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The ceramic tile industry makes a wide range of products for covering floors and walls with applications in private, public and industrial buildings. The tiles can be produced in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can incorporate different patterns.
The ceramic tile market is commonly segmented into:
- glazed tiles
- unglazed tiles
Glazed tiles represent the largest element of sales. The production process is similar to that of unglazed tiles with a further processing undertaken. Unglazed tiles are either pressed or extruded from clays in a plastic state, and then fired at high temperatures, which has the effect of increasing the durability of the tile. Many of these tiles are vitrified, since they are often used in heavy wear applications.
Unglazed tiles have both commercial and residential uses and applications including:
- facing of walls
- hearth places and mantlepieces
- floor coverings
Glazed tiles are further covered with a vitreous glaze which can be applied by:
- single firing
- double firing
Single firing was pioneered in 1974 by Marazzi of Italy. The process now accounts for 65% of global glazed tile production.
Applications for glazed tiles cover both commercial and residential applications. Major commercial uses include:
- sports and leisure centres
- swimming pools
- shopping centres
- underground and main line stations
Primary residential applications include:
- kitchen or bathroom wall tiles
- kitchen or bathroom floor tiles
- conservatory floor tiles
Further market segmentation concerns the distribution and application of the tile. At one level there are contractors who dominate the commercial applications and lead the residential market, and are also especially important in the new build sector of the residential market. Tiling is also seen to be the province of the general builder, but only a very small share of tiles are actually distributed through builders' merchants. However, alongside the contractors and builders are a wide range of individuals who purchase tiles from DIY stores or retail tile specialists, and who install the tiles themselves.