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Are Ceramic Tiles Waterproof?

By: Mike Lovatt / Last UPDATED: October 17, 2022

Ceramic tiles are tiles that have been made from clay, and that often find use in bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas where there is a lot of moisture. The reason for this, is of course that tiles stand up well to water damage. But are they “waterproof?”

In this post, we will attempt to answer that question.

The Truth About Ceramic Tiles

While you might be using ceramic tiles in your bathroom under the belief that they are waterproof, the truth is that they actually aren’t fully waterproof.

So why are they still used at all? Allow me to explain!

In many ways, you can consider ceramic tiles to be “as good as” waterproof. If you splash water onto tiles, you will find that the water lands on the surface and stays there in a puddle until you wipe it up. This means you don’t need to worry about large amounts of water being absorbed, and you also don’t need to worry about stains or other issues in the kitchen. For the most part, you can treat ceramic tiles as though they were waterproof.

That said though, there is also a small amount of “water infiltration” that will occur if water is allowed to stand on ceramic tiling for too long. The main reason for this, is that ceramic tiles are actually slightly porous. That means they have tiny little holes in them, which actually help the tiles to compress themselves and therefore prevent them from chipping, cracking, or otherwise breaking. While this is true though, it also means that small droplets of water can enter the surface.

This is not a problem in most cases, as the amount of water to enter is usually small enough not to cause major damage. However, it does become an issue if that water should then freeze in very cold weather. This can then cause the droplets of water to expand as they turn to ice, and this in turn can cause cracks to form in the tiles. This is actually very similar to the process that causes potholes on the roads!

The other potential issue is mold and mildew, or tiles coming away from the walls. If the water seeps all the way through, then it can sit behind the tiles where it might gradually degrade the adhesive and cause them to come away from the walls. Likewise, that moisture can create a dark and wet environment that is ideal for mold spores to set in. This can then cause a damp smell, as well as leading to health issues caused by the inhalation of mold.

Because tiles are cold, this also makes the moisture more likely to sit on them. That’s because the water droplets in the air will condense once they attach themselves to the wall, in turn causing it to become moldy.

Other issues can also occur if water gets behind tiles – it can seep down and get behind your bath for example. This can even lead to a leak going through the ceiling if you happen to have your bathroom upstairs on the top floor!

For all these reasons, it is important to think carefully about how you use your ceramic tiles.

How to Prevent Damp From Being an Issue in With Ceramic Tiles

So what can you do to prevent this issue?

One simple solution, is to consider alternatives to ceramic tiles. Stone tiles often are waterproof, and porcelain tiles are far more waterproof. Porcelain tiles have a very similar look to ceramic tiles, being also made from clay. However, they go through a different heating process which makes them less porous. This also makes them harder and less prone to chipping.

Different coatings can also be effective at helping to keep your ceramic tiles dry, and these will prevent the formation of water on your bathroom tiles directly. You should also consider underfloor heating, which can help you to combat moisture.

And that is really the most important tip: make sure that you prevent unnecessary moisture which can lead to mold and damage.

How to Keep Your Bathroom Dry and Mold Free

As you have probably gathered then, the secrets to keeping your bathroom mould free are to keep it warmer and to reduce the amount of steam and condensation in the room. To do the former, make sure that you keep your heating on when it’s cold, make sure that you have good quality roofing and windows for insulation, and don’t leave the window open too often when you’re not airing. Improving your roofing can also help reduce moisture that might possibly come from above which you shouldn’t rule out.

Keeping steam and condensation down however is a little more difficult. For that, you will want to make sure that you open the window when washing and immediately afterwards. Likewise, you should invest in a bathroom fan/extractor fan that will come on when you turn on the bathroom light and remove the moisture from the atmosphere. If you have a real problem, you could even consider adding a dehumidifier to the hall just outside.

Other little tips can also make a big difference. Of course bathing/showering in water that’s a little cooler and not taking so long can help. But if you don’t fancy cutting bath time short then even just running the cold water first can help as it will mean that there isn’t any hot water standing in the room while you run the rest of the bath. Wiping down the bathroom afterwards can also make a huge difference. A great idea is to keep a dry cloth that you and even guests can use after using the bathroom in order to keep the bathroom dry.

Keep your room insulated, avoid making too much mess and be smart. In the long run a little effort now can save you a lot of trouble later on.

As you can see then, there is no reason not to enjoy the great look and many practical benefits of ceramic tiles… just make sure that you look after them properly and don’t assume they’re waterproof!

Article by Mike Lovatt

Here at Atlas Ceramics we import and distribute high quality products to support the tiling industry. These products include Polished tiles, Matt tiles or Satin tiles for the wall and floor, ceramic and porcelain tiles, natural stone and mosaics, from Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

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