Fort Worth Brick and Tile

Saltillo and Talavera Tile

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Saltillo Facts

This product has been made for generations by the Tlaxcaltecas Artisans since 1577 from Saltillo ,Coahuila, Mexico.  This is the genuine article; beautiful, distinctive, and authentic.  This clay exists only in Saltillo, and is not found anywhere else in the world.

Saltillos have the following unique characteristics: They

bullet Have chipped edges.
bullet Have little craters.
bullet Are not all the same size.
bullet Are not all the same thickness.
bullet Are not all flat.
bullet Are not all square.
bullet Have occasional cracks on the surface.
bullet Have an occasional animal prints. (to have one of this you have to be very lucky).
bullet Are not all the same color. (they even vary in shading in the same tile).
bullet Are prone to have alkali in the clay. To eliminate problems they must be properly sealed and kept sealed.

These are not defects; they are what make the Saltillo so attractive. Raw Saltillos are very crude looking. After being sealed, installed and grouted they are very beautiful. When properly sealed and installed they are easy to maintain- they will literally last forever. This is why they occupy some of the finest homes all over the world.


* Due to unavoidable waste during installation adding 10% waste for regular installations and 18% for diagonal "diamond'" pattern installations is recommended. A border will add about 3 to 5% depending on the pattern.


The difference between "Regular" Saltillo and "Super" Saltillo:

    Every Saltillo Tile starts life as a "Regular" Saltillo but some are stamped with a mold during the drying phase of production which rounds off the top edges and flattens many imperfections on the surface thus making a "Super" Saltillo. Keep in mind that "Super" in this case does not in any way mean better or higher quality. "Super' Saltillos are just different. If you are looking for the true, authentic, original, handcrafted look then "Regular" Saltillo is for you.

    On the other hand if you are trying to make up your mind between ceramic tile and Saltillo Tile then "Super" is the better choice for you since the tiles are generally flatter and more uniform in appearance.

Think of it this way: "Regular" = original, "Super" = modern. There is no difference in quality- just in look.

Please see our "How Saltillo is Made" page to see a "Super" Saltillo being made.


*    We do not recommend "soaking" Saltillo tile prior to installation.

Saltillo tiles have salts and alkali naturally present in the clay which is used to make them. Soaking Saltillo in water can release these salts and cause efflorescence on the surface. As the water wicks to the surface it brings the salts with it. We get calls at least weekly by homeowners and installers alike asking what can be done to remove the white haze that develops either on the surface or in the grout.  Soaking Saltillo tile was a method used many years ago when either straight cement or a cement and sand mixture (like brick mortar) was used to lay them. The Saltillos would absorb the moisture too quickly and the cement, which needs to stay wet for a long time in order to harden, would stay brittle. With the modern setting material we have today there is absolutely no need to soak Saltillo tile. The thinset simply needs to be mixed slightly more moist. Some installers who insist on soaking Saltillo get lucky for a while because the batch of tile they happen to use has a low salt content but this luck runs out. I have even seen some boxes of commercial Saltillo with instructions to soak the tiles before installation printed on them! If you needlessly choose to soak your Saltillo tile then you do so at your own risk.


* We recommend installing pre-sealed Saltillo tile.

While it is possible to install Saltillo "raw" or unsealed Saltillo and then seal it before grouting there are several draw backs to this. You will have to let any tiles that got wet during the installation dry completely before sealing the tile- this may take many days. Also, any tile that gets wet before sealing is extremely susceptible to efflorescence and may not absorb the sealer which will later lead to peeling and flaking. Also, the sealer is very flammable until it dries. Very special care must be taken if sealing is done indoors.  We use industrial sprayers to uniformly apply coats of sealer to our Saltillo prior to delivery. We do this outdoors. This ideal process can not be done indoors due to the extreme fire hazard created if the sealer were to be sprayed in a confined area. Rolling the sealer on is the only option indoors and this process does not give the same quality appearance.

*  We do not recommend sealing the sides of your tiles.

Sealing the sides of you tiles can cause your grout to not properly adhere to your tile causing future problems. This is generally unavoidable when sealer is rolled on to the tile. Spraying is the only way to eliminate this problem.


*   We do not recommend using a Penetrating sealer or "grout release."

A grout release can hamper the final sealer from bonding to the tile which can cause peeling and flaking. If a Saltillo is pre-sealed there is no need to use a grout release. Grout release is an added and unnecessary expense as is a penetrating sealer- there is just no need for these products with Saltillo tile.  Also, if you use a water based grout release, which most are, you are forced to use a water based sealer. Saltillo sealer is the best grout release there is.

*   In our opinion "penetrating" sealers applied before you apply a gloss or satin Saltillo sealer is a needless expense. 

Saltillo has such high porosity that ANY sealer you use will penetrate it. When you apply gloss or satin Saltillo sealer you will notice that the entire first coat will disappear when applied because it has penetrated the surface. Save your money and forget the "penetrating" sealers unless  you are wanting to get an unfinished look in which case ONLY use the penetrating sealer. You never need both. Penetrating sealers are simply a watered down real sealers.


*    We do not recommend using water based sealers for exterior installations.

Most brands of water based sealers claim to be usable in an exterior installation but we have yet to see this proven true. From experience oil based sealers last much  much longer than water based sealers in an exterior installation. In fact we only guarantee our exterior installations when our oil based sealer is used. We will not perform an exterior installation using water based sealer because it will fail.

When used indoors the water based and oil based sealers are generally comparable in strength and resiliency though oil based sealers still have proven to last longer and wear better.


There are two basic types of sealer that are generally used on Saltillo tile- oil based sealer and water based sealer.  Our oil based sealer leaves the tile with very deep rich earthy colors. It enhances Saltillo tile to the darkest color that it can naturally be- any darker and a pigment must be used. It is also perfect for use in either an interior or exterior installation. Our oil based sealer is the only sealer we use in our exterior installations.

Water based sealer darkens the tile very very little. It leaves the tile a bright peachy /cream coloration- basically, it stays nearly the same color as when it comes out of the box- very pastel looking colors. In an indoor installation water and oil based sealers are generally comparable in regards to strength and resiliency but we only recommend using our oil based sealer in an exterior installation.


*   You can put a water based sealer over an oil based sealer but you cannot put an oil based sealer over a water based sealer.

If a Saltillo is first sealed with a water based sealer then a oil coat is used over it areas of the tile will literally look as if it were stained in spots with oil. Not unlike oil stains on your clothes. Water over oil works well as long as the surface is completely dry and free of any foreign oils or wax- a fresh clean surface is needed. If you are wanting to switch from a water based sealer to an oil base sealer you must completely strip the water base sealer from your floor first.


*   We do not recommend waxing a Saltillo floor.

Over time the sealer will wear off in certain areas- usually the entryway first. If a wax has been used on the floor then the entire floor must be stripped to the bare Saltillo and then completely resealed. This is very costly to say the least. If no wax was used is is possible to prep the floor in a particular area and only seal that area- not using wax allows you to touch up certain areas without the high expense of stripping the entire floor. Saltillo floor POLISH (liquid)works just fine. Remember wax is bad- polish is good. In fact we have noticed that Saltillo floor polish extends the life of the sealer.


*    We can custom stain your Saltillos to any color desired. From a dark brown to an earthy red or anywhere in between. A minimum order of 250 Square feet is required due to waste incurred during the stain preparation. The price to custom stain your tiles is .99 cents per square foot due to labor and materials incurred.


*   We do not recommend "whitewashed" Saltillo Tiles. The maintenance involved in owning a Whitewashed Saltillo floor can cost more than the price of the initial installation. Most customers are unhappy with "whitewashed" within the first 2 years. We do not perform "Whitewashed" installations for this reason.


Saltillo tile requires a different installation technique than ceramic tile.

Since ceramic tile is generally very consistent in size and shape within the same batch it is possible to follow very straight grid lines. Saltillo is laid in a different manner. Since no two Saltillos are exactly alike in size or shape you can only use grid lines as general reference points. You lay Saltillos "by eye." This is not to say that a novice tile setter cannot install Saltillo but he or she will will have to use more reference points and really take their time. Experience laying Saltillo makes for a better installation. Even an experienced ceramic installer can run into trouble during a Saltillo installation.


You can not use regular grout for a Saltillo installation.

Saltillo grout lines are usually over 1/2 inch wide. Regular grout is only made for a maximum width of 1/2 inch. If you use regular grout in a Saltillo installation then it will very  likely crack over time. Saltillo grout has larger sand particles than regular grout. Masonry sand , which is much more coarse than play sand, is used in Saltillo grout. We actually hand mix our own grout because we have had trouble with discoloration using the commercially available Saltillo grouts. We make our Saltillo grout in several colors from scratch using costly synthetic pigments which do not bleach out over time from either the cement used in the grout or from the bleaching effects of the sun.


*Home Depot does not sell authentic handcrafted Saltillo tile. They used to sell the real thing several years ago but only sell a machine made "Saltillo" extrusion now. It is not at all handmade. The coloration is artificially sprayed on to mimic the authentic color variation of Saltillo tile and some of the tiles are even stamped "Ladrillera Mechanizada" which literally translates to Mechanized Brickyard. The tiles are also cooked differently as is obvious by looking at a cross section. This is not a claim- this is a fact .


*Home Depot is a registered trademark of The Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.

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