Custom Floor and Wall Tile For 28 Cents a Square Foot--- The "How" Questions Answered
Over the last 18+ years that we've been in the concrete mold and products manufacturing business, possibly the one question asked of us the most is--- How is concrete tile made, and why is it so expensive to purchase? Those particular questions are highly relevant, when you consider that you can make concrete tile for about 28 cents a square foot, right at home!
Here, we answer those questions and many more, and share with you how you can save up to 90% off retail prices for handcrafted concrete tile and other concrete products.
IS IT CONCRETE OR CEMENT?
Concrete and cement are really two different and distinct products. Cement is actually the glue, for lack of a better term, that holds the whole mix of cement, sand, and aggregate together--- thus creating the product referred to as concrete. The name Portland cement is a more technical and proper name for this GLUE that is commonly called cement. To further complicate things, tiles made with Portland cement and sand, are referred to as cement or cementitious tiles by many people.
HOW LONG WILL CONCRETE TILE LAST?
The expected useful life is over one hundred years. Stone products have actually been used for thousands of years, with many of the mortared stone roads of ancient Rome still being used today. We recommend that commercial producers of these products offer a minimum twenty-year warranty on their products as long as they are produced to normally specified guidelines. Those specifications yield a tile that is between 4000 and 6000-psi compressive strength or higher. Considering that the average concrete sidewalk is about 3500-psi compressive strength, what does that say for the life expectancy of concrete tile? When is the last time you saw a concrete sidewalk worn out?
WHAT IS THE WEIGHT OF CONCRETE TILE, AND HOW THICK SHOULD IT BE?
On average, a 12x12 tile weighs about four pounds when made with a standard concrete mix. That weight is based on the recommended thickness of between three-eighths and five-eighths inch thickness, with half-inch being the ideal standard. Tiles can be poured thinner or thicker, depending on the mold and application. For example, tile for walls can be poured at one-quarter inch thick if desired. For standard flooring applications, a half-inch thick tile is the norm. Surprisingly, half-inch thick tiles can be used for applications like driveways, as long as they are installed over a concrete base.
WILL CONCRETE TILE HOLD UP OUTSIDE IN COLD CLIMATES?
As long as the tile was made and designed for that purpose, it will be fine in almost any environment. Concrete needs microscopic air pockets so moisture can expand and contract without affecting the solid concrete mass. Our proprietary mix formula, as do other exterior designed concrete tile, includes air-entrainment agents to help prevent the product from breaking down under freeze-thaw conditions like those found in northern climates. Formulas can be adjusted for extreme conditions and special applications by adjusting the amount of air-entrainment additive. The normally accepted target is about 5% air content in your concrete mix.
WHERE CAN I MAKE CEMENTITIOUS OR CONCRETE TILE?
You need minimal space, and since there is no waste or environmental impact with the process, tile can be made for your own use in a barn, garage, basement, backyard shed, or even outside in moderate weather conditions. A wheelbarrow, a shovel, tile molds and basic instructions are the basic tools needed.
For a commercial operation, you need as little as 600 square feet (a typical garage), but for an efficient facility, we recommend at least 1000+ square feet. A plant that size will handle normal business growth and production increases for the first year or so. A 1500 square foot plant is ideal for a commercial sized facility and will handle growth for the first five years in business.
DOES MAKING CONCRETE TILE REQUIRE A KILN OR HIGH ELECTRIC SOURCE?
No kiln or other heat source is needed. Concrete tile does not need to be fired like ceramic tile does. The tile is cured via extending the hydration period. The use of additives, and covering the tile during curing with plastic holds the moisture in and aids in the hydration process. Complete technical instructions for the curing process are normally included with molds. Our company also offers a Training Website. Since typical vibrator tables run on 115 volts, there is no need for a high power source. If you can run your mixer at 220-240 volts it will save money and provide increased motor torque though. But most can run on 115 volts. If you are making tile by hand for a small project, you don't need to care about either of the foregoing anyway. If you have a large project, there are normally places locally where you can rent a mixer
WHAT IS THE PROCESS USED TO TURN CONCRETE INTO TILES?
Simply put--- Molds. First you choose a tile mold in the shape and size that you desire. These can be made from a variety of different plastics or rubbers. The rubbers are extremely expensive, and are designed and priced more for commercial use. You then mix a batch of concrete, either pre-mix bags or a standard Portland cement, aggregate and sand mix. Add colorant and an additive if desired. Pour the mix into tile-shaped molds, or moulds if you're in Britain. Wait for the concrete mix to harden. Demold the hardened concrete. Cure the concrete per the instructions. And you now have a handcrafted concrete, or as some people refer to them, cement or cementitious tile!
HOW MANY DIFFERENT TILE MOLDS ARE THERE?
Concrete tiles can be made in sizes from 4x4 inches up to 24x24 inches, and larger. They can be made in virtually any color imaginable, and there are many different techniques that can be used to finish them. There are hundreds of styles, shapes and sizes of molds for stone, pavers, brick and tile available. And new styles are being added all the time. Mold makers like us also have the ability to make custom mold styles.
WHAT ARE CONCRETE MOLDS MADE OF AND HOW LONG WILL THEY LAST?
Most concrete molds are made with polystyrene, industrial ABS plastic, or other plastic blends depending on the application and texture retention desired. They are usually a .060 thickness. We prefer ABS plastic at Olde World for its strength, flexibility and durability. If cared for per our simple instructions, molds can last for hundreds of pours, depending on the style and size of the mold.
WHY ARE SOME MOLDS SO EXPENSIVE COMPARED TO OTHERS?
Many mold companies are small operations with just one or two products to offer, like steppingstones. They may have a small machine, or may purchase their molds from a mold manufacturer, so they have to charge more in order to make any money. There are many small mold companies that fit this model. Few if any, have the benefit of over thirty years in the mold making business. And none enjoy over seventeen years pioneering the consumer segment of the concrete tile business as we have.
When raw materials are purchased in large quantities, and costs are spread out over many products, there is the benefit called, economies of scale. Most small mold companies don't have the benefit of spreading costs over hundreds of items or purchasing in the volume needed. By doing so, we are able to keep profit margins conservative and grow and expand. Thus--- we are able to be extremely competitive in our pricing.
HOW DO YOU GET A GLAZED LOOK IF NO KILN IS USED TO FIRE THE TILE?
The various finishes and sheens are created after the initial manufacturing process through the use of various brush-on sealers. The types of sealers used determine the degree and intensity of the sheen. They range in sheen from a flat stone finish to a deep ultra-glazed finish. The installation and customer preference normally determine which sealers are used, and may be based on where the tile is being installed. By being a renewable surface, the consumer never has to worry about ending up with a dull, worn tile surface. Additional sealer can be applied every couple of years to freshen up a specific area, or the entire floor for pennies.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR CEMENT TILE?
With more do-it-yourselfers and producers making their own tile and stone products to save or make money, mold makers like us will continue to add new molds to our offering. The benefit that hand-made tiles add to a home's value versus the actual cost to make them--- is staggering! By making the tile, a do-it-yourselfer can easily save as much as ninety-percent off normal retail prices! And the tile they make will be there for their great-grandchildren to enjoy and admire--- It can be their legacy.