Terracotta Floor Tiles: Understanding the Best Options and Care

Creating a timeless look in your home is easy with terracotta floor tiles. This is one of the oldest types of ceramic tile, but it is a trend that never goes out of style. The deep red-brown of terracotta floor tiles has surprising versatility. It works for homes with a traditional and rustic style as well as modern and contemporary designs.

Terracotta Floor TilesView in gallery

Terracotta is well known for its beauty and adaptable style, but it is also a sustainable product choice. According to the architectural experts at gb&d Magazine, they consider terracotta “green, recyclable, sustainable, durable, low maintenance, and fire-resistant”.

Terracotta Floor Tiles Basics

A terracotta tile floor will last for centuries, but you must first understand its qualities to care for it with the proper measures.

What is Terracotta?

Terracotta floor tileView in gallery

Terracotta comes from an Italian phrase which means “baked-earth”. Terracotta ranges in warm earth toned colors from yellow to red, brown, and pink. The color comes from the high iron content of the soil from which the clay is found.

Terracotta tiles are made from clay that has been shaped into their form and then fired or baked to become hard. They are a variety of ceramic tiles that are porous. Most natural terracotta floor tiles come sealed in order to protect them from spills which can lead to mold or stains. Some terracotta tiles are burnished to create a tighter surface finish to reduce water absorption.

Terracotta Floor Tile Finishes

There are two main tile finishes for terracotta: glazed or unglazed.

  • Glazed Terracotta Tiles – Glazed terracotta floor tiles have a colored or transparent vitreous coating. This coating protects the terracotta tile floor from any liquid that is spilled. It prevents stains and the growth of mildew. Manufacturers create terracotta tiles in a variety of glaze levels from semi-glazed to high-glazed. Glazed terracotta tiles offer many benefits but are more expensive than unglazed tiles.
  • Unglazed Terracotta Tiles – Unglazed tiles do not have a protective coating, but have a more natural look. Sealing unglazed tiles will give the surface some protection against moisture and stains.

Terracotta Tile Cuts

Terracotta floor tiles come in two main cut styles: handmade and machine-cut.

  1. Machine-Cut Terracotta Tile – Machine-cut tile is the most common and cost-effective terracotta tile cut. These have a more consistent shape and color than handmade varieties. There is also more selection regarding shape. Installation is easier with machine-cut tile as the exact shape is replicated with all tiles.
  2. Handmade Tile – Creating tiles from clay is a local craft for areas of Mexico and around the Mediterranean. Artisans craft these tiles by hand. Thus, these tiles will vary in size and shape. These tiles are more expensive than machine-cut varieties. Installation is more difficult because of the non-standardized shape.

Water Resistance

Terracotta is a porous substance similar to natural travertine. Glazing and sealing makes the floor tiles more water resistant. If you have unglazed terracotta flooring tiles, it is important to wipe up any spills before they have a change to soak into the tiles.

Water will not soak into glazed tiles, but these may become slippery when wet. Make sure that if you are using glazed tiles in areas with water they have a slip-resistant surface.

Durability

In general, terracotta floor tiles are very durable. Glazed terracotta is the most durable form of tile, though unglazed tiles with a quality sealer are also long-lasting.

All terracotta tiles wear better in covered and protected areas. Unglazed tile is the most fragile and may crack in cold environments.

Terracotta Floor Tile Maintenance

Terracotta Floor Tile MaintenanceView in gallery

If you have unglazed tiles, sealing your floor is the first step to beginning well. Use a commercial sealer formulated for terracotta or create your own with linseed oil and turpentine. Combine equal parts of boiled linseed oil with turpentine and wipe on your floors. Top the sealer with beeswax to give the top layer an even more protective finish.

Make sure to check the seal each year to see if you need to repeat the process. Check by dropping a bead of water onto the floor. If it soaks into the tile, reseal the tile.

How to Clean Terracotta Tiles

Vacuum your terracotta floors on a regular basis to keep them free of dust, debris, and sand that can stain or scratch the surface. Do not use a vacuum attachment that scratches the floor. Instead, use a soft-bristled brush.

Mop your terracotta tiles each week with warm water and a cleaner for terracotta. Do not use a soaking mop. Instead, use a mop that you have wrung out to avoid leaving standing water on the tiles.

Location for Use

Terracotta tiles work best in covered locations in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Outdoor applications should be limited to climates that do not experience regular freezing temperatures. If outdoor tiles soak in water and it freezes, the tiles can crack.

Installation

Installing terracotta tile can be a DIY job if you have experience in tiling. Handmade and unglazed tiles are more delicate than machine-cut glazed tiles.

Terracotta Flooring Tile Prices

According to Remodeling Expense, clay tiles cost $2.30-$5.50 per sq ft. On average, clay tile installation labor costs between $1.25-$1.90 per sq ft. The average cost for a 300 sq ft room is $1,440-$2,235.

Terracotta Floor Tiles Pros and Cons

Terracotta is a unique substance that creates stunning floors. This flooring has qualities that mean that it does not have universal application.


Pros

  • Durability – Terracotta is a durable floor if it is sealed on a regular basis and installed well.
  • Beauty – Terracotta tiles create a gorgeous and earthy style with depth and texture.
  • Versatility – Designers use clay tiles in versatile home design from modern and contemporary to rustic and traditional.
  • Eco-Conscious – Terracotta tiles are sustainable and recyclable floor choice.
  • Cost – Clay is a less expensive natural floor product compared to natural stone surfaces and porcelain tiles.

Cons

  • Water Absorption – Clay is porous and will absorb water.
  • Maintenance – Seal terracotta on a regular basis to maintain its beauty.

Terracotta Tile Flooring Design Ideas

Terracotta adds a splash of interest in any room from kitchens and bathrooms to entryways and patios. We have gathered some lovely design ideas to help inspire you with ways you can incorporate terracotta floors into your home.

Hexagon Terracotta Floor Tile

Hexagon Terracotta Floor Tile
Chris Barrett Design

Chris Barnett Design used subtle colored hexagon terracotta floor tiles to create a Mediterranean-style entry. This tile’s muted color and finish give the room a rustic style that looks and feels timeless.

Terracotta Kitchen Floor

Terracotta Kitchen Floor

Isler Home used rectangular terracotta tiles to give this neutral transitional kitchen depth and texture.

Outdoor Terracotta Tile

Outdoor Terracotta Tile

Terracotta tiles work outdoors as well as indoors. Chelsea Design + Construction used these tiles in the covered and uncovered patio area to create continuity. Outdoor terracotta is best used in warm and dry climates.

Terracotta Bathroom Floor

Terracotta Bathroom Floor

Glazed terracotta tiles work well in bathrooms as they are more impervious to water. Emily Pueringer uses terracotta tiles and blends them with the mosaic wall and light wood cabinets to create a coastal bathroom style.

Terracotta Tile with Colored Cabinets

Terracotta Tile with Colored Cabinets

Terracotta tiles have a definite natural color. This color is more versatile than people think. Fireclay Tile blended hexagonal terracotta tile with green cabinets and white subway tile in this transitional kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Where can I find terracotta floor tiles for sale?

Find terracotta tiles at local home improvement or tile stores. Look for special deals at discount stores online, but be aware of the quality before you buy them. If you buy terracotta tiles that are thin, they will not be durable enough in high traffic environments.

What are saltillo tiles?

Saltillo tiles are a specific type of handcrafted terracotta tile that is made in Saltillo, Mexico. These tiles come in a variety of beautiful shapes and earth-toned colors. Because they are handcrafted, no two tiles are alike.

Is there any store that sells reclaimed terracotta products?

Terracotta floors have been around for hundreds of years in Europe. There are several companies that specialize in reclaimed terracotta tiles from areas in France, Belgium, Austria, and Hungary. Some of these companies include Historic Decorative Materials, Country Floors, and Vintage Elements.

What are non-transparent glazed terracotta floor tiles called?

Non-transparent glazed tiles are known as “cottoforte”. These are for interior applications rather than outdoors.

Terracotta floor tiles: Conclusion

Terracotta floor tiles are beautiful and will transform any space with the stunning color and texture. Yet, be sure to study the qualities of this tile in order to choose the right tiles for your space. Look for high-density terracotta tiles for high traffic areas to be certain they will withstand the heavy use. Low-density terracotta floor tiles will be a better price but may not be durable over the years.