Ceramic wall and floor tile production have been a pillar of U.S. ceramic production for many years. However, recent developments in labor cost increase and environmental regulations made it costly for production, and most of the production has been shifting to low-cost countries such as China and Mexico.
This situation is very unfortunate for domestic artisan production that flourished in Southern California, Texas, and Ohio area. Many well known domestic ceramic producers such as Dal Tile, American Olean, Tile Guild, and Ken Mason, Ohio Tile, K. J. Paterson, Sonoma Tile, and many others had to change their product mix and focus on ceramic mosaics, ceramic moldings, and another decorative tile.
Ceramic wall and floor tile have been popular with many custom colors and sizes and small batch production. A famous subway tile was the only form of ceramic wall covering for many years. Nowadays, improvements in modern production made it easy to produce large format ceramic tile and go beyond traditional 3×6 subway tile. You can now buy ceramic tile as large as 4×16 in many custom colors.
Process of Tile making;
Ceramic wall and floor tile consist of Clay, Talc, and Calcium Carbonate is mixed in traditional methods. It then rests for several days or months( Rest duration depends on the minerals inside the mix.) It is then extruded or hand-formed into ceramic tile, ceramic molding, ceramic field shapes, and so on. Some factories use extruders or wire cutting to shape the tile. Naturally, this is a very labor-intensive process, and it requires the right temperature, plenty of open space, and skilled labor. Each piece is literally handled many times to get into the right texture and feel. Shaped hand made tile will rest again at room temperature so that it does not crack.
The next step is glazing. Glazes are mixes of glass and other vitreous components that give a final texture and color to the tile. The traditional glaze was hand made by each factory, such as Delph Tile producers in Holland. This way each and every piece of tile was hand made and one of a kind. Again, this is a completely manual process, and each hand made tile is handled many times.
The final step is the second firing of the glaze for ceramic wall and floor tile. Traditional ceramic tile is produced in low-temperature kilns and fired up to 14 hours in small batches. Glazed tiles are stacked into racks and placed inside the kiln. It takes 14- 17 hours to fire the kiln, bring it to the right temperature, and let it cool off.