Cuban Cement Tiles

Posted by William Buyok on

Cuban cement tiles are an excellent way to add color, pattern and design to a commercial space or home. We introduced these tiles over ten years ago and they continue to be a popular flooring choice. However, they have increasingly become more popular as a feature wall, kitchen backsplash, or wainscot. See what makes Cuban cement tiles unique and be inspired by our most popular installations. You'll discover how versatile these tiles are and how easily they can be used in traditional or contemporary homes. Although we stock many colorways and patterns, they have strong design appeal because the colors can be customized.

 

 

 

Cuban Cement Tiles

Cuban cement tiles are often called Cuban tiles. Regardless, they refer to the same product and are a type of encaustic cement tiles, made of concrete. Originally used almost entirely on floors, I encountered cement tiles in old buildings and churches from my travels in Central America and Mexico. I immediately fell in love with these tiles, enamored by the color motifs and designs. Many installations, which were over a 100 years old, still looked amazing. I've never been to Cuba; but, everyone I speak to that has visited the island tells great stories about the architecture (some sadly in decay), old American cars, charming people and, of course, the tile.

 

Cuban cement tile installation in a library in Old Havana, Cuba
Cuban cement tile installation - Library in Old Havana, Cuba
Photo Courtesy of Aguayo Tile

 

How Cuban Cement Tiles are Made

As the name implies, cement tiles are made from a mix of Portland cement, marble powder, fine sand and mineral-based pigments. This top 1/8" of the tile's surface is the "color layer" and consists of the decorative pattern you see. For each color that is required, blended pigments are placed in the corresponding section of a mold. The mold is removed and the back of the tile is filled with non-pigmented concrete and then hydraulically pressed. Because of this process, Cuban cement tiles are sometimes called hydraulic tiles. No firing is required as the tiles are simply dried and cured for a few weeks after being pressed and their water bath. This process is similar to concrete that is poured in place for a sidewalk or driveway.

 

Cement Tile Mold
Cuban Cement Tile Mold. Photo Courtesy of Aguayo Tile

The Making of Cement Tile is a labor of love. After watching these tiles being made, I have a true appreciation for the artisan and their craft, especially after watching a tile maker hand-pour different colors in an elaborate pattern like those found in Cuban cement tiles.

 

A Brief History of Cuban Cement Tiles

Cement tiles became know as Cuban tiles or Cuban cement tiles because of their ubiquitous use in both residential and commercial applications on the island of Cuba. The island was a tropical playground for Hollywood and the rich until the 1950s, when the threat of communism all but stopped travel from the US. The patterns in Cuban cement tiles are generally more elaborate than those found in other cement tiles. Cuban tiles use bold, bright colors like salmon or indigo. Also prominent in Cuban cement tiles is the use of double borders. Cuban cement tile is de rigueur flooring for Miami homes built in the Spanish Mediterranean Revival period. In fact, Cuban cement tile flooring was popular in southern Florida homes built between 1920 - 1950. However, the patterns were often less intricate and the color palette more subdued. The 1960s construction boom in the USA and Western Europe changed the demand for hand-crafted products. A desire for more economical buildings materials brought an end to the common use of cement tile in both residential and commercial applications.

 

Cuban cement tile Installation
Cuban cement tiles in a House in Old Havana
Typical Double Border and Bright Colors
Photo Courtesy of Aguayo Tile

Fortunately, there has been a resurgence by architects and interior designers to use Cuban cement tiles and cement tiles in general. The reason for this is because of their durability and design flexibility. Also, thanks to companies like Aguyao Tile, Cuban tile patterns have been re-discovered from old homes and crumbling estates in Havana and Camagüey, Cuba. In many cases, the structures were in such a state of disrepair that debris was removed to find the stunning Cuban floor tile. Since many of the old buildings are being destroyed or renovated, we are fortunate these designs are now preserved. Theses historical patterns are available today in our Cuban Heritage Collection. All of the Cuban tiles come in three or four colorways with first colorway based on the original colors found in Cuba.

 

Cuban Cement Tile Installations

Cement tiles are being used again all over the country and in some new and exciting applications. You'll find them on the floors, walls and even ceilings of homes and hospitality locations alike. Here are some of our favorite installations.

 

Cuban Cement Tile CH110-3B Rug Pattern for Hotel Lobby
Cuban cement tile rug is the focal point of this hotel lobby

 

Rich colors and intricate patterns of Cuban cement tile floor. Shown: Cuban Heritage Design 110 2B with grey bull-nosed trim
Rich colors and intricate patterns of Cuban cement tile floor. Shown: Cuban Heritage Design 110 2B

 

Ceila Reiss Interiors - CH140-2A Cuban Cement Tile pattern
Cuban Tile Bathroom Installation. Photo Courtesy of Ceila Reiss Interiors

 

Cuban Cement Tile in Warm Colors
Cuban Cement Tile in Warm Colors is great for this Los Angeles entry
Photo Courtesy of Avente Tile Customer

 

Cuban cement tile in contemporary muted color palette used as wainscot. Pattern: CH150
Cuban cement tile in a contemporary, muted color palette used as wainscot.

 

There are few products that offer the jaw-dropping beauty of Cuban cement tiles. Because it is a green product, very durable and available in limitless colors and patterns, it's easy to understand why Cuban cement tiles are a design classic that are here to stay.


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