Expert Advice: What You Need to Know About Cement Tiles
Learn the basics of this material, where to buy it, and how you can showcase these at home
Known for its distinct Spanish and geometric multicolored patterns, cement tiles were mostly used in churches, museums, and old Spanish Colonial houses in the past. Often referred to as Spanish tiles, Baldozas, or Machuca tiles, it has made a comeback in recent years as designers and homeowners alike use it to make floors and walls more interesting.
We're sure that you've seen these handmade cement tiles in one place or another—in hip coffee shops, restaurants, and even in homes. If you're curious about this material and would like to explore the possibility of using it in your own space, here are basics you need to know:
In photo: Malaga tiles
Cement tiles are typically 20x20cm in size with thickness ranging from 1/2 to 3/4". There are also pieces measuring 30x30cm, 15x15cm, 7x25cm (brick), and 15x30cm (riser) variants.
These colorful pieces weigh around 1.7 to 4 kilos per tile, depending on the size. Mortar is used to install the tiles, while a penetrating sealer should be applied to coat the tiles after it has been set and before filling in the gaps with grout.
In photo: Malaga tiles
Most popular are the Machuca tiles, which are made with manual tile presses using organic color pigments that are mixed into the Portland cement, then set and hardened naturally. This tile making process contributes to the rustic look and texture that Machuca tiles are known for. If you're wondering, this also explains why such tiles are far more expensive than the typical options available in the market.
While other pieces in ceramic, porcelain, and sometimes, clay materials are made to resemble Machuca tile patterns, be careful not to mistake them for the original ones. Remember: Machuca is a brand synonymous to cement tiles. Like the general type, these are made of cement, and are neither baked nor fired.
The good thing about cement tiles is it can work in almost any type of design. Take note that it is not advisable to have this material in areas that are under direct sunlight and rain exposure. When used outdoors, the tiles may crack due to sudden changes in weather, even with the coating of sealer.
Other than the aforementioned word of caution, cement tiles can be utilized anywhere in the home—as accent floor and wall tiles, as kitchen backsplash, as bathroom tiles, as decorative stair risers, and even flooring for semi-enclosed outdoor areas like patios and lanais.
Cement tiles also allow you to get creative when it comes to working with patterns and colors. Common design patterns include geometric options like petal, chevron, hexagonal, and honeycomb; to a more decorative line like floral, scallop, arabesque, star, and harlequin to name a few. It is important to choose a pattern that fits your overall aesthetic. The geometric types can be used for industrial, rustic and even contemporary styles while the decorative patterns can apply to a variation of Spanish, Art Deco, and Art Nouveau influenced designs.
As with all other patterns, this trick applies: use cement tiles as an accent in bigger areas or as a statement feature in smaller spaces. Remember to use pattern in healthy doses, and with so many options to choose from, pick the ones that you truly like.
Though sometimes reclaimed from old houses, these tiles can also be bought from the following suppliers:
Malaga Tiles (Bayantiles Enterprises)
- Km 64-65 Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Road, Baranggay Lumil, Silang, Cavite
- Visit Habitiles on Facebook
Machuca Baldozas, Inc.
- Showroom Address: 867 Gen. Solano St., San Miguel, Manila
- Tel. No. (02)-735-1797
- Visit Machuca's website or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
PHOTOS: Dairy Darilag (1, 2, 3, and 6) | Miguel Nacianceno | Marc Jao
Interior designer Vera Villarosa-Orila is an alumna of the University of the Philippines and is one of the go-to designers for the Real Living Makeovers. You can get in touch with her through e-mail: vera.villarosa[at]gmail.com.
Do you have questions or concerns about your home's layout, furniture, and color scheme? Send your questions to reallivingonline[at]gmail.com with the subject: Expert Advice. We might answer and feature your queries online.
More on Realliving.com.ph