Encaustic Tile Makes a Comeback

By Rebecca Thienes Cherny | Updated Nov 15, 2013 10:10 PM

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Encaustic Tile

Don’t be afraid to add some pattern. Basic cabinets get a boost from encaustic tiles. Photo courtesy: 1910Foursquare

While popular following their development in the mid-1800s, encaustic cement tiles fell out of favor in the mid 1930s. Today they are on the design radar again and finding renewed popularity.

Producing encaustic tile uses less energy than firing ceramic tiles does, and the materials are natural. The design layer is typically created by pouring a mixture of Portland cement, marble dust, and natural pigments into a dye that resembles a cookie cutter, which has been placed inside a square mold. The base layer is solid gray concrete and provides stability. Before the tiles cure, a hydraulic press is used to sandwich the layers together.

Pluses for using encaustic tile include lovely patterns, inspiring colors, and greater longevity. The design layer is typically ¼” thick, allowing for years of wear. The downside, as with most tile, is the weight; you’ll need to factor shipping costs into your budget. An 8″ square tile typically weighs in at 3 lbs., so a room’s worth of tile can add up. Tiles are typically boxed and palleted (to protect them in shipping) and sent via freight carrier. Remember to always add overage (generally 15%) to your tile order in case of breakage on site or during transit. Leftovers can be stored for future repairs.

Here are some great sources for encaustic tiles:

Encaustic Tile

Villa Lagoon’s Tile “A”, shown above, is one of four new Ikat patterns in black and white; all are in stock and ready to ship. They cost $7.65 to $9.00 per 8” square tile, depending on quantity. Custom colors are also available with an eight-week lead time. Visit Villa Lagoon to browse other patterns and colors.

Encaustic Tile Grow House Grow Massapeag Deco

Grow House Grow Massapeag Deco Encaustic Tile

Talented wallpaper designer Katie Deedy of Grow House Grow just added encaustic tiles to her repertoire. The line will expand and reference her existing wallpaper designs, making it easy to coordinate walls and floors. Shown here is the “Messapeag Deco” tile. It costs $14 per 8” square tile with a four- to six-week lead time. Custom colors are available.

Encaustic Tile L'Antiguario

L'Antiquario Encaustic Floor Tile

If you prefer a bit of history, consider the reclaimed selection of tiles at L’Antiquario. Boasting over 300 authentic patterns and border designs, these tiles are reclaimed from the U.S. and throughout Europe and come with a certificate of authenticity stating their provenance. Pricing varies based on pattern rarity. Costs begin at about $30 per square foot and run up to $200 per square foot. Visit L’Antiquario for more information.

For more on tile and tiling, consider:

Installing Tile
How To: Choose Tile
Subway Tiles: The New Classics