Hardwearing and durable, quarry and terracotta floor tiles add warmth, colour and character without overpowering a room. In fact, their humble beginnings mean they work in urban and industrial-style kitchen as well as in a period property. In a bathroom, they come into their own as a backdrop to a traditional freestanding tub, especially one made from copper.
Quarry and terracotta tiles are available from many tile outlets, with good replica porcelain and ceramic options if you want a maintenance-free floor. There is also a wide choice in the reclaimed market if you are after a vintage or rustic look.
- How much do they cost?
- What are they made from?
- What are the benefits?
- Where can you lay them?
- Can you fit them yourself?
- Finding a fitter
If you shop around you can buy basic tiles for under £20 per m², with the average price being from £40 to £80 per m². You could even end up spending upwards of £100 per m² for shop bought tiles if you are opting for handmade tiles with a particularly unusual finish or colour.
For reclaimed or more unique or unusual tiles you might be looking to pay over £100 per m².
Quarry tiles are made from a mixture of clays, fired at an extremely high temperature. Terracotta, on the other hand, is fired at a lower temperature, resulting in a softer tile with a rustic appearance. Quarry tiles are very robust and are less porous than terracotta. As a result, they are usually frost-resistant, making them ideal for outdoor use, whereas terracotta isn’t always recommended for outside.
You will find that both quarry and terracotta tiles come in a range of colours, from warm red and gold through to heather tones, brown, grey and black. As well as their traditional square appearance, they come in a brick form and other shapes, such as hexagonal, sometimes with decorative colours and inserts to create patterns. Choose anti-slip surfaces for wet areas and bathrooms.
- They are often as durable as real stone floor tiles and are just as long lasting
- Both are inexpensive
- They work well in areas of heavy traffic
- They ideal for use with underfloor heating
On the downside, if they are bought unsealed they must be treated, or they will stain easily. Any china or glass that is dropped on them is almost certain to shatter, as their surface is very hard.
Usually terracotta and quarry floor tiles are found in kitchens, in entrance hallways and in bathrooms, as they are ideal for high traffic areas. They are also waterproof when treated properly, so there are no problems using then in spaces where they could become wet or be spilled upon. Some suppliers sell skirting tiles that co-ordinate. If you are laying them outdoors, check that they are frostproof.
There is now no reason you can’t lay a quarry or terracotta floor in an in any other room if paired with underfloor heating. They heat quickly and hold warmth, so you won’t have to worry about getting out of bed, or the bath, on to a cold tiled floor.
Laying quarry or terracotta floor tiles is no more difficult than fitting any other tiled flooring, so this will depend on your skill and experience. If you are laying unsealed tiles, then it is essential to allow the moisture to be released prior to sealing and/or glazing, and this could take several days. Moisture levels will depend on the depth and material of the subfloor, and the depth and moisture content of the tiles and adhesive, so take advice from your installer or supplier.
It is possible, and even easy, to lay your own tiled floor. Follow our step-by-step tutorial and get a professional finish, without the price.
The colour and tones will vary from batch to batch so ‘shuffle’ the tiles for a mixed balance and expect minor chips and blemishes in some ranges; this is part of their natural appeal.
Ask your supplier if they provide a fitting service or if they can recommend local tradespeople for the job. Personal recommendations are often the best option. Otherwise, check out websites such as ratedpeople.com and checkatrade.com. The National Institute of Carpet and Floorlayers, can provide you with a list of its members. It is advisable to choose a tradesperson or company whose main business is tiling or floor laying and who will want to trade on their reputation.
Once they are sealed, you can treat them with a wax or sheen product after they have been laid. Your supplier will be able to advise on suitable ranges and also recommend the best cleaning product – any that aren’t recommended could leave behind a film, which could attract dirt. Different sealants and finishes can affect the colour and tone of the tiles so it is imperative to check first. Sweeping regularly will keep loose dirt away.
Take a look at this step-by-step guide on looking after your terracotta and quarry floor tiles