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The Origins of the Ceramic Bathroom Tile

Ceramic bathroom tiles were started in ancient Rome and Greek. But they were perfected by Muslim architecture era.

The word ‘ceramic’ is derived from the Greek word ‘keramos’, and ‘tile’ comes from the Latin word ‘tegula’.

In ancient Biblical times, sun-dried bricks as well as flat bricks for paving and wall cladding were made by ‘mudmen’. They had not yet discovered glazing and firing. This was left to the ancient Egyptians and Persians.

Quite separately, tiles were being made in the Far East, particularly in China, where they were using porcelain. The porcelain tiles were much harder as they were put into fire at higher temperatures from special clays, which at that time were unique to China.

In ancient Egypt tiles were made and kiln baked until hard and used in the Egyptian pyramids and other buildings. Their ancient ‘Blue City’ had blue glazed and baked tiles around the windows and doorways. It is believed that they had learned to use copper oxides in their glaze to achieve this blue. Persia led the way in improving the art of tile making, painting and firing.

Although bathrooms or bathing areas date back as far as ceramic tiles do, the ceramic bathroom tile only started to put an appearance when Romans decorated their great communal baths. Tiling and mosaic was not limited to bathing areas only, but tiled floors are still frequently found in all types of ruined Roman buildings. The Greeks and Romans used tiles and the Roman conquest of Western Europe spread the art of tile making to those parts. From Europe, settlers to the Americas carried this knowledge there.

Muslim Architecture

When the Muslim architecture began to emerge in the Middle and Far East, their artists and craftsmen brought ceramic tile and mosaic making to perfection and left a breathtaking legacy of beauty in their buildings. So you can see, the specially made bathroom ceramic tile is of fairly recent origin.

Recent History

In Regency times bathrooms were considered a bizarre invention, installed only by very bold ladies. In Victorian and Edwardian times, they were fairly common, but discretely hidden away and not mentioned if at all possible. After the First World War they were considered very necessary, but not everyone could afford them. After WW2 almost every home that had laid on water had a bathroom, and by this time most were either tiled with ceramic tiles or at least had areas of tiling around the sink and bath and on the floor.

How the Ceramic Tile is made

Today the ceramic bathroom tile is no longer pressed by hand into a wooden box, dried in the sun, and then put into a clay oven with a fire built underneath and on top. The semi-dry clay is pressed mechanically between two metal dies. If the bisque, or raw dried clay, is fired in an electric kiln only once, it is called an unglazed ceramic tile. This is very popular with people decorating their bathrooms in a rustic style and who like the look of natural browns, ranging from light beige to dark brown. The ceramic bathroom tile can be colored, painted, printed and glazed. Ordinary paints cannot be used, as the firing process changes the colors. Various metal oxides going through the firing process emerge in a variety of different colors. These are used for the color bases for painting tiles.

Automated methods produce pictures, patterns or plain colors and then a ‘wet’ or transparent glaze is applied over this ‘underglaze’. After this the ceramic bathroom tile is fired once more. The result is a called a glazed ceramic tile. A variety of ‘wet’ glazes are available giving the tile a glossy look or a matte look. Some can also give degrees of opacity. Very special tiles are also available which have been hand painted. Quite a number of people take on commissions to paint ceramic bathroom tiles, and many more just embrace this type of art work as an extremely interesting and creative hobby. Their houses are invariably decorated with the most unique type of ceramic bathroom tile that you can get.

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