Mexican tile backsplash

Mexican tile, also known as Spanish tile, is a broad term used to describe a number of tile materials on the market, ranging from saltillo to hand made ceramic tiles sporting traditional Spanish and Mexican designs. Regardless of the type of tile you choose, you can count on Mexican tile to add a warm, pastoral, south of the border flair to any space in which you have it installed.

Saltillo Tiles

Saltillo tile is by far the most common of the Mexican and Spanish tiles found on the market. It is made from raw clay traditionally pressed by hand, and has an earthy, rough, almost terra cotta look to it. Depending on the firing, saltillo tiles range from deep yellow to deep orange in color, and come in a large variety of tile shapes, everything from your basic square to hexagonal and more elaborate patterns.

Because of the nature of the clay and the more traditional form of production, these tiles are more porous than other ceramic tiles. As such, they should always be sealed with a quality sealant to protect them from stains and spills, which they would readily soak up if not protected. They will also need to be periodically re-sealed. Don’t think of this as a downside, however. Like with hardwood, refinishing your saltillo will revive your floor, keeping it looking like new far past the time when other ceramics will have lost that newly installed look.

On a final note, saltillo tiles get their name from the town in Mexico where they were originally, and still are, manufactured. If you get the real deal, and not an imitation variety, you can expect to find an odd chicken foot print or other animal print in your tiles when they are installed. Place these tiles in a prominent place in your tiling project for a great conversation starter and enjoy the rustic feel such imperfections will add to your finished product.

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“Painted” Tile

Besides saltillo, the other popular form of Mexican tiles on the market are decorative, hand made ceramic tiles. They come in a number of popular varieties, each with their own distinct signature. Here’s a few to consider if you want to add a little more color and flair to your tiling project.

  • Mission tiles are hand made tiles made by creating designs with pigmented marble dust overlaid on Portland cement. Named after the Spanish missions where such designs were popularly used, mission tiles traditionally are available in sets of four tiles that come together to create striking larger designs. These tiles are incredibly durable, almost impermeable to wear, and are great additions to any tile floor or countertop because of their durability.
  • Talavera tiles are handmade tiles manufactured by painting designs onto ceramic tiles by hand, and they are then subsequently glazed and fired. Talavera is resistant to wear and water damage and is very cost efficient compared to other tile options, making it an excellent option for large rooms, countertops, bathrooms, and pools and spas. If you’re looking for a custom design, there are manufacturers out there who will custom design your talavera tile so your tile project is truly one of a kind.

Regardless of your choice of Mexican tile, be it Saltillo, Mission, Talavera or other varieties, you can’t beat these tiling options for creating a traditional, southwestern atmosphere in any room of your house.


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