A Short History of Tile

Decorative Street TileFor centuries, tile floors have been deemed to be the flooring of choice for the important and the wealthy. While tile is still considered to be a higher-end floor covering, it’s much easier to obtain, install, and purchase in today’s world. In addition, we now have nearly endless designs and tile types to choose from.

Ancient History

Clay and mud tiles already existed as far back as 7,000 years ago. Decorative tiles dated circa 4,000 B.C. were found in Egyptian architecture. Following that, the Assyrians and Babylonians also used tile in their architectural achievements. From then on, many civilizations adopted the use of elaborate, decorative tile designs on grand structures of all kinds. Some of these stunning buildings still exist today. In those days, tiles and pavers were either made by hand or hewn from marble. Only the wealthy could afford tile.

Middle Ages

Tile art spread throughout the world, with each region developing their own unique expressions of it. Islamic tile art developed in the Middle East. Chinese tile styles and glazes were popularized and adopted by a number of European countries. European colonists then brought them to the New World, where North and South American artisans took up the art. Throughout this era, tile was still only used in churches, missions, public structures, or wealthy homes.

Late 1800s & Early 1900s

In colonial America, tile was often imported for use in the mansions of the elite, providing a decorative, elegant touch to fireplaces, foyers, bathroom, and kitchens. As an imported item, tile was very expensive. However, with the advent of tile factories in the 1920s came the capability to mass-produce tile, which made tile more accessible to the average homeowner. Factories produced mosaic tiles in face-mounted sheets, which meant that setting tiles by hand was no longer necessary.

Ceramic subway tile is so named because it was first used in New York City’s subway stations around the turn of the century. People liked it so well that it soon became a popular choice for many homes. The tiles were always white and came in a 3” x 6” rectangular size. These glazed ceramic tiles gave off the impression of a pure, clean home. Of course, many housewives couldn’t resist that appeal. By the 1950s, ceramic tiles were being installed in homes everywhere.

21st Century

The tile industry has continued its accelerated growth through the 20th century. Now, in the 21st century, even more innovations have graced the production of tile. Digital inkjet technology makes it possible to give tile an authentic stone look or some other sophisticated design. Tiles are largely produced by machines, computers, and robotics in factories. Thanks to these advances, we now have a stunning and prolific array of tile styles and size in affordable prices.

Tile is a fantastic choice for modern homes. It’s easy to maintain and keep clean, but every so often, it does require an in-depth cleaning. When that time comes around, be sure to schedule a tile and grout cleaning with a professional company.