Terracotta - A brief look

Posted on April 30, 2018 by The Little Tile Company

Terracotta (Terra-Cotta) in Italian translation means ‘baked earth’ and also ‘baked clay’ and generally the term refers to the orange/brown/red colour of most Terracotta.  It has been used throughout history for art and pottery as well as bricks, roof coverings and other building materials.

honey terracotta tile

The word ‘Terracotta’ is fascinating in that it is a word used liberally in the UK and a word that most people will recognise instantly, even though it is, essentially, a foreign word. But it is also a word that evokes our Mediterranean senses, the sights, colours, warmth, sounds and smells of distant places that we may have been lucky enough to have visited or seen or read about in films, documentaries or books. It transports us (personally) to warmer weather and a glorious villa with a pool and surrounded by a terracotta tiled floor (of course!) that is warm underfoot with a good book in one hand and a cold, ice-filled drink in the other! It is these images and feelings, we think, that have made us love terracotta flooring and want us to re-create that look and feeling in our own homes.

It’s not just that though. Terracotta tile flooring is a beautiful and versatile product. It is also hard wearing making it a great value product. It is a most commonly a hand-made product and therefore the colour combinations and surface vary depending on where in the world the product has been produced.  There are some companies that offer newly produced and re-claimed terracotta with different sizes and you therefore have a product that really can look different every time. In the main, most terracotta tiles are a colour palette mix of reds, browns, pinks, earthy and golden hues.

What is so beautiful about terracotta tiles is their unique individual warm character and appearance. Each tile is slightly different and has a different make-up including colour tone variations, minor pitting, bumps and blemishes on the surfaces and edges. When you couple this with the fact that they can be sealed and waxed with different products, achieving different looks is easy.

teatree terracotta tile

Terracotta tiles are full of rustic charm and character and can be used in different locations. Kitchens, hallways, bathrooms and even outside! If they are used outside, more consideration has to be given to the application of sealant, wax and grouting. More importantly, is the future care, especially as in the UK we experience a colder, wetter, frostier climate than our Mediterranean neighbours! The same applies if an area is susceptible to water ingress such as a bathroom.

Generally, the care and attention to laying and sealing terracotta tiles is pretty much the same as natural stone in that more thought needs to be given to treatment before and after fixing, especially if using a wet cutter during tiling. For the terracotta tiles we supply, we would recommend sealing in the traditional manner using LTP Boiled Linseed Oil, LTP Antique Wax. Furthermore and as aftercare, you can finish with LTP Ironwax Gloss or Satin. For a lighter finish, you could try a synthetic method using LTP Colour Intensifier and finish with either LTP Ironwax Gloss or Satin. Please click here to view sealants.

Terracotta tiles also work well with under-floor heating, because they have such great heat retaining qualities and evenly distribute and release heat. The natural insulating qualities of terracotta tiles means they release warmth in an efficient way. That is why they can be so great outdoors as in the summer months, you will still enjoy warmth from your floor long after the sun has started to set making those summer nights and BBQ’s even better!

Our Terracotta Tile products are currently divided in to two ranges. Firstly we have the ‘teatree’ range which consists of two sizes, 34 x 34 cm (2.5 cm thick) and 20 x 20 cm (2 cm thick). We also have the ‘honey’ range consisting of three sizes, 20 x 20 cm, 30 x 30 cm and 30 x 20 cm (all 2 cm thick). We would say that the teatree has more red hues than the honey which is more golden. Either however, clearly define what a terracotta tile should be with their natural warm tones and depth of colours. (Below image is from the 'honey' range)

honey terracotta tile

If we can assist with your project, whether terracotta or with other tiles such as porcelain tiles, metro tiles or encaustic tiles, then please do not hesitate to contact us!

The Little Tile Company Team

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