Tiles: From Ancient Times to Modern Day

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 16, 2022
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Tiles are small, flat, rectangular or square building materials used to cover floors and walls. They’re usually made of ceramic, but can also be made of glass, metal, or even concrete.

The word is derived from the French word tuile, which is, in turn, from the Latin word tegula, meaning a roof tile composed of fired clay.

Let’s look at the definition and history of this building material.

What are tiles

The Fascinating History of Tiles

  • The discovery of Elamite temple in Chogha Zanbil, Iran, dated back to 1250 BC, revealed colored reliefs and tiles.
  • The ancient Mesopotamians imported glazed bricks from Babylon to decorate their palaces.
  • The mud and adobe buildings of Mesopotamia were decorated with imported tiles from the river Tigris.

The Advanced Techniques of the Achaemenid Empire

  • The palace of Darius in Susa, Iran, had glazed brick walls and cut tiles.
  • The finest example of Achaemenid tilework is the glazed brick relief of the Ishtar Gate in Babylon, which was reconstructed in sections at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
  • The Persian craftsmen used molds to create the tiles and polished them to a high shine.

The Islamic Art of Tiling

  • The Middle East saw an advanced technique of tiling during the Timurid Empire in the 14th century.
  • The city of Isfahan in Iran is famous for its Kufic tilework, which is a form of Islamic calligraphy.
  • The Jame Mosque in Isfahan has a stunning dome decorated with blue tiles.

Choosing the Right Tile Material for Your Home

When it comes to tile materials, there are a lot of options available. Here are the main types of tile materials to consider:

  • Ceramic: This is the most popular type of tile material and is commonly used for flooring and walls. It’s easy to maintain, fairly cheap, and comes in a wide range of colors and designs. However, it’s not the most durable type of tile and can crack if heavy objects are dropped on it.
  • Porcelain: This type of tile is similar to ceramic but is denser and more durable. It’s highly resistant to water and stains, making it a great choice for kitchens and bathrooms. Porcelain tiles come in a range of colors and styles, including polished and honed finishes.
  • Natural Stone: Natural stone tiles, such as granite, marble, and slate, are highly durable and come in a range of unique colors and patterns. They’re great for adding a touch of luxury to your home and can be used for flooring, walls, and countertops. However, they require more maintenance than ceramic or porcelain tiles and can be more expensive.
  • Glass: Glass tiles are a popular choice for backsplashes and accent walls. They come in a range of colors and can be cut into different shapes and sizes. Glass tiles are easy to clean and are highly resistant to mold and mildew.
  • Metal: Metal tiles, such as stainless steel and copper, are a great choice for adding an industrial or modern look to your home. They’re highly durable and resistant to water and stains. However, they can be expensive and may require special cutting tools.

The Benefits of Each Tile Material

Each type of tile material has its own unique benefits. Here are some of the benefits of each type:

  • Ceramic: Easy to maintain, fairly cheap, and comes in a wide range of colors and designs.
  • Porcelain: Highly resistant to water and stains, making it a great choice for kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Natural Stone: Highly durable and comes in a range of unique colors and patterns.
  • Glass: Easy to clean and highly resistant to mold and mildew.
  • Metal: Highly durable and resistant to water and stains.

The Final Verdict

When it comes to choosing the right tile material for your home, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It all depends on your specific needs and preferences. However, by following this guide, you’ll be sure to find the right tile material for your space that looks great and lasts for years to come.

The Beauty and Durability of Roof Tiles

Today, there are many types of roof tiles available, each offering its own unique benefits. Some of the most popular types include:

  • Clay tiles: These are a traditional option that offers excellent durability and a range of colors.
  • Concrete tiles: These are a more affordable alternative to clay tiles, and come in a range of colors and textures.
  • Slate tiles: These are a high-end option that offers a natural, flat texture and a range of colors.
  • Metal tiles: These are a newer option that combines the durability of metal with the design of traditional roof tiles.
  • Solar tiles: These are a new type of roof tile that can generate electricity for your home.

Floor Tiles: The Ultimate Guide

Floor tiles are a type of building material consisting of thin, rectangular or square coverings that are designed to be placed on floors. They are available in a variety of materials, including stone, natural materials like clay and granite, and even glass. Floor tiles come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and thicknesses, and can be highly customizable in terms of design and style.

Choosing the Right Floor Tile

When choosing a floor tile, there are several factors to consider, including:

  • The size and shape of the tile: Larger tiles can make a small room look bigger, while smaller tiles can add detail and interest to a larger space.
  • The material: Different materials will have different characteristics, such as water resistance and durability.
  • The style: Floor tiles come in a variety of styles, from traditional to modern, so it’s important to choose a style that matches the overall look and feel of your space.
  • The thickness: The thickness of the tile will depend on the desired look and the weight of the material. Heavier materials like stone will require a thicker tile to support them.

Installing Floor Tiles

Installing floor tiles can be a DIY project, but it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure a safe and successful installation. Some tips for installing floor tiles include:

  • Preparing the surface: The surface should be clean, dry, and free of dirt and debris before the tiles are placed.
  • Using the right adhesive: Different types of tiles will require different types of adhesive, so it’s important to choose the right one for the job.
  • Cutting the tiles: Tiles may need to be cut to fit around edges and corners. This can be done using a tile cutter or a wet saw.
  • Grouting: Once the tiles are in place, they will need to be grouted to fill in the gaps between them. This will help to create a uniform and polished look.

The Drawbacks of Floor Tiles

While floor tiles offer many benefits, there are also some drawbacks to consider, including:

  • Coldness: Floor tiles can be cold to the touch, especially in the winter months.
  • Hardness: Floor tiles can be hard and uncomfortable to stand on for long periods of time.
  • Dirty grout: Over time, grout can become dirty and discolored, requiring regular cleaning.

The Handy Tool for Covering Ceilings: Ceiling Tiles

Ceiling tiles, also known as ceiling panels, are a common and popular material used in buildings to cover ceilings. They are lightweight and designed to improve the aesthetics and acoustics of a room while providing some thermal insulation. They are commonly made of fiber, wood, clay, or other lightweight materials.

What are the Different Types of Ceiling Tiles?

There are a number of different types of ceiling tiles available, each with a specific function and use. Some of the most common types include:

  • Acoustic ceiling tiles: These are designed to improve sound quality in a room by absorbing sound waves.
  • Lightweight ceiling tiles: These are made of lightweight materials and are easy to install.
  • Special finish ceiling tiles: These are designed to achieve a specific finish or design.
  • Energy-efficient ceiling tiles: These are designed to reduce energy costs by improving insulation.

What is the Difference Between Ceiling Tiles and Other Ceiling Materials?

Compared to other ceiling materials, such as plaster or drywall, ceiling tiles are:

  • Low maintenance
  • Easier to install and remove
  • Able to produce a range of designs and finishes
  • More energy-efficient

What Should You Note When Using Ceiling Tiles?

When using ceiling tiles, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • The type of ceiling tile you choose will affect the acoustics and thermal insulation of the room.
  • The manufacturer’s instructions should be followed for proper installation.
  • Different types of ceiling tiles may require different tools and materials for installation.
  • The structure of the building may affect the type of ceiling tile that can be used, such as in a kitchen where fire-resistant materials may be required.

What is the Meaning of the Term “Ceiling Tiles”?

The term “ceiling tiles” refers to a range of materials that are placed in a steel or aluminum grid to cover a ceiling. They are also referred to as ceiling panels.

The Art of Tile Making: Materials and Processes

The process of making tiles involves several steps, including:

  • Mixing the ingredients: Depending on the type of tile being made, a mixture of ingredients is prepared. This can include natural materials like stone and clay, as well as synthetic materials.
  • Forming the tiles: The mixture is then molded into the desired shape and size. This can be done using traditional methods or with the help of machines.
  • Cutting the tiles: Once the tiles have been formed, they are cut to the desired size using a variety of techniques. This can involve wet or dry cutting, depending on the type of tile being made.
  • Grinding and polishing: To achieve the desired finish, the tiles are then ground and polished. This involves using a rotating abrasive tool, such as a diamond grinder, to remove any excess material and improve the surface of the tile. This step can be done wet or dry, depending on the type of tile and finish desired.
  • Applying finishes: Depending on the manufacturer and the desired look, tiles may be finished with a variety of techniques. This can include polishing, honing, or adding a custom design or vintage look.

Classifying Tile Finishes

Tiles can be classified according to their finish, which can include:

  • Polished: A highly reflective finish achieved by grinding and polishing the tile surface with a fine abrasive.
  • Honed: A matte finish achieved by grinding and polishing the tile surface with a coarse abrasive.
  • Matte: A non-reflective finish achieved by leaving the tile surface unpolished.
  • Textured: A finish that creates a rough or ribbed surface, often used for outdoor tiles to prevent slipping.
  • Custom: A finish that is designed to achieve a specific look or feel, often created by mixing different finishes or adding a custom design.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Tile Material and Finish

Choosing the right tile material and finish is important for several reasons:

  • Durability: Some tile materials are more durable than others and are better suited for high-traffic areas.
  • Style: The tile material and finish can greatly impact the overall style and design of a space.
  • Maintenance: Some finishes require more maintenance than others, so it’s important to choose a finish that fits your lifestyle and cleaning habits.
  • Cost: Tile materials and finishes can vary greatly in price, so it’s important to choose a material and finish that fits your budget.


Tiles are a type of flooring material made of ceramic, porcelain, glass, or metal. They’re used for both interior and exterior decorating. They’re great for bathrooms and kitchens because they’re easy to clean and durable. 

So, now you know what a tile is and how they’re used. You can make the right decision when it comes to choosing the right one for you.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.