Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tiles, Panels, and Blocks

Concrete elements that are cast off site, or precast, are attractive and usually meant to be seen. In this manageable form, concrete is far easier to use; it cuts time on-site, and there is no need to wait for the concrete to cure. It is a far less messy and disruptive process. Still, working with precast cement does require some strength and a certain amount of skill for the installations.

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Decorative concrete tiles are available in a wide range of color and shape. They can be used outdoors for patios,pathways, and edging or indoors as flooring. Textures may be honed smooth or ribbed, and the grouting can be part of the overall color or a contrast shade.

With computer control, fine etching, and carving techniques, there are many patterns and textures available for concrete tiles. Many of these tiles are made to order and as such are more expensive than simple concrete tiles, but they come with the added caché of the artisan’stouch. Incised concrete can be installed on walls and backsplashes. When sealed properly, it can also be used for flooring, but it requires more maintenance and can be uneven underfoot.


Concrete block is lighter in weight due to its honeycomb design. It is also higher in insulation properties and is well suited for exterior walls, partitions, and small structures. Concrete tiles can be textured to resemble stone, colored to match any interior design, and come in various thicknesses.

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Large slabs for external use are thicker and weather resistant. Thinner tiles are used like ceramic and stone tiles, are thinner than exterior tiles, and are installed on a solid subfloor with mortar or grout between the joints. Panels of precast concrete come in a range of thicknesses and can be used for exterior and interior applications. Although thin tiles of concrete can be attached with adhesives, thicker panels must be secured in place by metal supports.

How It’s Used

Concrete block is installed with mortar and placed in a pattern similar to brick. By placing the honeycomb interior facing out, a panel or wall takes on the semitransparent aspects of a screen; this is very effective for garden walls and exterior partitions

With flooring, the subfloor must be strong enough to bear the weight of the concrete tiles or slabs and must be smooth, dry, and even. The addition of pattern or color will enhance the rather bland and basic look of unadorned concrete flooring.

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Although any concrete tile or slab can be used to clad indoor walls, for the most effective expression of interiordesign, the most interesting are the handmade artisan-style tiles.


Little or no finishing is required on concrete beyond sealing, if needed, and the application of paint or other topping for interest.

Concrete, untreated with a topical finish, can stain.

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