Tiles Stand the Test of Time

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On a recent trip to Greece, the Mr. Tile team spent a lot of time studying—what else?—TILES! Especially in the famous land of ancient antiquities, tiles have stood the test of time. Ancient Greeks were one of the first people, along with Ancient Egyptians and Romans, to create mosaics. The tiles, or tesserae, were made of stone, pebbles or glass, and were often arranged in intricate patterns and details. Today’s mosaic tiles take their cue from ancient mosaics that adorned grounds and walls.

As modern-day Athens prepared to host the 2004 Olympic Games, they excavated Greece’s capital city to make way for the metro. As they dug, they discovered remnants of an ancient town, including burial grounds, houses and mosaics dating back to the 3rd-4th century BC. Many of the mosaics were still in tact! This newspaper column is not meant to be a history lesson, but it proves a point: tiles stand the test of time.

Through earthquakes and large-scale bombings, ancient tile work is evident all around Athens and many Greek islands. Mosaics were used to tile bathroom floors and walls, much in the same way glass and stone tiles are used today. While today’s tiles are mass produced, ancient tiles were created painstakingly by hand by workers whose job it was to ensure pebbles and stones were uniformly shaped and painted.

Tile setters, like today, placed the tiles into place by hand, using mortar to secure the tiles. It was of utmost importance to ensure the tiles set firmly so that wear and tear would not ruin the work. The same principle applies today: when new tiles are set, it takes 24 to 48 hours to cure. When your tile contractor advises you to stay out of your newly tiled bathroom for a day or two, heed the advice. So that there’s no movement or cracking in the tiles, do not step on them for the recommended period of time. This will ensure your tile work will also stand the test of time!

Mosaics such as these were prominent in Ancient Greece. This mosaic floor adorns the grounds outside an old church in Athens. Notice the tiles have been set and colored to stand the test of time.
Today’s ceramic mosaic tile takes it cue from ancient tile shapes and colors.
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