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. . 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. It was also one of the first automobiles to use monocoque construction (where the body is an integral part of the chassis). For detailed information on tilings see the tessellation page. After World War II, recognizing the need for conversion to civil market, it approached this idea using internal skill, expertise and spare parts: in the first exemplar one can recognize the typical aircraft technology of molded steel sheets riveted at the edges, the front wheel with lamp was actually a landing gear, the engine was derived from a starter of an airplane engine, attention to aerodynamics is evident in all the design, in particular on the tail. These shapes are said to tessellate (from the Latin tessera, 'tile'). Piaggio was, and is today with Piaggio Aero, an aircraft factory.

Certain shapes of tiles, most obviously rectangles, can be replicated to cover a surface with no gaps. Vespa is Italian for wasp, and it was adopted as a name for the vehicle in reference to its body shape: thicker rear part connected to the front part by a narrow waist, and the steering rod as the antennae. 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. Another Vespa clone producer in India is LML Motors, which manufactures the "Stella" range of Vespa clones that are sold in the USA. Palaces, public buildings, and mosques were heavily decorated with dense, often massive mosaics and friezes of astonishing complexity. Bajaj scooters are back in the North American market, though most of the Vespa pedigree has been engineered away (other than the body shape). 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. Bajaj used to sell in North America in the early 1980's but later withdrew from the market, owing both to the aforementioned environmental constraints, and patent infringement accusations from Piaggio.

Batchelder. In India, Piaggio transfered Vespa technology to Bajaj Auto, which continues to make scooters derived from Vespas of the 1960's. Prominent among art tile makers during this period was Ernest A. Vespas acquired popularity beyond Europe and North America. In the United States, decorative tiles were in vogue, especially in southern California, in the 1920s and 1930s. The difficulty with parking and the cost of gasoline are two fundamental motivators for this upswing in Vespa (and other scooter) popularity. Some places, notably Portugal, have a tradition of tilework on buildings that continues today. The Vespa is recognized as the epitome of Italian design and with its elegant lines and classic aesthetics, there is a dramatic increase in the number of urban commuters who have purchased new or restored Vespas.

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. Most Vespas feature either a rear pillion for a passenger, or a storage compartment, just behind the driver's seat. Decorative tilework typically takes the form of mosaic upon the walls, floor, or ceiling of a building. In 2005 a LX model that comes in both 50 and 125 cc versions in the UK and 50 and 150 cc version in the US. Finally, a cloth is rubbed over the wall tile to remove any haze which may remain from residual grout. In 2004 they reintroduced a modernized PX 150. The sponging provides added moisture to strengthen the grout as it cures. Next came the larger 200 cc Granturismo 200.

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. First came the ET2 (50 cc) and ET4 (50-124cc). The spaces between the tiles are filled with a fine cement called unsanded grout. Vespa returned to the US market in 2001 with a new, more modern style, and offers several models that have automatic transmissions and using both four stroke and cleaner two stroke engines. 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. Vespas would have completely disappeared from the American scene if it weren't for the enthusiasts who kept the vintage scooters on the road by rebuilding and restoring them. Pictorial tiles, consisting of many tiles that the installer assembles like a jigsaw puzzle to form a single large picture, are available. Increasing environmental restrictions compelled Piaggio to pull out of the US market in 1985.

Wall tiles are usually glazed, and are often patterned by painting or embossing. The mixture of oil in the fuel produced high amounts of smoke. These are usually ceramic, but other materials such as mirrored glass or polished metal can be used. They also have had two stroke motors, requiring a mixture of oil with the gasoline in order to lubricate the piston and cylinder. 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. Most older Vespas have manual transmissions that are controlled by twisting the left handgrip while pulling the clutch lever and selecting between the 3 or 4 gears. See Laying tile
. Piaggio revolutionized the two-wheel industry with the Vespa and provided a model on which nearly every other scooter made since has been based.

The spaces between the tiles are nowadays filled with sanded or unsanded floor grout, but traditionally mortar was used. The engine was covered completely by a steel cowling to appeal to a broader market of people, often turned off by the dirty/greasy stereotype often applied to motorcycles. Floor tiles are typically set into mortar consisting of sand, cement and oftentimes a latex additive for extra strength. The classic Vespas had unibody chassis pressed from sheets of steel, with bodywork covering the legs for protection from rain and mud. Small mosaic tiles may be laid in various patterns. Piaggio continues to manufacture the Vespa today, although the Vespa was a much more prevalent vehicle in the 1950s and 60s when it became the adopted vehicle of choice for the UK youth-culture known as Mods, and later Skinheads. Clay tiles may be painted and glazed. The Vespa is a line of motor scooters that was first manufactured in Genoa, Italy in 1946 by Piaggio & Co, S.p.A.

These are commonly made of ceramic, clay, porcelain or stone. Roman Holiday, 1953, featuring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, is a living testimony to the 1950s Vespa mania in Italy. They include ridge, hip and valley tiles. Princess Vespa was a character in the movie Spaceballs, a possible play on words alluding to the goddess Vesta in Roman Mythology, to whom Vestal Virgins were dedicated as pristesses. There are also roof tiles for special positions, particularly where the planes of the several pitches meet. The movie Quadrophenia, based on the double-album of the same name by The Who, prominently features Vespas in connection with the British Mod subculture. 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. Peter Moore's travelogue Vroom with a View, in which a '61 model Australian author tours Italy on a '61 model Vespa, gives some insights into Vespa culture.

Roof tiles are 'hung' from the framework of a roof by fixing them with nails. Darren Silverman - Saving Silverman. These include:. Paul Finch - American Pie. Because of their long history, a large number of shapes (or "profiles") of roof tiles have evolved. Milhouse Mussolini Van Houten - The Simpsons. Some clay tiles have a waterproof glaze. Vivienne Michel - The Spy Who Loved Me.

Modern materials such as concrete and plastic are also used. Mayama Takumi - Honey and Clover. 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). Robin Sena - Witch Hunter Robin. . Mona - WarioWare, Inc..
. Mad Mod, and for half an episode Beast Boy - Teen Titans.

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. Maiku Kamashiro - Onegai Twins. Tiles are often used to form wall and floor coverings, and can range from simple square tiles to complex mosaics. Haruhara Haruko - FLCL. 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). Nadine Cross - The Stand. 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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