What were called “encaustic tiles” during the Victorian Era were originally called “inlaid tiles” during the medieval period. This term has now been in common use for so long that it has become an accepted name for inlaid tile work.
Encaustic (or inlaid) tiles enjoyed two periods of great popularity. The first came in the thirteenth century and lasted until Henry the Eighth’s reformation in the sixteenth century. The second came when these tiles caught the attention of craftsmen during the Gothic Revival era, which after much trial and error, were mass-produced and then made available to the general public. During both periods, tiles were produced across Western Europe, though the center of tile production was actually in England. Companies in the USA also made encaustic tile during the Gothic Architecture Revival period. However, in the 1930s, encaustic tile began to lose ground to more affordable glass and vitreous glass tile material.
After a stretch during which encaustic tiles were seldom called upon, there’s now a huge revival, along with introductions of new designs, in modern geometric patterns and vibrant colors. Whereas encaustic tiles have become increasingly popular, users often aren’t aware that they are highly absorbent and thus, require special treatments for cleaning and protection. After evaluating their properties, specific products should be used for cleaning and protecting encaustics, especially in “wet areas” such as the kitchen and bath.
Generally speaking, encaustic tiles are made up of several layers; the lower layer comprises high-strength cement and aggregate, while the top layer is made of marble powder, white cement and inorganic pigments. This makes the material highly absorbent and extremely sensitive to acid erosion. It is, therefore, essential to use the correct products, from the initial wash and then moving forward.
For both cleaning new tiles right after installation and also for restoring original encaustic tiles, a degreasing detergent is recommended. First, dampen the surface with water, apply the solution to the floor and leave it to “act” for five minutes. Then, scrub the floor with a brush, remove the residue with a cloth and rinse well with clean water. Never use acid products, white spirit solvents or ammonia.
There are specific ways to protect bathroom cement tiles against staining. When applying a protective treatment to cement tile floors, it is essential that the floor is perfectly dry. If the treatment is applied too soon, it may very well block evaporation of the humidity from under the tiles, leaving damp marks.
To protect the tiles against staining without changing their original look, we advise using a solvent-based or a water-based stain proofing agent. Use a flat paintbrush to evenly apply a coat of the product, making sure to impregnate the joints, as well.
Encaustic tiles should be protected using a finishing wax, which guards the surface against grit and grime caused by foot traffic. This process can also restore the pure beauty of original tiles, while at the same time highlighting their color and design. Wax, however, isn’t recommended for bathrooms or other “wet rooms.”
For decorated cement bathroom tiles, use a specially formulated cleaner a couple of times a year or when particularly dirty. FILACLEANER is perfect for this use. Cleaning should be followed with one coat of wax.
In the last six or seven years, encaustic tiles have become extremely popular here in the USA. Due to the high porosity of each tile’s body and the fact that it is so acid-sensitive, this category of tile must be both treated immediately after being installed, and then sealed to ensure its beauty and longevity. With special care, these tile products will perform beautifully for years to come.
FILA (Fabbrica Italiana Lucidi ed Affini) has achieved international recognition for excellence in providing highly technical, easy-to-use protection and care treatment systems for all surfaces. A family-owned yet strategically structured, managerial company, FILA has become a large international group always maintaining strong core values. With an eye on the future, FILA offers optimal answers to the needs of every client, consistently staying ahead of the market. That’s just one reason why FILA has been endorsed as “#1” by 250 of the world’s leading tile and stone producers.
Jeff Moen is the General Manager of FILA USA