Tile Talk - Tile Terms and Definitions

To help you gain a better understanding of our products, we've provided you with some commonly used tile terms.


Ceramic Tile – A thin surfacing unit composed of various clays fired to hardness. The face may be glazed or unglazed.

Glazed Tile – A tile with a facial coating that has been fused to the tile body by firing, creating a smooth impermeable surface.

Porcelain Tile – This tile is characterized by a dense, non-porous bisque, making it ideal for countertops, pools and high traffic areas. A key element of porcelain tile is that it has a water absorption that is below 0.5%.

Field Tile - A tile found in the main field or area of the installation covering the wall, floor or countertop, usually in a solid color and can be used with decorative (deco) tile or other field tile.

Vitreous Tile – A tile with less than 3% water absorption. These tiles are usually frostproof and ideal for most wet areas such as pools and spas.

Large Format – Generally refers to tiles at least 16” x 16” in size.

Deco – A decorative accent piece.

Modular – Tiles of different sizes that can work together in a pattern.

Liner - Typically a rectangular tile used in a linear format (placed end to end) to create a decorative accent often along a backsplash or chair rail.

Listelle – An accent tile in a rectangular format generally used as a linear design element.

Cuerda Seca - The Cuerda Seca, or dry cord, technique originated in Persia and came to California via Spain. In the 1920's much of the pottery in Northern and Southern California began to adopt this technique. The Cuerda Seca process begins by a wax outline being drawn on the tile. A syringe is then used to apply the glaze. The glaze beads up during firing and creates slightly flooded areas against the wax outline. Usually, a black wax is used for the outline, thus creating a black outline in the design.

Monocottura – Glazed tile produced by the single-fired method in which the raw tile body and glaze undergo a single pass through the kiln.

Majolica - A Spanish term, Majolica is a lead and tin glaze that creates an opaque white surface that can then be painted on. Process of making majolica consists of first firing a piece of earthenware, then applying tin enamel that upon drying forms a white opaque porous surface. A design is then painted on and a transparent glaze applied. Finally, the piece is fired again.

Talavera - Mexican earthenware made in the city of Puebla, Talavera pieces are usually dark blue with an opaque tone. Puebla artisans hand paint each tile using mineral based colors and then fire each piece twice at extreme temperatures. True Talavera must be marked with the sign of the producing workshop from one of the four regions in the state of Puebla.

Grout – The material used to fill the joints between tiles.

Square Foot – The unit of measure most tile is sold by; however, most decorative tile is priced per piece and most items sold by Avente are priced per tile.

PEI Rating – This rating is established by the Porcelain Enamel Institute to rate the resistance of glazed ceramic tile to visible surface abrasion. Commonly referred to as “abrasion resistance”, this is probably the most commonly used industry rating for wear.


  • Class 1 – Recommended for wall applications only, not floors.
  • Class 2 – Residential, low traffic areas such as bathroom floors.
  • Class 3 – Medium duty residential use, normal foot traffic.
  • Class 4 – Suitable for all residential use and medium duty commercial use.
  • Class 5 – Suitable for all residential and commercial use.