From the famous Ishtar gate of Babylon in ancient Mesopotamia, palaces of the Persian Empire to the present-day modern industrial interior--glazed bricks or tiles have been used for long to create pieces of mesmerising art as well as a functional material.
The earliest evidence of tiles dates back to BC 13, when river mud was used to make bricks and then glazed to create colourful, smooth coverings.
But today you can find tiles of different texture, size, shape, colour, design, grade, material, and price.
Shiny, smooth, colourful ceramic tiles, patterned marbles or rustic granite--there are endless types of floor or wall covering tiles available in the market.
Evidently, the world of tiles can be quite perplexing for anyone.
So The Business Standard decided to have a round at the tile labyrinth of capital Dhaka.
Primarily there are two types of tiles
Yes--floor tiles and wall tiles; and the categorisation is done on the basis of functionality.
A floor tile has a harder glaze and it is made of harder materials to withstand pressure.
Mostly square floor tiles are popular here in Bangladesh, but rectangular and hexagonal tiles are also available.
There are two types of wall tiles- common and décor. In terms of material, wall tiles can be of two types- white body and red body. One made with white clay, which is more durable and pricey. The other one is made with inexpensive red clay.
Mohammad Talat Mahmud, assistant Manager of Mir ceramics informed The Business Standard that currently the most popular sizes of floor tiles are 30cm/30cm and 60cm/60cm and for wall tiles they are- 25cm/30cm, 30 cm/50 cm and 30 cm/60 cm.
Tiles are made from varied materials and that is how they are categorised. Such as ceramic, porcelain, mosaic and terrazzo, natural stone (marble, granite, limestone, travertine, slate etc), vitrified, vinyl, metal, glass, terracotta and so on.
Depending on the finishing, tiles can be homogenous, mirror polished, glossy or crystal mirror polished, matt, or they can have matt rock carvings etc.
In the market, tiles are sold per square feet if you buy in bulk and per piece if the amount is less. And the price can vary with size, quality, and company profile.
You can get locally produced tiles at Tk20 to Tk70 per piece while per square feet prices can vary between Tk95 and Tk6,000.
And imported tiles can cost from Tk150 to Tk150 per square piece.
The most popular tiles in Dhaka's tiles market are--ceramic, porcelain and natural stone tiles (granite and marble). Let us have a look at them.
Ceramic tiles are the most popular and affordable ones. These are mainly made of red, brown, or white clay and then glazed with ceramic.
Depending on the quality and finishing, ceramic tiles can be scratch and stain-resistant. But if something heavy is dropped, these can get chipped easily.
These tiles come in a variety of colour, design, and print. So following a certain colour palette or style, ceramic tiles can easily fit into the interior.
Porcelain tiles are also clay-made but there is sand and feldspar (a group of minerals) mixed in them. These are baked at a higher temperature that makes them denser and more durable. Unlike ceramic tiles, porcelain tiles come in basic designs.
These tiles are generally scratch and stain-resistant and non-porous that makes them perfect for bathroom, kitchen, and even outdoor space.
Granite and marble
Marbles and granites give an elegant and classy look to the interior. These stones are imported mostly from Italy, Turkey, Pakistan, and India.
Depending on the quality and the place it has come from, the price can vary between Tk350 and Tk4,500 per square feet.
But between marble and granite--which one will be more sustainable to use?
"Granite", Architect Ador Yousuf said, "Because it is more sturdy and matt--so it does not get slippery, which is a major concern for bathrooms and this stone generally does not get chipped if something heavy falls on it."
Although marble looks aristocratic and classy, it has its drawbacks. It is extra smooth and glossy that makes it slippery.
It is frail so if something heavy falls on it, there is a chance of getting broken marble pieces.
And marble has a tendency to get stained easily. So tea, coffee or turmeric – commonly found in the kitchen will stain the kitchen counter.
All these make it really high-maintenance, which will not be very sustainable.
So for kitchens and bathrooms, granite is the best option if you can afford it.
Other natural stones like limestone, slate, travertine etc are porous and fragile. That is why these stone tiles are used mostly on indoor walls, especially for creating an accent corner.
Seven important things to consider while choosing tiles for your home
Before deciding on tiles, take a good look around your home – the size of the rooms and their purposes, the light sources, the entire colour theme etc.
You could also look through magazines, Pinterest, and interior design websites to get ideas. Remember, you have to work with the style of your home, not against it.
Weather and temperature: This is the most important aspect to consider. Bangladesh has a humid and dusty weather. The air is moist and at times temperatures can rise up to 45 degrees, which may result in cracked tiles. For such a climate, porcelain is a great choice. This ceramic tile has a low absorption rate of 0.5%, making it essentially waterproof. You can also opt for scratch and stain-resistant ceramic tiles available in the market. Also to avoid cracked tiles, "we suggest to keep a 1.5 mm gap between each tile", said Farhan Kabir Rony, deputy manager of Tilottoma Bangla Group.
Room and tile size: Although large tiles make a room feel larger and airier, it is better to use small-sized tiles for areas like kitchens, bathrooms, or even any other smaller areas. In a small room, light-coloured tiles will make the space feel bigger. Larger rooms and spaces have more options. From light to dark tiles- anything can jazz up a large space if designed properly. And if you want a seamless wide spread, you can choose mosaic or terrazzo at a much affordable price.
Colour: Adding white or light coloured tiles into an interior space helps to make the room seem larger and brighter. So if that is the purpose, if you want a refreshing positive palette, they are a great option. However, sometimes it is not just about floor transformations; adding an accent wall can give a refreshing look to a room. Featuring a textured wall made of rustic limestone or split slate tiles injects a particular character and vibe into a lifeless wall area by breaking the monotony.
Grout: This is the cement or adhesive used to set the tiles on floor or wall. It is important to have the right coloured grout for a clean seamless look. A contrasting grout will emphasise lines and the design, while complementary coloured grout will give a subtle effect. Although in Bangladesh, grout is meant to get discoloured and dirty. So it is necessary to seal the grout every two to three years. And if you want to avoid this, you can opt for mosaic or terrazzo.
Texture and pattern: There are a range of tiles from matt to those with mirror polished finishing. Depending on the function, you can choose any one of them. Glossy and mirror polished tiles are easy to clean but can be very slippery. Matt finished tiles are slip-resistant.
Natural light: If your room is dark and does not get sufficient natural light, then white and light coloured tiles would be appropriate. And glossy tiles reflect light, so they would suit a darker space. But glossy polished tiles can be slippery, so try to avoid them on floors.
Sustainability: It is always wise to use locally produced materials. Ador Yousuf explained, "You can get elegant Italian marble or classy Spanish tiles if you can afford them. But that will leave carbon prints on our climate."
Currently, there are 21 local tile companies producing tiles in Bangladesh. In fact, 80% of the total market is covered with locally produced ones. So you can have a wide range of collections to choose from.