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Knowing your tile type

Our team on the road put their heads together to answer your burning questions and provide helpful solutions to common challenges.

Dave Rowley says...

Knowing your tile type is absolutely crucial for adhesive and grout selection – as well as consideration of background preparation.

The main tile types found on the market are ceramic, porcelain, natural stone (such as marble, granite, limestone and travertine), mosaic tiles and agglomerate tiles such as quartz.

Each tile type has unique qualities and are only suitable for certain applications – while different adhesives and fixing techniques also need to be considered.

In this guide we will go through the main tile types, their suitability for different uses and adhesive selection.

Ceramic Tiles

The most well-known and used tile type, having been around for thousands of years. Extremely versatile, they are made from clay which has been shaped and press before being fired in a kiln. Reasonably prices they can be used on walls and floors in low-traffic situations, such as domestic kitchens and bathrooms, splashbacks and domestic bathrooms and showers.

Ceramic tiles 300x300mm or under can generally be fixed with a ready-mixed dispersion tile adhesive using a 3mm notched trowel. Ready-mixed adhesives can be used on most internal backgrounds as long as they are sound, non-porous and dust free. For ceramic tiles larger than 300x300mm or those used in commercial areas a cementitious adhesive should be used.

Porcelain Tiles

More expensive than ceramic tiles, but also more durable, porcelain tiles are also made of clay with added sand in the manufacturing mix. They are pressed and fired at a higher temperature than ceramic tiles, meaning it is denser and less porous. Because they are more hard-wearing and abrasion resistant they are recommended for heavier trafficked areas such as kitchen floors, hallways and commercial applications.

While some small porcelain (100x100mm or less) can be fixed with ready-mixed adhesives, anything larger should be fixed with a flexible, polymer-modified cementitious adhesive such as Dunlop CF-03 Flexible Fast Set to ensure perfect bonding.

Natural Stone

There are numerous natural stone tiles on the market, limestone, granite, marble, slate and travertine for example. Each has their own characteristics and because they come from natural sources they are not regulated in terms of size, movement and porosity. For example, limestone is quite porous, while granite and marble are quite dense. This difference in composition means extra care is required when fixing natural stone.

When fixing natural stone it is advised to use a white cementitious adhesive – this is because grey adhesive can cause a shadow behind light coloured natural stone such as marble or limestone. At Dunlop we would recommend our CLF-03 Flexible Large Format and Natural Stone Adhesive. Dunlop CLF-03 can be used at a bed depth of up to 25mm – this makes it ideal for tiles/slabs of uneven thickness – such as natural stone.

Some natural stone may be susceptible to scratching and staining – particular with pigmented grouts or those that use courser sand. In this instance protect the stone with our Temporary Tile Sealer before grouting and use a finer sand grout such as Dunlop GX-500.


Glass mosaics add a touch of colour, texture, light and shape to any tiling installation and they easy to install. Because they are transparent, just like natural stone, a white adhesive is required so it doesn’t show through the tile. You can fix mosaics with either a white ready-mixed adhesive or a cement-based. Because most mosaics are mesh-backed, you should use a small notched “mosaic” trowel to ensure that you achieve 100% coverage.


Resin agglomerated tiles have become an increasingly popular choice of floor finishes over the last 20 years, as they offer a cost-effective alternative to natural stone. These tiles are manufactured in an array of colours and are ‘engineered’ to have some improved mechanical and physical properties such as scratch resistance and flexural strength. Resin agglomerated tiles are sometimes called reconstituted or re-composed stone and in the US are known as Engineered Stone.

A resin agglomerate stone tile is a composite material, based upon the use of recycled natural stone aggregates or stone pieces which are then bound together at the manufacturing stage using a synthetic resin – they are often called “quartz” tiles.

The resin bound stone is then formed by vibration and compression under a vacuum to form large blocks. These blocks are then allowed to cure before being sawn into slabs, calibrated to the correct size and thickness, polished, then accurately cut into the required tile sizes.

Be extremely careful when fixing these types of tiles as they have varying degrees of moisture sensitivity and can be adversely affected by thermal movement from underfloor heating or areas subjected to direct sunlight.

British Standards state that resin-backed agglomerates should be fixed with a reaction resin adhesive, or quick drying cement-based adhesive such Dunlop CLF-03 Flexible Large Format And Natural Stone mixed with Dunlop Flexible Additive.

When tiling with these types of tile we would always recommend consulting our Technical Helpline on 01782 591120.


Need help with your tiling project, looking for product information, or simply want to find your nearest stockist? Then follow us on Twitter @DunlopProDecor or @DunlopAdhesives and use #AskDunlop and one of our advisors will get back to you as soon as they can. If you’re not on Twitter why not contact our Technical Advisory Service using our Live Chat facility, or simply: Call: 01782 591120

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