Everything You Need To Know About Zellige Tiles

Although you’ve seen zellige tiles, you might not have known their name. The tiles are small, square, and textured. Zellige tiles were invented in the 12th century, and have been popular ever since. Here is everything you need to know about zellige tiles.

zellige tilesView in gallery
Riad Tile

You may be wondering if zellige tiles are for you. Here’s everything you should know about zellige tiles, their usefulness, and why they’re popular.

What Is Zellige Tile?

Zellige TilesView in gallery
Image from pinterest.

Zellige tile, or Moroccan tile, are terracotta tiles that call Morocco home. Zellige tiles are similar to subway tiles only more often square than rectangle. The tiles are also expensive, which is why they aren’t seen as often. 

Although subway tiles were invented in the early 1900s, while Zellige tiles are hundreds of years old. They were first made in Fez, Morocco and the most authentic zellige tile still comes from that region. 

Fez is a northeastern city in Morocco. It is known for its Fes El Bali walled medina and an old-world atmosphere. The city is littered with gorgeous tiled structures, which is why the tile from Fez is so popular today. 

How Zellige Tiles Are Made

zellige tilesView in gallery
Image By Emutile

Making zellige tiles isn’t as simple as turning on a machine at a factory. The tiles are handmade by craftsmen called maâlems. They are made with natural clay and water, then hand-shaped and kiln-fired, with olive pits. No two zellige tiles are the same because they are handmade.

After they are fired, enamel glazing is applied by hand. It offers protection and is a new step how they are made. Ceramic tiles are more common than zellige tiles, but not as beautiful. 

Zellige Tiles Aren’t Uniform

zellige tilesView in gallery
Tessa Neustadt

If your zellige tiles are uniform, then you know they aren’t authentic. If they aren’t uniform, then they’re authentic. This weather, uneven look. is the Zellige tile’s charm. 

If you want uniform tiles, you will want to get ceramic tiles instead, which are more common and easier to use. You can find ceramic kitchen and bathroom tiles that are affordable and easy to install. 

Laying Zellige Tile

zellige tilesView in gallery
Bert And May

If you have an ounce of perfectionism in you, then you probably want to get an expert to lay your zellige tile. If you’re a true perfectionist, you probably don’t want zellige tiles at all. As stated previously, these tiles are not uniform. 

Laying zellige tiles requires skill and focus. Unlike other tiles, grout isn’t needed as much as it reduces natural aesthetics. However, a layer of thin-set is required, or your tiles won’t lay properly. 

How To Clean Zellige Tiles

Cleaning zellige tiles is different than cleaning regular tiles. Most tiles can be washed, like ceramic sinks or bathtubs. First, you apply the cleaner, then wipe the tiles and move on. But the same can’t be said for zellige tile.

Because they aren’t uniform, zellige tiles require scrubbing, often with a special sponge. If not taken care of, they will also wear over time, especially if a protective layer of clear coat isn’t added. Which takes away from the natural look. 

Zellige Tile Ideas And Inspiration

Now that you know everything you need to know about zellige tiles, it’s time to discover what you want to know. These ideas will get the gears moving in your brain and create new ideas to make them your own. 

Bathroom Cabinet With Zellige Tiles

zellige tilesView in gallery
Artisan Tile Company

Creating a countertop with zellige tiles is one thing, but an entire cabinet, countertop, and backsplash is another. This bathroom cabinet is gorgeous, and features long, vertical zellige tiles. 

If you don’t have enough tile, you can eliminate the countertop or front of the cabinet. Then, you can paint the remaining surface the same or complimenting color. 

Surround A Wood Cook Stove

zellige tilesView in gallery
Caitlin Whelan

Wood cookstoves aren’t as common as they used to be. But if you have one installed, they can make a home look and feel toasty. Since some materials aren’t safe to use around them, you have to be careful when building. 

If you have a fireplace, consider retiling it with zellige tiles. They will withstand the test of time and look more authentic than ceramic tiles. The more natural your fireplace, the better. 

Full Zellige Tile Shower

zellige tilesView in gallery
Shialice

This project isn’t one that can be done in one day, but it’s definitely one of the most inspiring ideas we’ve seen. No one has ever regretted tiling their shower. Just make sure that if you do tile yours, a professional does it. 

If zellige tiles don’t work for you in the bathroom, then there are other options you can use to tile your shower. We’ll learn more about different types of tile later on. Scroll down to do so now!

Mix And Matching Tiles

zellige tilesView in gallery
Badia Designs

If you can’t afford full zellige tiles, then consider mixing and matching. A row or two of zellige tiles can make a big difference. The rest of the wall, floor, or backsplash can be done with cheaper tiles.

Should you have a tile design in mind, a simple trim in zellige tiles will look amazing. Pick a neutral or bright color to offset the natural-colored tile that you have picked out.

Zellige Tiles Shapes And Sizes

zellige tilesView in gallery
Cletile

While most zellige tiles are small and square, that doesn’t mean they don’t come in an array of shapes and sizes. You can get them custom cut or buy sets that will fit together like puzzle pieces. With little grout needed, they work just fine. 

You can also cut your zellige tiles with a tile cutter, but you should hire a professional. You may even be able to take the tiles into a home improvement or tile store and have them cut the tile for you. 

Full Zellige Tile Walls

zellige tilesView in gallery
Cletile

This works best in the kitchen as the lower half of the wall will be covered by cabinets. The rest can be covered in zellige tiles, creating an awestriking effect. This is much more than a backsplash.  

A backsplash covered a small portion of the wall and over the oven and countertop. But this tile job makes a huge statement. For added personality, add a few stray brightly colored tiles at random places. 

Zellige Tile Walkway

Zellige Tile WalkwayView in gallery

This walkway was inspired by the Mediterranean area, which also uses a terracotta tile. You can do the same thing with Morrocan terracotta tiles for a similar effect. A zellige tile porch or walkway is a great way to bring the tiles outside. 

Moroccan tiles are generally lighter or brighter than Mediterranean tiles. Mediterranean and Spanish tiles are darker and usually have a copper/bronze base. Morrocan tiles have a whiter base. 

Square Zellige Tile Backsplash

zellige tilesView in gallery
 Riad Tile

While most backsplashes are oblong while unique backsplashes are square. An interesting take involves old-fashioned appliances with zellige tiles, which can also look old-fashioned. The tile is surrounded by shelves to complete the look.

Since zellige tiles are durable and heat-resistant, adding them above the stove is perfect. Grout isn’t required, which makes cleaning a breeze. 

Shelving In Zellige Tile Walls

Shelving In Zellige Tile WallsView in gallery
Riad Tile

Luckily, you can install shelves inside the zellige tile walls. This will create a sturdy base and a rustic-modern look. Since you can’t install shelves easily on top of the tile, you’ll need to install them before laying the tile.

If you put shelves into your tile, make sure the boards are at least two-by-sixes. A thicker shelf is preferable, but you can usually get by with two-by-sixes. Just add extra support underneath them as well. 

Unique-Shaped Moroccan Tiles

Unique-Shaped Morrocan TilesView in gallery
Keramos

If you want to pay tribute to the home of zellige tiles, then consider vibrant tiles like these. It’s not easy to find real zellige tiles in such fragile shapes, but if you do, you’ve found a real gem.

If you can’t find tiles like these, you can get ceramic tiles in the same pattern and accent them with square zellige tiles for a similar effect. That way, you can still use the zellige tiles and pay tribute to Morocco. 

Other Types Of Tile

If you don’t feel like zellige tile is right for you, then maybe you are still looking for the tile you want for your home. Take a look at these different types of tiles that are available to the public.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile is the most popular tile. It is cheap, easy to make, and comes in every shape and size. This tile is smooth in texture and easy to lay. About 75-90 percent of the tile you’ll see is ceramic tile, it’s definitely a safe choice.

Pros:

  • Water-resistant
  • Easy-to-clean
  • Easy-to-lay
  • Cheapest option

Cons: 

  • Everyone else has ceramic tile
  • Quite modern compared to others

Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tile designs are usually digitally printed on top, giving you the look you desire at an incredible price. Tile that looks like wood, ice, or fabric is probably porcelain. Despite the name, it is even more durable than ceramic tile.

Pros:

  • Can get the look of any material
  • Durable
  • Waterproof
  • No VOC emissions

Cons: 

  • Not as natural
  • Time-consuming installation 

Metal Tile

Metal tile is one of the newer tiles on the market. It adds a shininess and brightness for all rooms, though it should only be used indoors. Metal tile is for people who want a bit of glimmer but don’t want flashy patterns. 

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Can be scratch-resistant
  • Unique look
  • Only naturally shiny option

Cons:

  • Can rust
  • Not for outdoor use
  • Not ideal for large areas

Glass Tile

Glass tile is fairly self-explanatory. It is made from glass, so it comes in all types of colors and can be transparent or solid-colored. As expected, it’s not as durable as other options, but it is the only one of its kind. 

Pros:

  • Cleans with glass cleaner
  • Gorgeous shimmer
  • Only transparent option
  • Completely waterproof 

Cons: 

  • Not durable
  • Not usually patterned

Quarry Tile

Quarry is probably the best tile for outdoor use. It can withstand any amount of traffic and is safe in just about every way. It is used for recreational, commercial, and personal projects. Not to mention, it’s extremely low-maintenance. 

Pros:

  • Perfect for outdoor use
  • The most durable
  • Very low-maintenance 

Cons:

  • Limited color and texture options
  • Not at all flashy

Stone Tile

Stone tile is the most natural and probably the oldest option. People have been paving with stones for thousands of years, and to this day, they haven’t stopped. You can get marble, granite, and textured stone, though it comes at a price.

Pros:

  • Will last a lifetime if cared for.
  • Comes in multiple natural patterns.
  • Natural
  • Elegant, refined, and high-end. 

Cons:

  • Not cheap.
  • Not as customizable as other options.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

How Much Do Zellige Tiles Cost?

Zellige tiles aren’t cheap. On average, the tile can cost up $20 per square foot or more. Because of its high price tag, Zellige tile imitations are growing in popularity.

Does Zellige Tile Need Grout?

Most installation guides will tell you not to use grout joint on Zellige tile. However, the special tile should be butt jointed, which mean they should be placed right next to each other. Wedge spacers will allow the butted tiles to be different, but the goal is not to have spaces or visible grout.

Can You Install A Zellige Tile Bathroom?

For shower floors, you should use 2X2 zellige tiles. Make sure you seal the grout joints. Your glaze layer and grout should both be water-resistant. You’ll need to add a slip-resistant coating. After the zellige tile has dried, clean it with a wet sponge and mild soap.

What Is Crazing?

Crazing is when zellige tiles have hairline cracks caused by the glaze surface after firing, which isn’t uncommon in hand crafted tile. To reduce crazing, use a penetrating sealer or grout release when installing zellige tiles.

Zellige Tile Conclusion

Zellige tile may not be easy to work with, but it’s worth trouble if you desire original tile in your home. If you don’t have experience working with tile, then do not attempt a DIY zellige project without professional help.