks like a scratch. If the sample is scratched, then it is softer than or equal in hardness to your test material. If the unknown was not scratched, it is harder than your tester.

4. Now repeat the test, using a sharp surface of the known material and a fresh surface of the unknown.

5. Most people don’t carry around examples of all ten levels of the Mohs hardness scale, but you probably have a couple of ‘points’ in your possession. If you can, test your specimen against other points to get a good idea of its hardness. For example, if you can’t scratch it with a copper coin, you know its hardness is between 3 and 6. If you scratch your specimen with a piece of glass, you know its hardness is equal to or less than 6 or 7.

Quick answers.
Tiles are ‘vitrified’ i.e. ‘turned to glass’. Ceramic tile will be scratched by glass but not by a copper coin. Real porcelain can be scratched by quartz but not glass. You can buy quartz online, from new age shops, gemstone centers and some garden nurseries. A piece like this is perfect.

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Below is a quick reference chart of the Mohs scale with common item equivalents.

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18 May 2016
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What flooring lasts the longest?

When a customer comes into your store and expresses a need for a long-lasting floor, what do you answer?

The short answer is ceramic tiles. They’ll outlast any synthetic floor, natural wood, reinforced concrete or even steel by thousands of years!

Synthetics eventually degrade due to UV radiation, natural wood dries out or rots, concrete crumbles in time due to chemical action and all steel eventually rusts. These products will easily outlast their guarantee period but only ceramics are forever. The reason being that ceramics are vitified, meaning turned to glass. Technically in our industry this means having a water absorption of less that 0,5%, effectively the definition of porcelain.

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To illustrate this answer I’d like you to take a look at some mosaics recently discovered in the ancient city of Zeugma in Turkey. Mosaics are essentially small glazed tiles (tesscera). The mosaics date back to 2nd century BCE, in other words they are over 2200 years old and in almost perfect condition.

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One of the most amazing artifacts in the area is a collection of mosaics. Mosaics adorned the houses of wealthy residents that lived here thousands of years ago. Excavations at Zeugma started in 2007 and continue to this day.

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The rising waters of the massive Birecik Dam on the Euphrates River brought about an emergency effort to salvage the artifacts left behind by the Roman civilization that once prospered here.

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As the flood waters rose higher and higher, there was a lot of pressure to excavate the city. The image above shows the floodwaters rising over a mosaic floor. Today, 25% of the ancient town’s western bank is submerged 200-feet underwater and the eastern bank of the city is completely underwater. Still, there remains so much to be uncovered and learned in Zeugma.

It just goes to show, if you want a floor that will last more than a lifetime there’s really only one choice… ceramic tile.

All the best from KREM tiles and the Link International team.

03 May 2016
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How to advise customers to find a tiler

How often has a customer been in your store and having selected tiles for a project then asked you, “Can you recommend a good tiler?” Now it may be that you work for a large retailer and you have a ready-list of “recommended tilers” that you can hand the customer but even if you do, you should do more than hand over the list, you should advise your customer. Because the recommended tilers are separate, independent companies, you can never be absolutely assured that they will do a perfect job this time around. It’s important that the customer take responsibility for appointing a tiler and not you. If anything goes wrong you don’t want to be held accountable for something completely beyond your control. Remember the vast majority of tiling failures are due to improper installation not product defects.

So what do you say? Here are five points to mention to your customer.

1. Get other referrals. Not all projects are the same, ideally get referrals from friends, family or colleagues who have had similar projects successfully completed. Ask referees whether the tiler was professional, how was their communication? If there were delays were these adequately explained? Finally ask the all important, ‘Would you hire that tiler again?’ Now check other references from the tiler who should be happy to provide these.

2. When you meet with a prospective tiler consider whether they look and act professionally. What is your first impression? Now ask them to quote. It’s almost impossible to quote accurately without a site visit so plan for this.

3. Get quotes from at least three tilers. Make sure the quotes include labour, equipment hire if any, materials and an estimate of how long the project will take. The purpose of this is not to find the cheapest quote but to evaluate whether the quotes are ‘in the ballpark’. If one quote is vastly more or less than the others, be suspicious.

4. This point stands alone because it is so important: Get it in writing! This contract is really your only come-back if something does go wrong.

5. Lastly find out about maintenance and care from the tiler. Get this in writing too. Some installations will require special treatment for days or weeks after installation.

Good luck with advising your customers and naturally improving your own professional standing.

All the best from KREM tiles and the Link International team.

21 Apr 2016
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Photos from Coverings.

Below are just four of our new product panels on display at Coverings 2016
Click on the product name below the photo to download the brochure.

 

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Beton

 

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Kosmos

 

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New Sandstone

 

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Newstone

For prices and order enquiries contact Brin at Coverings today.

Looking forward to seeing you at the show,
The Link International team, KREM tiles. Booth 4036.

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        Booth 4036