Tile

Mission, or barrel, roof tiles

A tile is a manufactured piece of hard-wearing material such as ceramic, clay, stone, porcelain or even glass. Tiles are generally used for covering roofs, floors, and walls, or other objects such as tabletops. The word is derived from the French word tuile, which is, in turn, from the Latin word tegula, meaning a roof tile composed of baked clay. Less precisely, the modern term can refer to any sort of construction tile or similar object, such as rectangular counters used in playing games (see tile-based game).

Tiles are often used to form wall and floor coverings, and can range from simple square tiles to complex mosaics. Tiles are most often made from ceramic, with a hard glaze finish, but other materials are also commonly used, such as glass, slate, and reformed ceramic slurry, which is cast in a mould and fired.


Roof tiles

Fancy Japanese roof tiles The largest (6000 m²)
wooden shingle roof
in Europe: Zakopane, Poland

Roof tiles are designed mainly to keep out rain, and are traditionally made from locally available materials such as clay, slate, or wood (wooden tiles are called shingles). Modern materials such as concrete and plastic are also used. Some clay tiles have a waterproof glaze.

Because of their long history, a large number of shapes (or "profiles") of roof tiles have evolved. These include:

  • Flat tiles - the simplest type, which are laid in regular overlapping rows. This profile is suitable for stone and wooden tiles, and most recently, solar cells.
  • Roman tiles - flat in the middle, with a concave curve at one end at a convex curve at the other, to allow interlocking.
  • Pantiles - with an S-shaped profile, allowing adjacent tiles to interlock. These result in a ridged pattern resembling a ploughed field.
  • Mission or barrel tiles are semi-cylindrical tiles made by forming clay around a log and laid in alternating columns of convex and concave tiles.

Roof tiles are 'hung' from the framework of a roof by fixing them with nails. The tiles are usually hung in parallel rows, with each row overlapping the row below it to exclude rainwater and to cover the nails that hold the row below.

There are also roof tiles for special positions, particularly where the planes of the several pitches meet. They include ridge, hip and valley tiles.

Floor tiles

6"x6" porcelain floor tiles

These are commonly made of ceramic, clay, porcelain or stone. Clay tiles may be painted and glazed. Small mosaic tiles may be laid in various patterns. Floor tiles are typically set into mortar consisting of sand, cement and oftentimes a latex additive for extra strength. The spaces between the tiles are nowadays filled with sanded or unsanded floor grout, but traditionally mortar was used.

See Laying tile

Wall tiles

Tilework on the wall of the Bond Street tube station

While ancient Roman building bricks were broader and thinner than modern ones and are therefore usually called tiles, the term wall tile is normally applied to finishing tiles. These are usually ceramic, but other materials such as mirrored glass or polished metal can be used. Wall tiles are usually glazed, and are often patterned by painting or embossing. Pictorial tiles, consisting of many tiles that the installer assembles like a jigsaw puzzle to form a single large picture, are available.

Modern wall tiles are fixed to a wall using a synthetic bonding agent tile adhesive for dry areas, or a cement-based mortar for areas prone to moisture, such as bath or shower walls. The spaces between the tiles are filled with a fine cement called unsanded grout. The excess grout is scraped off with a hard rubber block called a float immediately after applying; further, the grout is wiped again with a moist sponge before it completely hardens. The sponging provides added moisture to strengthen the grout as it cures. Finally, a cloth is rubbed over the wall tile to remove any haze which may remain from residual grout.

Decorative tilework

Ancient mosaic in the British Museum. Typical tilework on buildings in Santarém, Portugal.

Decorative tilework typically takes the form of mosaic upon the walls, floor, or ceiling of a building. Although decorative tilework was known and extensively practiced in the ancient world (as evidenced in the magnificent mosaics of Pompeii and Herculaneum), it perhaps reached its greatest expression during the Islamic period.

Some places, notably Portugal, have a tradition of tilework on buildings that continues today.

In the United States, decorative tiles were in vogue, especially in southern California, in the 1920s and 1930s. Prominent among art tile makers during this period was Ernest A. Batchelder.

Islamic tilework

Tilework of Hazrat Masoumeh shrine, Qom. First constructed in the late 8th century.

Perhaps because of the tenets of Moslem law (sharia) which disavow religious icons and images in favor of more abstract and universal representations of the divine, many consider decorative tilework to have reached a pinnacle of expression and detail during the Islamic period. Palaces, public buildings, and mosques were heavily decorated with dense, often massive mosaics and friezes of astonishing complexity. As both the influence and the extent of Islam spread during the Middle Ages this artistic tradition was carried along, finding expression from the gardens and courtyards of Málaga in Moorish Spain to the mosaics of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

The mathematics of tiling

Certain shapes of tiles, most obviously rectangles, can be replicated to cover a surface with no gaps. These shapes are said to tessellate (from the Latin tessera, 'tile'). For detailed information on tilings see the tessellation page.

History of tiles

Tiles were developed as a product of earthenware pottery, either as an alternative use for fragments of broken pottery (called potsherds) or as an independent invention. Tiles have been used in construction for at least 4000 years, by the Romans, Greeks, Babylonians, Phoenicians and many other cultures.


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Tiles have been used in construction for at least 4000 years, by the Romans, Greeks, Babylonians, Phoenicians and many other cultures. [1], [2]. Tiles were developed as a product of earthenware pottery, either as an alternative use for fragments of broken pottery (called potsherds) or as an independent invention. This veil is never removed, even in front of family members. For detailed information on tilings see the tessellation page. Men begin wearing a veil at age 25 which conceals their entire face excluding their eyes. These shapes are said to tessellate (from the Latin tessera, 'tile'). The men's facial covering originates from the belief that such action wards off evil spirits, but most probably relates to protection against the harsh desert sands as well; in any event, it is a firmly established tradition.

Certain shapes of tiles, most obviously rectangles, can be replicated to cover a surface with no gaps. Among the Tuareg of West Africa, women do not traditionally wear the veil, while men do. As both the influence and the extent of Islam spread during the Middle Ages this artistic tradition was carried along, finding expression from the gardens and courtyards of Málaga in Moorish Spain to the mosaics of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Sexual interest in veiled women is veil fetishism. Palaces, public buildings, and mosques were heavily decorated with dense, often massive mosaics and friezes of astonishing complexity. An example of the veil's erotic potential is the dance of the seven veils. Perhaps because of the tenets of Moslem law (sharia) which disavow religious icons and images in favor of more abstract and universal representations of the divine, many consider decorative tilework to have reached a pinnacle of expression and detail during the Islamic period. Here, rather than the virginity of the bride's veil, modesty of the Muslim scarf or the piety of the nun's headdress, the mysterious veil hints at sensuality and the unknown.

Batchelder. Conversely, veils are often part of the stereotypical image of the courtesan and harem woman. Prominent among art tile makers during this period was Ernest A. Toward the end of the main temple ceremony, the congregation will each pass through the veil curtain into the Celestial Room through an elaborate series of rituals. In the United States, decorative tiles were in vogue, especially in southern California, in the 1920s and 1930s. It often separates the temple congregation from the Celestial Room (most holy room of the temple). Some places, notably Portugal, have a tradition of tilework on buildings that continues today. Another type of veil in Mormonism is the veil of the temple, which is an actual cloth structure which is suspended from the ceiling.

Although decorative tilework was known and extensively practiced in the ancient world (as evidenced in the magnificent mosaics of Pompeii and Herculaneum), it perhaps reached its greatest expression during the Islamic period. Immediately prior to the closing and sealing of the casket, the veil is lowered over the face of the deceased. Decorative tilework typically takes the form of mosaic upon the walls, floor, or ceiling of a building. During the viewing of the body, the veil remains lifted up and on top of the head of the deceased. Finally, a cloth is rubbed over the wall tile to remove any haze which may remain from residual grout. However, Mormons who have completed the temple rituals will be typically buried in this clothing. The sponging provides added moisture to strengthen the grout as it cures. The veil is only lowered to cover the face of the woman during one part of the temple ritual and then is returned (thrown back over the top of the head).

The excess grout is scraped off with a hard rubber block called a float immediately after applying; further, the grout is wiped again with a moist sponge before it completely hardens. This veil, along with the entire temple ritual clothing, is only worn inside the temple and is rarely seen. The spaces between the tiles are filled with a fine cement called unsanded grout. Mormon women also wear a veil as part of ritual temple clothing. Modern wall tiles are fixed to a wall using a synthetic bonding agent tile adhesive for dry areas, or a cement-based mortar for areas prone to moisture, such as bath or shower walls. Brides used to wear their hair flowing down their back at their wedding to symbolise their virginity, now the white diaphanous veil is often said to represent this. Pictorial tiles, consisting of many tiles that the installer assembles like a jigsaw puzzle to form a single large picture, are available. An occasion on which a Western, non-Muslim woman is likely to wear a veil is on her wedding day, if she follows the traditions of a white wedding.

Wall tiles are usually glazed, and are often patterned by painting or embossing. It has been suggested that the practice of wearing a veil - uncommon among the Arab tribes prior to the rise of Islam - originated in the Byzantine Empire, and then spread among the Arabs. These are usually ceramic, but other materials such as mirrored glass or polished metal can be used. The boushiya is a veil that may be worn over a headscarf, it covers the entire face and is made of a sheer fabric so the wearer is able to see through it. While ancient Roman building bricks were broader and thinner than modern ones and are therefore usually called tiles, the term wall tile is normally applied to finishing tiles. The Afghan burqa covers the entire body, obscuring the face completely, except for a grille or netting over the eyes to allow the wearer to see. See Laying tile
. The niqab and burqa are two kinds of veils that cover most of the face except for a slit or hole for the eyes.

The spaces between the tiles are nowadays filled with sanded or unsanded floor grout, but traditionally mortar was used. Many of these garments cover the hair, ears and throat, but do not cover the face (for example the dupatta, khimar and buknuk). Floor tiles are typically set into mortar consisting of sand, cement and oftentimes a latex additive for extra strength. A variety of headdresses worn by Muslim women in accordance with hijab (the principle of dressing modestly) are sometimes referred to as veils or headscarves. Small mosaic tiles may be laid in various patterns. In Eastern Orthodoxy, a veil called an epanokamelavkion is used by both nuns and monks, the former using it to cover their necks and shoulders as well as their heads. Clay tiles may be painted and glazed. In Western Christianity, it does not wrap around the neck or face.

These are commonly made of ceramic, clay, porcelain or stone. The nun's veil covers the top of the head and flows down around and over the shoulders. They include ridge, hip and valley tiles. A similar veil forms part of a nun's headdress; this is why a woman who becomes a nun can be said "to take the veil". There are also roof tiles for special positions, particularly where the planes of the several pitches meet. Mantillas are still worn by Spanish women during religious ceremonies. The tiles are usually hung in parallel rows, with each row overlapping the row below it to exclude rainwater and to cover the nails that hold the row below. However, these veils are generally made of netting or another material not actually designed to hide the face from view, even if the veil can be pulled down, which is not always the case.

Roof tiles are 'hung' from the framework of a roof by fixing them with nails. Veils pinned to hats have survived the changing fashions of the centuries and are still common today on occasions when women wear hats. These include:. More pragmatically, veils were also sometimes worn to protect the complexion from sun and wind damage (when un-tanned skin was fashionable), or to keep dust out of a woman's face. Because of their long history, a large number of shapes (or "profiles") of roof tiles have evolved. They would also have been used, as an alternative to a mask, as a simple method of hiding the identity of a woman who was traveling to meet a lover, or doing anything she didn't want other people to find out about. Some clay tiles have a waterproof glaze. Sometimes a veil of this type was draped over and pinned to the bonnet or hat of a woman in mourning, especially at the funeral and during the period of "high mourning".

Modern materials such as concrete and plastic are also used. For centuries, women have worn sheer veils, but only under certain circumstances. Roof tiles are designed mainly to keep out rain, and are traditionally made from locally available materials such as clay, slate, or wood (wooden tiles are called shingles). It was not until the Tudor period (1485), when hoods became increasingly popular, that veils of this type became less common. . For many centuries (until around 1175) Anglo-Saxon and then Anglo-Norman women, with the exception of young unmarried girls, wore veils that entirely covered their hair, and often their necks up to their chins.
. .

Tiles are most often made from ceramic, with a hard glaze finish, but other materials are also commonly used, such as glass, slate, and reformed ceramic slurry, which is cast in a mould and fired. Veils are articles of clothing, worn almost exclusively by women, which cover some part of the head or face. Tiles are often used to form wall and floor coverings, and can range from simple square tiles to complex mosaics. Less precisely, the modern term can refer to any sort of construction tile or similar object, such as rectangular counters used in playing games (see tile-based game). The word is derived from the French word tuile, which is, in turn, from the Latin word tegula, meaning a roof tile composed of baked clay.

Tiles are generally used for covering roofs, floors, and walls, or other objects such as tabletops. A tile is a manufactured piece of hard-wearing material such as ceramic, clay, stone, porcelain or even glass. Mission or barrel tiles are semi-cylindrical tiles made by forming clay around a log and laid in alternating columns of convex and concave tiles. These result in a ridged pattern resembling a ploughed field.

Pantiles - with an S-shaped profile, allowing adjacent tiles to interlock. Roman tiles - flat in the middle, with a concave curve at one end at a convex curve at the other, to allow interlocking. This profile is suitable for stone and wooden tiles, and most recently, solar cells. Flat tiles - the simplest type, which are laid in regular overlapping rows.

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