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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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?

Reply

Roger

Hi Maria,

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

Reply

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

Reply

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.

Reply

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

Reply

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.

Reply

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