We have fun bagging on trend stories. This one we noticed recently is different. Rather than assembling loose collection of anecdotes, the Washington Post called upon Harvard-graduate architect Katherine Salant to explain why porcelain tile was poised to be the next big thing in homebuilding. The professional experience she brings to the table makes worlds of difference in reporting a qualitative story.
As it turns out, new processes in manufacturing have increased the profile of porcelain tile. The material becomes much more attractive (more attractive than it already is, we should say) when it’s combined with features such as the ability to cover large surfaces without grouting, when it’s thicker, when it can withstand temperature extremes and when it can withstand cracking. I should admit, when Garth sent me these pictures of porcelain-lined countertops, I was stumped. I thought he had made a mistake. In fact, the counters are covered in long sheets of porcelain. It has a chameleon-like ability to take on different looks, as Salant herself points out by saying some of these materials tricked her into believing she was looking at a pure marble countertop.
Manufacturers can now produce porcelain tiles that are huge (5-feet-by-11-feet), really thin ( 1 /8 – to ¼-inch thick) and absorb almost no water. This latter detail means that these big tiles will not crack in freezing temperatures and can be used indoors, outdoors in temperate climates such as the Washington area’s, and for an astonishingly broad range of applications. The tiles are also made in smaller sizes, though much larger than the 4-by-4-inch ones that are standard in so many bathrooms, and they can be nearly ¾-inch thick, depending on the intended use.
The tiles are marketed in the United States by Tennessee-based Crossville, which calls its tiles Laminam, and four Spanish manufacturers. Cosentino calls its product Dekton, Grespania’s version is Coverlam, Inalco’s is Itopker and TheSize Surfaces’s is Neolith.
In addition to things like the countertop, the tile has other showy, enviable uses. I was amazed to learn that long bands of it can be set into a driveway, which in a way is like extending one’s interior decorating all the way to the street. Salant envisions a driveway covered with 24 x 24 inch tiles separated by several inches of grass or gravel. Yes, the tiles need to be thicker to support the weight of a car, but even that is forgiving. Salant states that one 3/4-inch thick Coverlam Dock tile can hold as much as 5,500 pounds, meaning your car can bring some friends. Coverlam also boasts that the tiles need no maintenance, unlike conventional asphalt.
“Encased in luxury, I was somewhere between decadence and levitation.”
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily.
What do you think of these innovations in contemporary ceramics? Let us know in the comments.