For Your Home: Technology gives ceramics a second wind
The ceramic tile industry is being revolutionized. What you’ll soon see in stores are products that blend 3-D digital printing technology, century-old manufacturing techniques and skilled artistry.
Digital printing technology allows manufacturers to produce ceramics that look, feel and perform as well as or better than natural stone or wood. The look is so realistic that you have to remind yourself it’s not the real thing.
But don’t think this is just about mimicking a look. It’s much more. It’s about creating a product that is easier to keep clean, more durable and more affordable to install.
The product is man-made, so it can be produced in a variety of colors, finishes and sizes.
This year’s Coverings ’15, an international tile and stone trade show in Orlando, Florida, featured more than 1,100 global exhibitors in spaces spanning 430,000 square feet. I spent three inspiring days exploring and learning about new products for floors.
Large formats and varying thicknesses are not a problem for the ceramic industry. You can get slabs as large as 5-by-12 feet and in thicknesses from 1/8 inch to 2 inches.
These products can take on the characteristics of a natural stone or wood and add colors Mother Nature might never have dreamed of. For designers and architects, that’s a dream come true.
Americans are fond of wood floors, but the material is not suitable for every location, especially high-traffic areas or kitchens, laundry rooms and baths.
For several years we have been watching the popularity of faux-wood ceramic tiles expand. Until now the choices were pretty plain — brown, brown and brown.
Coverings ’15 exhibitors offered an unbelievable selection of wood-inspired floor and wall tiles. The lighter ash, white and distressed floors were a big hit with designers and architects, as were the darker, almost black planks. A really compelling black finish was inspired by the Japanese charred-wood technique.
ABK of Italy has developed flexible ceramic floor planks. The Auto-Leveling product can be installed over an existing floor, even one that is not completely smooth or level. The planks don’t have to be nailed or glued down, so they can be removed at any time. This flooring is made for DIY installations, and the look is fantastic.
Today’s porcelain tiles are even better at making the transition from indoors to outside. You’ll find stepping stones that can be dry-set in sand, gravel or simply placed on top of the lawn.
Emil of America has dozens of limestone and cement designs in several colors and finishes. These are a wonderful alternative to paver bricks for the garden, patio or pool surround.
Brick tiles were a huge trend at the show. The look of handmade thick bricks in shades of white, gray and metallic glazed terra cotta received rave reviews.
Italian manufacturer Ceramica Sant’Agostino presented brick tiles with three different shades of grout, creating completely different looks using just one product.
Each manufacturer seemed to present products that offer a unique interpretation of the look of cement and aged-stone floors. That is the beauty of a handmade product. It takes on the character of its maker. That was never more prevalent than at the Coverings ’15 show.
Designer and home improvement expert Vicki Payne is host and producer of “For Your Home,” available on PBS, Create TV and in national and international syndication. Reach her at ForYourHome.com.