Tile Installation

Mexican tiles are clay made, and hand glazed. Mexican tile, known also as Talavera tile, require care and maintenance to last for generations and radiate beauty to the surroundings. A tile installation will stand the passage of time getting an antique looking. Because the glaze and clay expand/shrink at different rates "crazing" happens, depending on temperature changes. The more variation in temperature the more "web appearance" will be shown. This effect can be minimized properly sealing the tile installation. We recommend to seal the entire area, including the tiles themselves. This is only a guide, please refer to your installer for application. 

Mexican Tile Installation

Mexican tile can be installed in any place. Bathrooms, showers and kitchens, are the obvious locations. Other places where Mexican tile can be placed are tabletops, baseboards and floor accents. Mexican tiles come in different sizes and wide ranges of colors that can work with any decor. Mexican tiles can be installed directly on plaster or dry wall using regular thinset mortar. In moist areas, Mexican tiles can be installed on green dry wall or on cement baker boards. In case of bathroom and kitchen installations, green drywall are used. They are designed to resist moisture but should NOT be exposed directly to water and especially a pool area. Pool chemicals will disintegrate the clay tiles. 

Surface Preparation

The surface to be finished, whether concrete slab or mortar bed on wood subfloor, should be swept clean of all debris. A Portland Cement-based thin-set adhesive should be applied to both the receiving surface and the back of the tile with a notched trowel.

While laying out the Mexican tiles pattern, find the center of the wall and use carpenter’s level to mark the vertical and horizontal intersection. The first row of tiles should be dry fitted starting at the center and then working your way to the ends of wall. Adjust the vertical reference line continuously to make sure tiles match up on both row.The back of the tile should be fully covered with the adhesive.

Starting at the center, on one side of the reference line, carefully apply adhesive to a small area approximately 2' by 2' square. Care should be taken not to cover the lines. Carefully, spread the adhesive with the smooth side of notched trowel, and then go over it with the notched side so as to create grooves in the adhesive. Firmly place and press each Mexican tile in place and give it a twisting motion to make the tile have a good contact with the adhesive. Place the tile onto the grouted surface, verifying that the direction of the grooves of the adhesive on the tile are laid perpendicular to the groove direction on the floor surface adhesive. Tap the tile into place. This process minimizes air pockets under the tile and maximizes adhesion between the tile and subsurface. If the Talavera tile is being used in tandem with handmade clay tile, as suggested above, attention must be given to the varying thickness of two tiles. Install the thicker tile first, using the method described above. Fill in the surface on which the Talavera tile is to be placed to a level such that, when the Talavera tile is placed on the adhesive grout bed, the surface of both tiles are at the same level.

To make sure the grout lines are consistent, place tile spacers on all four sides of each tile. In case you need to cut the tile to fit around fixture, use a ceramic tile saw cutter to make straight cuts.

Tile nipper may be used to cut irregular shaped tile or round fixtures. After installation allow the work to stand overnight, and grout tile the following day. Width of the grout line will determine whether to us a sanded or un-sanded grout. Remove all tile spacers and make sure you mix the grout as instructed by the manufacturer. If grouting on a wet area, a bathroom or kitchen, make sure the grout includes wet proofing agent. Wipe of any excess grout with sponge dipped in water. Allow the applied grout to dry for 30 minutes, then buff off any grout haze with a soft cloth. Again allow the grout to dry for a day and buff away any haze. In kitchen and bathrooms, apply mildew resistance silicone caulk to seal the edges of the tiles where it makes contact with the counter or top of the tab.

Joint Grouting

Give design consideration to joint grouting. Such consideration includes grout joint width, grout color, grout composition, and grout texture. Grout joint width can be varied to adjust tile alignment with adjacent handmade terracotta tiles or other architectural elements that are more pleasingly incorporated into the overall architectural design when the tiles edge is aligned with these elements.

Attention should be given to the grout color as relates to the color of tile chosen. There may be a desire to accentuate the tile with a border of contrasting grout color. To more closely connect each tile with each other, use a grout color in a hue that approximates the colors found in the tile.

Grout composition refers to a sand/Portland Cement grout compared to a piaster grout. Generally, the wider the grout joint, the more the tendency to use the rougher sand/Portland Cement grout. Since Talavera tiles are handmade and thus somewhat irregular, a thicker grout joint can accommodate this irregularity more easily. Plaster grout is used when a thinner and smoother grout joint is desired.

Grout texture, even when a sand/Portland Cement grout is used, can be kept smoother by using a "tooled" joint. A slightly rounded smooth metal tool is used like a miniature trowel as it is drawn over the joint, creating a slight indentation that is made smooth by the use of this instrument. A rougher texture can be achieved by using what is referred to as a "sack rubbed finish", achieved by gently rubbing the grout joint flush with the surface of the tile with a burlap sack cloth after the grout has become somewhat firm.

If Talavera tile is being installed along side handmade clay tile, apply a grout release to the tile prior to installing the grout, this keeps the fine particles of Portland Cement from becoming imbedded in the tile which will dull the rich warm tones of the terracotta prior to finishing.

Sealing And Finishing

Sealing and finishing is done after the grout is fully dry. DO NOT attempt this process until both the tile and grout joints are completely dry otherwise moisture can become trapped in the handmade clay tile and cause a milky film to form on the tile after sealing and finishing.

I first apply a thin coat of the clear water repellent mentioned above in "1. Tile Preparation". This creates the initial protective barrier that penetrates both the tile and the grout and on to which is applied the final finishing coats. The final coats of sealer/top coat are more for the benefit of the grout joints and terracotta tile than they are for the Talavera tile which has already gained its resistance to the elements from its glaze. Apply as many final coats as is necessary to achieve the finish and texture desired. These coats should be thinly applied to minimize "blushing" (a milky white forming within the coat).

Crazing or Crackling

Talavera tile is known for crazing or crackling. This is common as it is a clay tile with glazed surface. Fluctuations in temperature will accelerate the crazing. This also is more pronounced on horizontal surfaces. If you are experiencing the crazing/crackling at installation before grouting and sealing you will want to try the following procedure to close up the fissures. 

  • Wash the tiles with water. If you have a pressure washing, that will be even better, if not just spray the tiles off with water really good.
  • Let the area dry really well as you don’t want to apply sealant to wet surface.
  • Apply a clear granite lever sealant to the tile area letting it oak into the crazing/cracks. Let it semi dry for around 20 minutes, then wipe off with a brush or roller.