Tile and Stone Types – Honed, Rectified, Gauged

by Roger

We, meaning us evil, scheming people in the tile industry, have a bad habit of using words that are not easily understood or recognized by the general public – and that’s a bad thing. Well, I think it’s a bad thing anyway, since the general public are the ones buying the tile – Hello, McFly??? Take for instance those three ridiculously nondescript words up there: Honed, rectified, and gauged – as well as the word ‘nondescript’. Okay, we’ll leave the last one out of this discussion.

Taken alone they each have very distinct meanings – easy enough. However, when used next to the word tile or stone, they tend to confuse. So I’m gonna try to clear it up a little bit for you so you know what a gauged slate is when you see it, as well as help you find the word you need when you know what you’re looking for but don’t know what word you need. (Is anyone else dizzy right now? No? Just me? okay…)

Honed

Honed is used next to different types of natural stone – most commonly with slate – as in ‘honed slate’ (didn’t see that coming, did you?) Although most common with slate it is also used with any natural stone product available. Honed stone simply means that the surface of the stone, has been ground to a smooth, flat, consistent surface. It also means, in the case of normally shiny stones such as granite or marble, that the polish or shine has been removed leaving a matte (unpolished) surface.

Slate Kerdi walk-in Shower in Fort CollinsIf you think about a slate tile (and honestly, who besides me, does that?) with its rough, textured, uneven surface, that would be an example of regular slate – not honed. If that slate tile were ground down with a smooth, consistent, flat surface it would be honed. Just like the tile installed in this Full Kerdi Walk-in Slate Shower with a Mountain Silhouette Relief  installed by Roger from Tile Art in Fort Collins, CO – TileArtCenter.com. 8)

That, by the way, was an absolutely shameless plug for a very excellent tile contractor – me. See, when I self-promote I don’t jack around. :D Unabashed self-promotion aside, that is a photo of honed slate installed on a shower wall. See how flat and unshiny it is – honed.

That was relatively painless, wasn’t it? Which brings us to our next obscure word…

Rectified

Rectified is a term most often used with manufactured tiles such as porcelain as in, you guessed it, ‘rectified porcelain’. Natural stone tiles are rarely clarified as rectified because they normally are.

Rectified tile means that each tile is identical in size – length and width. As in each 12 inch tile is actually 12 inches – exactly. And each one is identically sized. Or, more accurately, if each 12 inch tile is exactly 11 7/8″ wide, they are all exactly 11 7/8″ wide. The ’12 inch’ part isn’t the important part – the ‘identical’ part is.

What is the difference between a rectified ceramic and porcelain and one that isn’t rectified, you ask? Glad you asked. A normal (non-rectified) ceramic or porcelain tile is formed and baked. This baking process will cause the tile to shrink ever-so-slightly and each tile may shrink a differing amount. This will lead to tiles that are not identically sized. Although the difference in tiles may be only 1/64″ or smaller, if you run a row 25 feet down a floor you may end up with a total 1/2″ difference overall.

Now this is not normally a problem and is dealt with as you are setting the tile by nudging each tile to where it needs to be to make up for this difference. If done correctly you’ll never know it’s there. It’s completely normal.

A rectified tile, on the other hand, is baked then cut to size. All the shrinking will take place during the baking process so after it is cut to size it will remain that size – forever. This makes it much easier, quicker and cleaner to work with and allows for a smaller grout line than may be required for a non-rectified tile. All rectified tiles are cut to an identical size. This is the reason that natural stone tiles are not referred to as rectified – they should all be cut to an identical size during the manufacturing process.

So, if you want really, really small grout lines and an absolutely straight, unvarying grout line, rectified tile or natural stone tiles are the way to go. They are so much easier to keep layouts consistent and lines exactly where you want them. Easier, in this respect, is relative since I prefer the smallest grout line possible with any given tile. The slate shower you see above has 1/16″ grout lines on the wall – this is nearly impossible to do with a tile that is not rectified. You simply have no room in the grout line to make up for inconsistencies in tile size.

*Note: not all slate tiles are rectified! Slate is the only (common) natural stone tile that is not normally rectified unless specifically stated.

Gauged

Gauged stone is a bit more difficult to explain inasmuch as there are a number of things or descriptions of what constitutes a gauged stone. In the most common usage it simply means that each tile is an identical (or nearly so) thickness. This attribute, however, may also be referred to as ‘calibrated’ stone.

Technically gauged means that the backside of the stone has been ground down to a flat, or more accurately, consistent, rough finish. Going back to slate (since there are so many variations of slate stone it is the easiest example) it means the backside of the slate has been ground down to a flat, normally grooved, surface. This process makes each slate tile nearly (if it is calibrated) an identical thickness – usually within 1/16″ or so.

With most stone tiles this is not really a designation you need to look for – unless it is slate. Most all other natural stone tiles (granite, marble, etc.) are cut to an identical thickness. Slate is the exception because, for the most part, it is meant to have a natural, rough, uneven surface. If you want that – don’t be concerned with a gauged or calibrated designation. If you want tile like that shower wall – it needs to be gauged and calibrated.

So there you have it – the three obscure words badly explained in an effort to further confuse you. I do understand that for normal people – that is people that don’t stand in showers all day – there will still be a bit of confusion especially about the whole ‘gauged’ and ‘calibrated’ thing. If you have any questions about it at all please feel free to ask what the hell it is in the comment section below. If you are new to my blog I actually do answer every question around here. I’m just super-cool like that. 8)

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Tasha

Hi Roger,

Thanks referring me to Cornerstone Renewal. Unfortunately, they do not have the specialized skill to sand the tile to correct the issues.

Fortunately I have found a different company that specializes in this type of work. I will let you know how things turn out. He is based in Denver and comes to the Springs often. I’ll get his information to you once I see his references, insurance policy and work. Thanks again.

Tasha

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Tasha

What can be done to get rid of scratches? Something was drug across the tile and the faint scratches can be seen. I am going to sell the property in a couple of years, so I am taking precautions now to avoid frustration later. Thanks again

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Roger

It needs to be sanded and finished, again, it’s a specialized trade.

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Tasha

Hi Roger,
I forgot to mention the the Travertine is Brushed. It has natural defects and is a clean cut edge, 12×24 in. This was set in a herringbone design. I am afraid that if he buffs it, the natural beauty will be ruined. Please enlighten me. Thank you for your knowledge.

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Roger

They can accomplish that finish.

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Tasha

Hi Roger,

I recently had radiant floor and Travertine installed in my living room (441sq.ft.). I noticed the lippage occurring before the project was halfway completed. I brought it the the contractor’s attention. He tried to use the radiant floor elements as an excuse to pass it off. He told me it was an easy fix and used a grinder in an attempt to even out the lippage with the rest of the already leveled tile.

In his attempt, the sanding turned the edges of the Travertine lippage white. He continues to think the white on the floor will disappear when he applies another coat of sealant. That isn’t working. Now he wants to try a different sandpaper to fix the lippage and apply another coat of sealant in hopes of correcting the problem.

This is a very expensive floor. Is there anything that can be done to level out the sections where there is lippage or does it need to be pulled up? I know it will damage the radiant system if not done right, it’s even possible even if it is done right. He seemed to have become lazy toward the end of the installation and have several other projects going at the same time.

Is there any hope in getting this repaired?

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Roger

Hi Tasha,

What he’s trying will not work. With radiant heat beneath it I would not have any pulled up. You can get the floor sanded and refinished, but it’s a specialized trade and will be a bit spendy. But it will be laser flat when it’s done.

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Tasha

Hi Roger,

Could you recommend someone in the Colorado Springs area who specializes in floor sanding and refinishing? Since it’s a specialized trade do you know what this type of repair typically costs for Travertine stone repair? I know you can’t give me an exact price, but I am trying to get an idea of the cost. Thanks for saving me a headache. I didn’t think anything could be done considering the stone is brushed and the original finish can be damaged.

Thank you!

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Roger
Amy

Hi Roger !

Incredible great advice. I was first looking for backer board to drywall transition advice and the bull nose position question, which I found answers to, but that got me to thinking, my natural stone stripe accent in the shower surround I’m doing is much thicker that the ceramic mosaic I’m doing. ( looks like little subway tiles but comes in sheets ) I’ve already grappled with the notion the imperfections in some of the stone tiles might hold too much of the premixed white grout I purchased , so have examined each carefully. Plus sealed them per the premixed grout directions. But now I am wondering if perhaps the backer board should be slightly recessed so the overall shower tiles are about even. The installation of a slightly recessed line of backerboard wouldn’t be a problem because we are going to have to shim it for the other ceramic tile so it meets the dw. Just more picky filling in with thinset. It also might help in determining a level shoulder level line of this pop of color since a lot of things in the 1955 bathroom aren’t square. The antique cigar boxes cut as shims made me laugh. The overall project is making an old tub to a shower tub combo. Plumbing is done, vinyl is up with roofing adhesive around the tub lip. Bb installation is next. or should we just use grout to transition from the thick tile?

Oh. A couple more. You mention shims for the bb could be drywall shims. Plastic ok? Also, we will have a window in this shower . Not ideal, but I think that vinyl needs total sealing not just stapling. Correct?

That slate looks AWESOME!

Thanks!

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Roger

Hi Amy,

If you have the ability to recess it that would be best.Plastic shims are fine. And yes, you need to seal the membrane as well.

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Maria

For the life of me,even ‘though I tried,beating my head against a honed, rectified, gauged brick wall,could’t come up with a more brilliant retort than your article Roger!
Bless.
:)
Hugs
&
Kisses
BIG TIME!

Maria

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Jesse

Rodger, hoping for some dry humor and maybe some advice. I am building a custom 12’x29′ patio deck for my wife, a present to her for bearing my fourth child (3rd boy). It is is going to have 3/4″ nominal t&g decking with 1/8″ waterproof membrane adhered to it then 3/8″ 4×8 sheets of hardibacker all over 2×12 joists 12″ o.c. Hope that makes sense. I would like to top it with broken slate tile for a truly random pattern with grout lines ranging from 3/16″-1/2″. My problem is, aside from the normal list of things, I can’t find a place to buy it. It seems people want to sell “random” patterns that have been pre-determined with rectangular shapes. Got any ideas where I can buy triangular, trapezoidal, pentagonal, or other truly random shaped pieces for this project? Oh yeah I live in Southern California and would like to keep it on the lighter side of slates cooler band. Can you point me in the right direction or just tell me I’ve lost my mind?

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Roger

Hi Jesse,

You HAVE lost your mind, but not because of the slate – because you had a fourth child! :D (Congrats!)

There is no premanufactured or precut random pattern. Your best bet is to find some cheap clearance slate, get a hammer and let the other three kids bust it up for you. That’s the only way you’ll get a true random pattern. Tell them it’s just a big jigsaw puzzle.

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jenna

Yes you did a great job of explaining how slate is laid. I did not register if you explained the white marks almost like brushes of white paint on some tiles. And does all slate showers have to be sealed. My contractor did a nice job of laying the tiles after he had to rip up 16 12×12 because they were crooked I mean looked terrible so he was behind schedule. They cut and grinded almost every piece on shower and bathroom wall slate. But I am sure there was no seal on it afterwards. I love it. Getting real slate and understanding how unique it is can be challenging. Just want it to be as beautiful as it is suppose to be and last a Long Time.

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Roger

Hi Jenna,

Yes, you absolutely want to seal it.

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Peter V.

Hi Roger,

Thank you so much, I had the same idea but haven’t tried it for fear of damaging the tile. Thanks for the confirmation, I’m on my way to buy a heat gun gun.
Incidentally, the mosaic isn’t in the shower area, it’s on the wall opposite the shower, away from any wet area. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Thanks again.

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Peter V.

Hi Roger,

Peter here, I am in the process of renovating my wife’s bathroom, being a plumber almost 30 years I did all the work myself up to and including the floor tiles which are 12″ x 24″ porcelain flawlessly, (i picked up a bit of knowledge here and there over the years). However, being a perfectionist I was a bit leery on doing the walls so I hired a tiling contractor that came recommended by friends. Apparently I bought nonrectified tiles that weren’t exactly the same size which is not noticeable on the floor because I used 1/8″ spacers and set them in thinset.
Now for my heartache, the tiler I hired set the tiles with mastic using no spacers, butting one tile against the other leaving the most noticeable of uneven grout lines and lippage, also, I had one entire accent wall done with a splitface mosaic quarry tile sheet that the moron didn’t even butt together leaving the whole wall looking like $700.00 worth of garbage . When I asked him about it he said, because it’s a mosaic it’s supposed to be like that. Needless to say he got more than an earful of the most vilest responses from me (Brooklyn rules). I’m pretty sure he won’t be back even though he hasn’t been paid.
I may be able to fix the mosaic wall by cutting thin slivers from the remaining sheets, however, is there some sort of router bit for tile or any type of grinding bit that I can use to make an even grout line without destroying the tiles, or even a way to soften the mastic to get the tiles back off the wall without breaking them.
Please, I need help, as I put my heart and soul into this project, mind you, my wife hasn’t seen this monstrosity yet and I can’t afford another frying pan dent on left side of my head.
Thanks in advance for your response and advice.
Peter the plumber in Brooklyn, New York.

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Roger

Hi Peter,

A splitface mosaic is a horrible choice in a shower, even though that wasn’t one of your questions. :D Just too many crevices and crannys for crap to hide and grow. That said, you can use a rotozip with a diamond tile bit to cut out your grout lines. It would be better to scrape them off and (replace) reinstall them. You can actually soften the mastic significantly with heat. A heat gun (put away your torch – I know you’re a plumber) and some patience should take them off relatively easily.

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Madeline

My slate tile on my floor is so dull. What do you recommend to use as a sealant and shine product to restore it back to the original shine. It’s been many years since it was sealed.
Thanks
Madeline Young

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Roger

Hi Madeline,

Miracle Sealant’s Seal-n-Enhance.

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Dolittlern

What brand and size of tile did you use in the above pictured shower installation? We have laid daltile slate that is uneven, but beautiful in a bathroom. My husband wants a more honed product, and your shower looks pretty similar to what we laid. Thanks

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Roger

Hi Dolittlern,

I have no idea. I did that shower over seven years ago. I do know the slate was upwards of $20 per square foot. :D If you want an extremely consistent, honed and gauged slate like that it costs a shitload of money. And it will all be special order – no one is going to carry it in stock.

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Andrea

Hello Roger

Once upon a time, (yes, I’m that old) slate was an easy find. Go to any local flooring store, even the Walmart of home improvement, H.D., and the selection was overwhelming.
I don’t know if it’s my relocation to FL or marketing trends in general that have resulted in the dearth of choices available, whatever the cause, I’m frustrated by this situation.
I’m looking for gauged, rectified, multicolored tile for a bathroom renovation. I can find gauged multicolored but not rectified, unless I spend 8$ or so a square ft! Insane!
Can you suggest any reputable sources for slate? Additionally, I’ve read many horror stories of folks ordering slate from on-line resources and then they are stuck with 50% of their order cracked & broken & the cost of returning the product costs more than the original purchase price.
This isn’t my first rodeo, but at this point, it may be my last! Any advice would be helpful.
Thanks
Andrea in FL

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Roger

Hi Andrea,

I’m that old too! :D I you want slate like that you’ll pay out the ass for it – period. Look for a VERY reputable dealer and spend the money with them. Ask a lot of questions and make sure they know what you expect. Short of that I’m afraid I can’t be much help.

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Andrea

Thanks for confirming the depressing facts. The good news is the ax fell quickly, I’ll never miss my head as your reply was super fast & your aim true.
Stay well
A

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Alex

So confused. Looking for mesh-backed mosaic-sized tile for floor of newly built shower. What level of waterproofing is necessary? Should it be porcelain or ceramic? PEI rating? Any other characteristics I should be looking for?

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Roger

Hi Alex,

The waterproofing is beneath your tile, it has nothing to do with your tile. Several factors come into which tile to choose, they are listed here: Surface durability of tile.

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Alyce Walsh

Re-modeling a small bathroom and kitchen and I want to use slate for the floors with white subway tile for shower and backsplash in kitchen. If the slate is gauged does it also have to be honed? I want to be sure of a proper fit as I have heard that there are differences in thickness in slate tile. Also, I don’t like to see grout lines. What do you suggest. Thanks.

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Roger

Hi Alyce,

It can be gauged without being honed. Gauging it simply indicates that the overall thickness of the stone is nearly identical. Honed indicates that it is ground flat on the face. If it is both gauged and honed it will all be nearly identically sized.

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maria wilkes

we are in the beginning stages of a major home reno. i want slate in my utility area, kitchen, falily room (rest of house is wood).

what can i go with in terms of being very very cost efficient and looking like real slate?

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Roger

Hi Maria,

Florida tile has several porcelains that look, and some that even feel, like slate.

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walter langsfors

We laid gaged 21X12 Vermont slate on our kitchen floor. It is all the same thickness but it is not flat. The slate was carefully laid but some of the corners are slightly raised above the adjacent piece. How should we specify our slate next time to get a flat floor. Walter L

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Roger

Hi Walter,

Find a contractor who is familiar with the TCA handbook and the standards for setting tile. If you get a contractor who is a member of the ntca we are all familiar with what is acceptable.

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Matt

Hi Roger,

Thanks for all of your help so far.

I am installing 10 x 20″ porcelain tile in a shower (3/8″ thick). When I put the long edge up against the rip fence on a bridge wet saw the tile it rocks back and forth. I checked the rip fence with a straight edge and the rip fence seems OK so I assume it’s the tile causing the problem.

Any tricks to making a square cut with a tile like this?

Thanks in advance. Matt

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Roger

Hi Matt,

You would need to place it against the back fence of the wet saw and rip each side to make it square (assuming your back fence is square to the blade). Or, and the proper answer, return the tile and tell them you want SQUARE tile.

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