Ceramic tiles have been made for thousands of years for decorative purposes. Their origin lies in the Near East while tiles did not come to general use in Europe until the late 12th century—with the exception of Moorish Spain where the technique of tiling arrived together with the Islamic invasion in the 7th century. From there it spread to other Mediterranean countries. In the 16th and the 17th centuries Portugal and Holland were the leading countries of tile design which took its inspiration from the blue and white Chinese Ming porcelain.
Tiles are best suited as cladding on masonry or concrete structures. In countries where most houses were made of timber the use of tiles was quite naturally limited to stoves. Today everyman’s bathroom is lined with ceramic tiles, but less than a century ago tiles were a luxury item in homes around the Baltic Sea (so were bathrooms!). Tiles were, however, used here already in the late 19th century in hospitals, dairies, slaughter houses and other similar places where the requirements for good hygiene are obvious. Today the challenge is the waterproofing of floors and walls in bathrooms.
There are various kinds of ceramic tiles on the market which are suited to different functions and situations in a house. They are classified by their production method and according to how much water they can absorb. Modern tiles are generally dry pressed into shape and then fired at a temperature between 1000 and 1200°C: higher temperatures give products of higher durability.
Further details on ceramic tiles and bricks (in Swedish): Historia om kakel och klinker, Internet www.publicaddress.se
In autumn 2014, the Intensive Course No. 5 Brick Constructions and Ceramic Tiles in Ekenäs, Finland, concentrated on both brick constructions and the use of tiles from a historical, conservationist and practical point of view.