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Glossary of Terms

As with any industry, there are terms specific to our work. Please don’t hesitate to ask us questions about words you’ve heard while planning your project. Below is a list of some of the more common terms used:

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W


absorption  Percentage amount of moisture absorbed by weight.

acid wash  A treatment applied to the face of a stone to achieve a texture or finish that is distressed. Chemical processes have been replaced by mechanical methods for the texturing of the stone face.

alkaline  Pertains to a highly basic, as opposed to acidic, substance; for example, hydrogen or carbonate of sodium or potassium.

anchor  A metal fastener used for securing dimension stone to a structure.

antique finish  A finish that replicates rusticated or distressed textures. Produced through mechanical or chemical means to simulate the naturally occurring effects of the aging process.

apron  A trim piece under a projecting stone top, stool, etc.

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back-buttering  The process of slathering the back of a stone tile with thinset in order to ensure proper mortar coverage. This prevents hollow areas and subsequent future cracking of tiles. Also helpful to ensure a level installation.

backsplash  The area located between the countertop and upper cabinets.

base  The bottom course of a wall, or the vertical first member above grade of a finished floor.

bed joint  A horizontal joint between stones, usually filled with mortar, lead, or sealant.

bisque  When you look at a glazed tile from the side you can see 2 layers. The body of the tile, or largest layer, is called the bisque. The top layer is called the glaze.

blending  The proper positioning of adjacent floor slabs, or tiles, by their predominant color.

bond  1. Overlapping of joints in successive courses. 2. To stick or adhere.

book match pattern  A layout in pairs of all stone elements to confirm that the design matches.

bowing  A warping or curving of the wall cladding.

brushed finish  Obtained by brushing a stone with a coarse rotary-type wire brush.

bullnose  Convex rounding of a material, to be used in various applications, such as stair tread.

bush hammering  A mechanical process which produces textured surfaces that vary from subtle to rough.

buttering  Placing mortar on stone units with a trowel before setting them into position.

butt joint  An external corner formed by two stone panels with one head.

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calibration  The first step in the finishing process of a stone tile. Coarse abrasives pads are mounted to the bottom of rotating wheels that under extreme pressure and rotation speed are applied to the face of the stone. This process grinds the stone to a uniform and consistent thickness of ±1 mm tolerance, which is crucial for the installation of tile in a thin-set application. Calibration is applicable only to dense stones that can take a honed or polished finish, such as limestone, marble, and granite tile. The term is often erroneously applied to slates, quartzites, and other cleftface stones, where the precision of the calibration process is not possible. Sawn-back or ground-back techniques are applied to these types of stones, and are correctly called “gauging,” which is not as precision-oriented as calibration.

caulking  Closing a joint by sealing with an elastic, adhesive compound.

ceramic tile  A thin surfacing unit composed of various clays fired to hardness. The face may be glazed or unglazed.

chiseled edge  A process of mechanically chipping the tile edge, thus giving the stone a rustic, aged appearance.

cleft finish  Rough-surfaced stones such as slates that are cleaved or separated along a natural seam are referred to as natural cleft. These types of stones were formed as a result of metamorphic foliation.

COF  Most manufacturers will have a rating system that is based on or supported by the American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM). Many times you can find these ratings on the tile sample or in the product catalog. One rating system measures Slip Resistance, which is measured by its Coefficient of Friction (COF). The higher the COF the more slip resistant the tile. This is important when selecting a floor tile for areas that get wet, such as your shower or bathroom floor. Other ratings listed by the manufacturer might include: scratch resistance, moisture absorption, chemical resistance and breaking strength.

contractor  Company or person that erects and installs fabricated dimension stone.

coping  A flat stone used as a cap on freestanding walls.

cove molding  A concave molding, typically found at the sloped or arched junction of a wall and ceiling.

cure time  The time required for the thin-set below the tile to become hard and set.

cushion  A resilient pad placed between adjoining stone units and other materials to absorb or counteract severe stresses.

cut stone  Finished, dimensioned stone ready to set in place.

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deco  A decorative accent piece.

dowel  A short piece of nonferrous metal or slate fixed into a mortice or sinking in the joints of adjoining stones to prevent movement.

dry seam  An unhealed fracture in stone which may be a plane of weakness.

dual finish  Two finishes, such as thermal and polished, on one piece of stone.

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eased edge  When referring to a slab material, the square edge profile normally has softened edges as opposed to sharp square edges for added safety.

epoxy resin  A flexible, usually thermalsetting resin made by the polymerization of an epoxide; used as an adhesive.

etched  A decorative surface pattern created by a variety of methods, most often with abrasive chemicals or sandblasting.

exposed face  The visible side of any stone element.

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fabricated  Used in reference to dimension stone, it means manufactured and ready for installation.

fabricator  At the fabricator’s facility the natural stone slabs are customized for specific installations.

field tile  When creating a pattern with different ceramic tiles, the more prominent tile that is throughout the largest areas is called the “field tile”.

filling  A trade expression used to indicate the filling of natural voids in stone units with cements or synthetic resins and similar materials.

finish  Final surface applied to the face of dimension stone during fabrication.

firing  The fifth step in the manufacturing of ceramic tile. The tiles are fired in the kiln at temperatures around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.

fissure  A hairline opening in the face of stone demonstrating stones natural characteristics; a lineal or non-directional void in the face and crystalline structure of stone that typically is very thin and irregular. See: Dry Seam.

flagstone  Thin slabs of stone used for paving surfaces such as walks, driveways, and patios. They are generally fine-grained bluestone, other quartz-based stone, or slate, but thin slabs of other stones may also be used.

flamed  An aggressively-textured finish, achieved by exposing certain types of stones to intense flame.

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gauged & ungauged  Refers to slate cleft out of blocks into tile. Gauged slate is ground or sawn to produce a more uniform thickness. Ungauged slate is hand-cleft and can have variations in thickness up to 5/8 of an inch.

glazed tile  A tile with a facial coating that has been fused to the tile body by firing, creating a smooth impermeable surface.

glazing  The fourth step in the manufacturing of ceramic tiles. Glazing liquid is prepared from a glass derivative called frit and colored dyes. The glaze is applied by either a high-pressure spray or is poured directly onto the tile.

granite  A visibly granular, igneous rock; generally ranging in color from near-white through the spectrum of golds, pinks, greens and blues, to grays and blacks. Granite consists primarily of quartz, mica and feldspar. Granites are the hardest architectural stone, making them ideal for counter tops and high-traffic areas.

grout  The material used to fill the joints between tiles.

guillotine cut  Cutting a stone tile, most often slate, by the guillotine method offers a ragged and chipped edge.

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honed finish  A smooth, satin (but not shiny) finish on the stone.

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igneous  Any of the various volcanic rocks, solidified after the molten state, such as granite.

impervious tiles  Tiles that have less than .5% moisture absorption. These tiles are frost proof and can be used in exterior areas or on the outside of building facades.

impregnation  Applying a chemical containing stain inhibitors that penetrates below the surface of the stone.

incise  To cut inwardly or engrave, as in an inscription.

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joint  The space between tiles that is filled with grout.

jointing scheme  Architectural drawing detailing dimensions, location, and configuration of stone units and joints as related to structure.

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large format  Generally refers to tiles at least 16" x 16" in size.

LEED  The acronym stands for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design. The LEED Green Building Rating System was established by the U.S. Green Building Council. The system defines standards for environmentally responsible, healthier, and more profitable structrues. Points are awarded to new construction and major renovation in five categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality.

limestone  A sedimentary rock composed principally of the mineral calcite (calcium carbonate), the mineral dolomite (double carbonate of calcium and magnesium), or some combination of the two. Limestone is generally softer and less dense than granite and more homogeneous in appearance.

lippage  A condition where one edge of a stone is higher than adjacent edges, giving the finished surface an uneven appearance.

listelle  An accent tile in a rectangular format generally used as a linear design element.

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manufactured stone / agglomerate stone  This is a synthetic stone made from natural stone chips suspended in a binder such as cement, epoxy resins or polyester. Some of the most popular types of manufactured stone products are those made mostly of quartz. The natural quartz gives the product depth and radiance while at the same time strength and consistency. Manufactured Stone is strong, it has four times the flexural strength of granite, so there’s less chance of chipping or cracking. It’s also called Agglomerate Stone. The most well known agglomerated stone is poured-in-place terrazzo, used in building for thousands of years.

marble  A metamorphic rock possessing a distinctive crystalline texture. Marble is composed principally of the carbonate minerals calcite and dolomite, singly or in combination. Marbles are typically softer than granite, and are available in a wide spectrum of color and veining.

modular  Tiles of different sizes that can work together in a pattern.

moisture absorption  As the density of the tile increases, the amount of moisture that tile can absorb becomes less. Tile density means that, as the weight or the density of the tile increases, it becomes a stronger tile. Tile density and moisture absorption have an indirect relationship to each other. What this means is that as the density of the tile increases the moisture absorption rate becomes less. Tile density and moisture absorption is important for you to understand when selecting tile for different applications.

moldings  Decorative stone deviating from a plane surface by projections, curved profiles, recesses or any combination thereof.

mosaics  In addition to standard tile styles and sizes, decorative inserts, medallions and mosaics that are used to create intricate patterns and beautiful borders are also available. Tile size 2" x 2" and smaller are usually referred to as mosaics and are often used with different colors to create a pattern or decorative inset. Some of these smaller tiles also come in different shapes, such as hexagon.

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natural stone  A product of nature. A stone such as granite, marble, limestone, slate, travertine, or sandstone that is formed by nature, and is not artificial or manmade.

nominal size  Tile is usually referred to by its nominal size, not its actual size. During the firing process, ceramic tile will shrink, on average, by about 10% in size. For example a 12" x 12" floor tile will actually measure 11-7/8" square. Currently, the most popular ceramic floor tile are the larger sized tiles such as 13" x 13", 16" x 16" and 18" x 18" sizes.

non-vitreous tiles Tiles that absorb 7% or more moisture. They are suited for indoor use only.

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ogee  A stone molding with a reverse curved edge: concave above, convex below.

onyx  A semi-precious sedimentary gemstone of calcite variety with an extremely fine crystal formation. Onyx is valued for its translucent quality and can be backlit for dramatic effect.

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patina  When the surface of a material has changed in color or texture due to age or exposure to various elements, it is referred to as patina.

patinato  Refers to a wire-brushed finish, which gives a rustic look.

paver  A single unit of fabricated stone for use as an exterior paving material.

paving  Stone used as a wearing surface, as in patios, walkways, driveways, etc.

pedestal  In classical architecture, the support for a column or statue, consisting of a base, dado, and cap.

pei rating  This rating is established by the Porcelain Enamel Institute to rate the resistance of glazed ceramic tile to visible surface abrasion. Commonly referred to as “abrasion resistance,” this is probably the most commonly used industry rating for wear.

pillowed  A tile finish that features softly rounded edges, thus giving the tile a pillowed look.

pitched stone  A rough stone face or edge, cut with a pitching chisel.

polished finish  A high-gloss finish attained by machine-grinding and buffing the stone.

porcelain  Porcelain tile is made up of 50% feldspar and is fired at a much higher temperature than regular ceramic tile. This makes porcelain tile much harder and more dense than other tile products. Because of its highly durable make-up, porcelain is more resistant to scratches and can withstand temperature extremes. Also, because porcelain is non-porous, it’s very stain resistant, has very low water absorption ratings (Less than 0.5%) and thus can be used for interior and exterior applications as well as heavy-use and commercial areas. Finally, because porcelain’s color goes all the way through, small scratches or chips are less noticeable.

porosity  The amount and size of the pores in a stone. Travertine is very porous and granite is not.

producer  Company or person that quarries and supplies dimension stone to the commercial market.

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quarry  The location of an operation where a deposit of stone is extracted from the earth through an open pit or underground mine.

quarry block  Generally, a rectangular piece of rough stone as it comes from a quarry, frequently dressed (scabbed) or wire-sawed for shipment.

quartz  A silicon dioxide mineral that occurs in colorless and transparent or colored hexagonal crystals or in crystalline masses. One of the hardest minerals that compose stones such as sandstone, granite, and quartzite.

quartz-based stone  A stone that may be either sedimentary in formation (as in sandstone, or metamorphic, as in quartzite).

quartzite  A highly hardened, typically metamorphosed member of the sandstone group. Quartzite contains a minimum of 95% free silica. Quartzite can look similar to slate, but is actually harder and denser. Also available in slabs.

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random  slab A trimmed slab with a width and length that is not preset, but variable within certain limits.

rake  An angular cut on the face of a stone.

reinforcement  A fabrication technique, often called “rodding,” that refers to the strengthening of unsound marble and limestone by cementing rods into grooves or channels cut into the back of the stone unit. Another method of reinforcement is the lamination of fiberglass to the back of tile units.

resin  A chemical product, clear to translucent, used in some coating processes.

return  The right-angle turn of a molding.

reveal  The exposed portion of a stone between its outer face and a window or door set into an opening.

rock (pitch) faced  Similar to split faced, except that the face of the stone is pitched to a given line and plane, producing a bold appearance rather than the comparatively straight face obtained in split face.

rubble  A term applied to dimension stone used chiefly for walls and foundations, consisting of irregularly squared pieces, partly trimmed or squared, generally with one split or finished face, and selected and specified with a size range.

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sandblasted  A finishing process of blasting the surface of stone with sand, which yields a rough, porous finish.

sanded grout  There are two types of grout commonly used in home installations; Portland cement based, and epoxy based. Both of these grout compounds may have sand added to provide additional strength to the tile joint. Sanded grout is recommended for tile joints 1/8" and larger.

sandstone  A sedimentary rock composed mostly of mineral and rock fragments. Sandstone contains a minimum of 60% free silica. Sandstone is a soft, loose-knit stone that has a natural, rustic look.

sanitary cove base  A ceramic floor tile trim that has a rounded finished top like a bullnose to cover up the body of the tile.

sawed edge  A clean-cut edge generally achieved by cutting with a diamond blade, gang saw, or wire saw.

sealant  An elastic adhesive compound used to seal stone veneer joints.

sealing  1. To make a veneer joint watertight with an elastic adhesive compound. 2. Application of a treatment to retard staining.

sedimentary  Rocks formed of sediments laid down in successive strata or layers. The materials of which they are formed are derived from preexisting rocks or the skeletal remains of sea creatures.

semi-vitreous tiles  Tiles that absorb from 3% to 7% moisture. They are applicable for indoor use only.

setter  An experienced journeyman who installs dimension stone.

setting  The trade of installing dimension stone.

setting space  The distance from the finished face of a stone unit to the face of the backup material.

shade variation  Shade variation is inherent in all fired ceramic products and certain tiles will show greater variation within their dye lots. Shade variation is usually listed on the back label of each sample with a low, moderate, high or random rating.

shell stone  A sedimentary stone found in Florida and Central America, sharing characteristics of limestone, with fossils and shells embedded in its body. Shell stone is a relatively soft, porous stone that retains less heat than denser stone. Often used in exteriors near pools.

shim  A piece of plastic or other non-corrosive, non-staining material used to hold joints to size.

shop drawing  A detailed fabrication and installation drawing showing dimensions and methods of anchorage.

slab  Large, thin, flat pieces of stone cut from large blocks of stone. Usually 2 centimeters (3/4") or 3 centimeters (1-1/4") thick, slabs are often fabricated into kitchen counter tops or used as cladding on vertical surfaces.

slate  A micro crystalline metamorphic rock commonly derived from shale. Slate is primarily composed of mica, chlorite and quartz. Slates are predominantly available in cleft-finished tiles; ideal for use in exterior, non-freeze settings.

splay  A beveled or slanted surface.

split-faced stone  Stone on which the face has been broken to an approximate plane.

spot or spotting  The mortar applied to the back of dimension stone veneer to bridge the space between a stone panel and the backup wall. Used to plumb a wall.

square foot  The unit of measure that most tile is sold by.

stacked bond  Stone that is cut to one dimension and installed with unbroken vertical and horizontal joints running the entire length and height of the veneered area.

stone tile  The typical natural stone floor tile sizes are 12" x 12", 13" x 13", 16" x 16" and 18" x 18".

substrate  The process for installing a ceramic floor begins with the preparation of the tile foundation, or what’s called the substrate. Common materials used as tile substrates in home installations include concrete, plywood, and drywall.

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template  A pattern for a repetitive marking or fabricating operation.

terrazzo  A flooring surface of marble or granite chips in a cementitious or resinous matrix, which is ground and finished after setting.

texture  Surface quality of stone independent of color.

textured finish  A rough surface finish.

thinset Today, many tile installers have opted for the industry accepted and more efficient thinset method, where the tile is adhered directly onto a backer board that is nailed to a plywood or concrete substrate using a much thinner layer of mortar.

threshold  A flat strip of stone projecting above the floor between the jambs of a door. Also known as a “saddle.”

through-body  Unglazed tiles that are a solid color all the way through and do not have a top layer of glaze are often referred to as through-body construction.

tile  A thin modular stone unit, generally less than 3/4" thick.

tile density  Tile density means that, as the weight or the density of the tile increases, it becomes a stronger tile. Moisture absorption means that, as the density of the tile increases, the amount of moisture that tile can absorb becomes less. Tile density and moisture absorption have an indirect relationship to each other. What this means is that as the density of the tile increases the moisture absorption rate becomes less. Tile density and moisture absorption is important for you to understand when selecting tile for different applications.

translucence  The ability of many lighter-colored marbles and onyxes to transmit light.

travertine  A type of crystalline or micro crystalline limestone with a distinctive layered structure. Some layers contain pores and cavities which create an open texture. Depending on the product selected, pores in travertine may be filled or unfilled. Travertine is available in warm, earth tones, making it one of the most popular stones for interior and exterior flooring.

tread  A flat stone used as the top walking surface on steps.

trim  The framing or edging of openings and other features on the interior or exterior of a building, including baseboards, picture rails, cornices, and casings.

tumbled finish  A weathered, aging finished created when the stone is tumbled with sand, pebbles, or steel bearings.

tumbled stone  Marble, travertine, and slate tumbled in a solution of water, sand and river rock, producing tiles with an old-world, weathered look.

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undercut  Cut so as to present an overhanging part.

unglazed  Unglazed tiles are a solid color all the way through and do not have a top layer of glaze. This is often referred to as through-body construction. They have no additional surface applications and are typically more dense and durable than glazed tile. Thus they are more suitable for interior and exterior applications. Unglazed tiles do have good slip resistance, however please note that they do require sealing to help prevent staining. They come in various surface treatments and textures.

unsanded grout  There are two types of grout commonly used in home installations; Portland cement based, and epoxy based. Both of these grout compounds may have sand added to provide additional strength to the tile joint. Unsanded grout is typically used in joints that are smaller than 1/8".

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vein  A layer, seam, or narrow irregular body of mineral material different from the surrounding formation.

vein-cut  A process opposite of cross-cutting, where the vein in the stone is shown as a linear pattern.

vitreous tile  A tile with less than 3% water absorption. These tiles are usually frost proof and ideal for most wet areas such as pools and spas.

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wainscot  An interior veneer of stone covering the lower portion of an interior wall.

water-jet finish  A surface treatment performed by using water under extreme high pressure.

waxing  The practice of filling minor surface imperfections such as voids or sand holes with melted shellac, cabinetmaker’s wax, or certain polyester compounds. In the dimension stone industry, it does not refer to the application of paste wax to make surfaces shinier.

weathering  Natural alteration by either chemical or mechanical processes due to the action of constituents of the atmosphere, soil, surface waters, and other ground waters, or by temperature changes.

weep holes  Openings for drainage in veneer joints or in the structural components supporting the veneer.

wire sawing  A method of cutting stone by passing a twisted, multi strand wire over the stone. The wire may either be immersed in a slurry of abrasive material or be fitted with spaced industrial diamond blocks.

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Sources: Marble Institute of America and World Floor Covering Association