FAQ

We will regularly update this section as your questions come in.

General questions concerning our antique tiles

What is a ceramic encaustic tile?

Encaustic tiles are ceramic tiles in which the pattern or figure on the surface is not a product of the glaze but of different colours of clay. They are often of two colours but a tile may be composed of as many as six. The pattern is inlaid into the body of the tile, so as the tile is worn down the design remains.

Encaustic tiles may be glazed or unglazed and the inlay may be as shallow as 2 to 3 millimetres, as is often the case with "printed" encaustic tiles from the later medieval period, or as deep as 7 millimetres.

What were called encaustic tiles in the Victorian era were originally called inlaid tiles during the medieval period. The use of the word "encaustic" to describe an inlaid tile of two or more colours is technically incorrect. The word encaustic means "burning in" from the Greek en "in" and kaiein "to burn". The term originally described a process of painting with a bees-wax based paint that was then fixed with heat. It was also applied to a process of medieval enamelling. The term did not come into use when describing tile until the 19th century. Supposedly, Victorians thought that the two colour tiles strongly resembled enamel work and so called them encaustic. Despite the error, the term has now been in common use for so long that it is an accepted name for inlaid tile work.

Can the tiles be used with an under-floor heating system?

Ceramic tiles and ceramic encaustic tiles can be used with an under-floor heating system as they are superb conductors and retainers of heat and, having been fired to around 1,100F degrees, there is no risk of them cracking. Conversely, carreaux de ciments tiles are unsuitable for under-floor heating systems as they are in the first instance cured rather than fired and would likely be too thick for heat to dissipate effectively anyway.

Can the tiles be laid outside?

Ceramic tiles can be laid outside and are often seen laid in the front garden walkway of Victorian villas. Cold and sub-zero temperatures in winter and hot temperatures in summer months will not damage the tiles and the density of ceramic makes it almost impenetrable to moisture and subsequent freezing. However if a tile cracks owing to an accident etc. it is wise to replace it as freezing and thawing will eventually likely widen the crack, break the tile and perhaps start moving tiles in proximity.

Carreaux de ciment tiles cannot be laid outside as the cycle of freezing and thawing will eventually break the tiles.

Tile laying and general maintenance

Do I need a tiler who is an expert in antique tiles to lay the floor?

In our experience and from customer feedback the answer is 'No' as the tiles in essence are ceramic patterned tiles, which just happen to be antique.

But a professional tiler is highly recommended for several reasons 1) antique tiles are geometric in form and tessellate once laid to produce a repeating series of usually two patterns - if the tiles are not well laid from the start the pattern will very quickly go out of line 2) antique floors generally come with one or more border tiles which frame the floor and there has to be a marriage between the principal main tiles, known as the field tiles, and the borders. This may involve cutting the tiles with specialist equipment but also initially calculating the best configuration for the borders in the first place 3) some antique tiles were handmade and as a result have slight width variances that a professional with experience can adjust for when laying the floor and 4) the tiles have been cleaned of their old mortar with specialist cutting equipment and there will be small variances in their thickness. Again, that is something a professional tiler will account for when he initially dry lays a section of the floor and examines the tiles pre-laying.

A professional tiler will also know which cements to use to lay the tiles (depending on whether the tiles are being laid on wood, cement etc), which grouts are best if you are laying the tiles with joints and can provide advice on how to polish, seal and wax the tiles.

How do I clean and look after the tiles once laid?

Should you stain a tile never use acid or an acid based product on carreaux de ciments tiles as the acid will dissolve the slip on the surface of the tile. Any stubborn stains can usually be removed with a specialist alkaline based tile cleaner.

To protect a newly installed floor it must be waterproofed and sealed as carreaux de ciments tiles are porous and will stain (you can also make the floor shinier and add lustre as carreaux de ciments tiles in their clean state are 'matt' or 'flat'). Two treatments are possible namely, 'sealing' or 'waxing'. But neither of these should be conducted until the cement adhesive used to lay and joint the tiles has had a chance to dry thoroughly otherwise sealing or waxing will simply lock humidity in the tile, which may result in small water stains appearing.

Ceramic is almost impermeable owing to its density and our antique tiles will be dispatched to you cleaned of any old cement, paint drops, old dirty wax and general surface staining. We do this using various chemicals like diluted acid to remove cement traces (it removes cement but doesn't damage the tile), steam under pressure to melt and remove old wax etc. Once the tiles arrive, they are ready to re-lay. It is your choice whether to re-wax the floor or not depending on the lustre you desire but waxed or not the best way to clean a ceramic floor is a regular mopping with a mild ceramic tile detergent followed by a rinsing with warm water! For more stubborn dirt we recommend the Lithofin range of products and a wealth of information on ceramic tile cleaning and sealing / waxing can be found on their site at www.lithofin.com

These products penetrate the tile, leaving only a superficial layer almost invisible to the eye, but protect the tile by making it waterproof and resistant to grease and stains. Products like FILAFOB are recommended (www.filachim.com)

If you're looking for something that will add a little sheen too, then products like HG GOLVPOLISH, a tile sealant that prevents stains and stubborn dirt spoiling tiles while adding lustre by deepening the colour and texture is recommended. It seals the tiles and gives a satin gloss as well as also having an anti-slip agent.

The traditional and most common treatment of antique floors is waxing. Wax not only protects but lifts the tiles colours, giving them a glossy texture. Simply apply a coat of a colourless pure wax to fill out the tile and work in.

For routine maintenance, clean the floor once a month with the same wax added to clear water. As a cautionary note, we spend a lot of time removing old dirty wax from antique tiles and discover beautifully coloured tiles underneath so be aware that wax also traps dirt over the years between its layers. At some point you will need to remove the wax and start again.

The benefits of waxing are 1) it is a guard against porous staining 2) it adds lustre to the tiles. The argument against is that wax traps dirt and over the months or years the tiles will lose their colour and will appear stained although there are de-waxing products available to remove old wax.

Shipping

When shipping to the USA do you deliver to door or to Port?

We can deliver to either and can provide a quote for both options. Some previous US clients have preferred a delivery to Port for them to then collect personally. Many European shipping companies are encouraging US buyers to find a shipping FREIGHT FORWARDING AGENT close to them to handle the administration and clearing of goods through US customs once the freight has arrived as this can be more difficult from distance. US Ports are rigorous at the best of times when it comes to importing goods but with enhanced security considerations post 9/11 it can be better to have someone on the ground that knows the system and who can take charge of the pallet at the Port and arrange its forwarding to you.

Our service to you does not end once your order leaves our premises - it ends once you have confirmed receipt and are happy with your purchase.

We can discuss various shipping options with you at the enquiry stage.

When shipping to the USA how do freight costs differ depending on weight, number of pallets etc?

The initial pallet is a fixed cost to around 1 metric tonne c. 2,250lbs. This means that regardless of whether you are purchasing a small 50 sq ft floor or a large 250 sq ft floor the shipping cost is the same (250 sq ft is approximately the maximum load for one pallet). A second pallet in a consignment will cost c.50% of the first and a third around 35% of the first. Not surprisingly, as with most products and services, there is a substantial discount for volume.

Do you make a profit on your delivery charges?

Our deliveries are ALWAYS at cost. We never make a profit or seek to make a profit on deliveries and we always seek to find the best value provider.

Is my purchase insured during its shipping?

Yes, your purchase is insured by us for the value you have paid.

How long will it take to ship my purchase?

This is dependent on so many things including when your floor is collected by the Freight Company, what ship or road routing it is booked onto, the administrative lag for processing imports if it is heading to a Port etc. What we aim to provide you is key dates in the case of US/Canadian shipping i.e. when the ship will depart, when it will arrive in Port and so on. Beyond that much depends on the speed of administration stateside.

For UK deliveries we use Europa Worldwide Logistics, who are based in Kent, and they will co-ordinate with you for a convenient delivery drop with a tail-gated vehicle. Again, at the point of enquiry we will be able to provide an approximate delivery lead-time.

For all other destinations we can provide approximate lead-times on being provided your full post-coded address.

Is there any duty chargeable on the tiles on entering the USA?

There is no US duty payable on antique tiles more than 100 years old.

Payments

You require payment prior to shipping; can you provide references from previous clients who have done the same?

We have experience of shipping to the USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Poland and France. References can be provided by previous clients without any problem so that your mind is at rest regarding our integrity.

All you need to do is ask and we can put you in contact with previous customers.

What payment options do you offer?

We offer a range of payment options including personal cheque and bank wire as well as accepting various credit and debit cards via Paypal. We also offer the option to pay in sterling or in euros. We quote our selling prices in sterling but we are happy to convert the prices to euros on request, at transaction day market rates.

Do you offer credit?

Yes. We do offer interest free credit on some larger purchases, providing the option for you to pay over several instalments. On agreement to the arrangement the floor is classified as sold and will be kept in storage free until the final instalment is received at which point it will be delivered to you.