Encaustic Tile: Exploring the Trend and Incorporating It into Your Interior

Surely everyone can safely admit that patterned tiles are in fashion. For example, it could be the back wall in the kitchen, the floor in the bathroom, or the framed fireplace. 

Here, it is not so important whether you prefer complex motifs or minimalist design. But eye-catching and patterned tiles are at the peak of popularity.  

What is an encaustic tile? Although encaustic tile can hardly be called a modern material, it is very popular in the world of home decorating and interior design. Homeowners of all tastes favor encaustic tile, particularly cement tile, for its unique patterns, vibrant colors, and practical qualities. If you've been researching this fascinating material, you may have encountered various terms and descriptions, as well as some confusion as to what you're looking for. Some sources describe cement tile as encaustic, while others say that cement tile is not encaustic. So what is it?

Let's figure it out together! We'll try to lay a clear foundation for what products are best for your home projects and the look you're aiming for.

More about Encaustic Tile

history of encaustic tile

Encaustic tiles feature a lot of intricate patterns. They are as if inlaid and consist of at least two colors of clay.  

Unlike glazed patterns on the tile surface, encaustic patterns are an integral part of ceramics and do not wear off over time. 

While encaustic tiles have long been popular in Europe, they are now becoming increasingly popular in the United States.

The Origin of Encaustic Tile

Although traditional, encaustic tiles are not the first of their kind. Similar materials were actively used back in the 13th century for churches and palaces. Buildings used tiles of various shapes, which formed all sorts of mosaic designs. The process was very tedious and required a lot of effort. Over time, the production of tiles became more technologically advanced, and the production of encaustic, or inlaid tiles, began.

What does encaustic mean? Interesting fact! The term "encaustic cement tile" itself originated from "encaustic," which means "the act of burning." Surfaces, including concrete, were painted with melted paints that included wax, a little oil, pigments, and resins. Early icons were painted using the encaustic technique.

A Little Bit of History

The Origin of Encaustic Tile

The 12th and 13th were the golden periods for encaustic tiles in Western Europe. One of the most beautiful types of tiles was the encaustic tiles at Cleeve Abbey in England, built in the 12th century. The encaustic tile at St. Andrew's Church in England, built in the 12th century, also stood out for its beauty. 

However, in the 16th century, encaustic tiles lost their popularity. It didn't come back into fashion until the early 18th century. That was the heyday of the Gothic Revival. And to this day you can look into the past and feel its inspiring design from the past. 

The popularity of tiles was increasing all the time. In the mid to late 1800s, tile manufacturer William Godwin of Lugwardine, Hereford began producing tiles with an authentic medieval aesthetic that was appreciated.

In the 1860s there was a special press that served to shape the tiles. The process involved drying the clay and pressing it under a steel frame.  

Later, specialized machines appeared, which contributed to the further improvement of encaustic tiles.

Initially, encaustic tiles were made by pressing a pattern into the unburnt clay to a small depth, which allowed craftsmen to fill the prints with liquid clay or glaze. The base of the tiles was usually made of red clay, and the liquid clay was a white shade. The tiles were then covered with a lead glaze and fired in a kiln to temperatures over 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. The firing process ensured that the glaze would grow and form a thin film on the tiles, anchoring the design and protecting the raw surface.

The glaze often gave a warm honey hue to the white liquid clay in the impression and created a rich brown color on the red clay body.

Other traditional patterns and colors included shades of yellow, green, and black. Early methods of making encaustic tiles involved hand-forming the clay and pouring it into a cement mortar or clay body. Later, wooden blocks were used to create imprints in the unburnt clay body.

Production Technology of Encaustic Tiles

At present, the tiles are made by hand, entirely of unpainted concrete, in a metal mold and pressed by hydraulic means. The product is made upside down in a metal mold, and paints made from Portland cement, marble chips, and natural dyes are poured into various sections of the mold to create a pattern.

Once the pattern is established, the mold is removed and additional concrete is added to the bottom to give the tiles strength. The tiles are then pressed under high pressure in a hydraulic press, after which the compact tiles are moistened with water and placed on drying racks to cure. In some parts of the world, the product is called a hydraulic tile.

After pressing two or three layers of such tiles, they are soaked in water for 24 hours, then dried for at least 28 days, and packed. That is, the products are not fired, which is the main feature of the production.

Types of Encaustic Tile

Production Technology of Encaustic Tiles

The difference between encaustic tile, encaustic cement tile, and concrete tile causes a lot of confusion and mystery. Although it may seem trivial, it is important to know the difference and where you can and should not use tile.  

So, there are two varieties of encaustic tiles:

  • Based on two or more colors of clay

The clay is mixed to create patterns and then either pressed or fired. This technique has been known since the 14th century and has remained virtually unchanged to this day. (Encaustic porcelain tile)

  • Cement-based

Encaustic cement tiles are created by adding marble powder and pigments to the cement to add color. It has three or two layers, with the upper patterned layer being created by pressing in a special metal mold.

Both types of encaustic tiles are traditional, unglazed, and externally similar – hence the confusion. But the cement one is more interesting. While clay-based tiles created by firing technology will surprise no one, cement encaustic tile deserves more attention.

Encaustic tiles are generally frost resistant and can be used in all outdoor conditions. Hydraulically pressed cement tiles cannot be used in areas prone to severe frost and are most often found only in the Mediterranean or tropical climates. 

Many tile buyers are confused by the ambiguous term "encaustic" because it has become commonplace to describe both cement and ceramic tiles. When you are considering a particular product, you should do your research and contact the manufacturer to determine if it is cement or ceramic tile if you are unsure.

Now you can begin to understand the importance of the differences and the subtleties of use.  

Advantages and Disadvantages of Encaustic Tile

Advantages and Disadvantages of Encaustic Tile

As with any important design decision, there are many factors to consider, from aesthetics to durability and price.  

Thanks to the production technology, encaustic cement tiles have a lot of advantages:

  • Very durable 

There are coatings made in the XIX century, which look just fine.

  • Environmentally friendly. 

Because the tiles are not fired, they consume much less energy than ceramic tiles and do not emit pollutants into the air.

The composition uses all-natural ingredients.

  • The uniqueness of the product

Cement tiles are individually handmade, allowing for one-of-a-kind products with their subtle variations.

  • Its long life has been proven over the centuries.

It makes the great kitchen, living room and bathroom floors, shower tiles, backsplashes, and outdoor patios and showers.

  • Will not burn or fade
  • Deep color

Chips and scratches will be virtually invisible.

  • Easy to care for

Can be cleaned, but without the use of acidic and abrasive compounds.

  • Can be used anywhere.

Cement tiles are suitable for busy areas, outdoor areas, and decorative elements.

  • Suitable for areas with high humidity
  • Looks authentic, traditional

Most often, encaustic tiles are handmade, which gives them a very special look and character. Of course, some manufacturers make this material on an industrial scale, but the technology is still special.

It is impossible not to mention the disadvantages of encaustic cement tiles:

  • Thick

This can be a problem when combining different floor coverings and floor joints of one room with another. It may be that they are at different levels.

Advantages of Encaustic Tile
  • Heavy

You need a solid subfloor, a solid base.

  • Stiff

All tiles are based on clay, cement, and concrete.

  • The surface is porous

Requires sealing, which over time will have to be repeated.

  • High price
  • Requires certain conditions

Tile does not tolerate a seasonal climate with freezing and thawing cycles, as temperature changes can cause deformation.  

It is still important to take care of your encaustic tile and help extend its long life. Just a little care for your encaustic cement tile and it will last you a long time.

Trendiness of Encaustic Tiles

Encaustic tile is gaining popularity due in part to the development of social media. It was a previously hard-to-find product that has gained new notoriety. With endless color and pattern options, it's easy to see why encaustic tile is quickly becoming a staple in interior design.

Encaustic Tile Design Ideas

Encaustic Tile Design Ideas

Now that you are familiar with the history, types, and all aspects of encaustic tile, let us introduce you to its many uses. This tile can be used in almost any room. It creates a striking look for any patio or terrace, as well as a kitchen panel. 

In the end, its splendor can be used in a variety of places in any home or any commercial space:

  • In the family room as a practical flooring
  • As an accent piece in the dining room
  • On stairwells
  • In the kitchen
  • The corridor
  • To create an artificial carpet or pathway
  • In an outdoor living space (patio).

Kitchen Backsplash

Kitchen Backsplash

One of the areas that have become the main use of encaustic tiles in the kitchen. Such tiles can tie a space together or become an element that makes it stand out. 

Bathroom Floors 

Bathroom Floors

Another area where encaustic tiles have advantages is the bathroom, where they can be used on the floors. Because of its texture, it is great for this kind of surface. 

Patios and Decks 

Cement based

Encaustic is good for outdoor work because it is durable and long-lasting. Most encaustic tiles already have a worn appearance, which works in their favor when fighting the elements outdoors.

But try to choose reds or oranges, because when they start to fade, they look even more natural than blues or greens. 



Tile fireplaces have recently become a very creative and unique use. Not only does it add more character to the room, but it also charms along with the fire. The use of encaustic is great for creating a stunning, beautiful design. 

With that said, there are limitless patterns and colors at your disposal. Whether you want cooler tones like blue, green, or purple, or warmer tones like red, pink, or orange, you can find complementary tiles for any room you are decorating.

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