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What is Vitreous Tile?

Victoria Blackburn
Victoria Blackburn

Vitreous tile is a type of ceramic tile that absorbs less than 3% moisture. Sometimes referred to as frost-resistant tile, it can be used in outdoor settings, but not in situations where there are freeze-thaw conditions, as it may cause the tiles to crack. Due to the density and compression strength of the tiles, they make a good choice for use on floors.

In addition to flooring, vitreous tiles can be used as wall coverings and also in colorful, aesthetically-pleasing mosaics. They are constructed with a shiny, usually colorful, face and ridged underside to help with adhesion. Once solely used for kitchens and bathrooms, vitreous tile designs have developed and are able to enhance any room of a residence or commercial setting.

Woman posing
Woman posing

Vitreous tiles are designed to have a low moisture absorption rate and make an excellent option for bathrooms or around pools and fountains. Pre-made tile mosaics are available in sheets that can be mounted directly onto walls. These are an attractive alternative to other wall coverings in bathrooms that require a water resistant treatment.

Home entranceways that have significant traffic areas and must withstand different weather conditions are a good candidate for vitreous tile. Made with durable, non-slip surfaces, this type of tile can endure in these areas and provide an impression of quality. Before installing any tiles, it is important to check the manufacturer’s recommendations as some vitreous tiles are not suitable for flooring applications due to their soft protective glaze.

Vitreous tiles are made from clay mixtures that are pressed into shape and cooked or fired at extremely high temperatures (2000°F or 1093°C) for up to 30 hours. This turns the tile to liquid and fuses it together like glass. Historically, tiles were fired twice. The first firing was without a finishing glaze, called bisque, and the second firing was performed with the application of a shiny finishing glaze. These days, the development of a single step process has allowed the body and glaze to be kiln-fired in one process called monocottura.

Due to the tile’s density, vitreous tile has an absorption potential between 0.5% and 3%. Installing this type of tile in an outdoor setting and subjecting it to cold weather freeze-thaw cycles may result in parts of the tile or glaze to spall, or flake off. This is caused from the expansion of the water in the tile as it goes through the freeze-thaw cycle. When using tile in cold weather climates, check the manufacturer’s warranty for being freeze/thaw stable.

Discussion Comments


@cellmania- A lot of it really depends on where you live. I have vitreous tiles on my back patio and it has always done fine. However, I live in Alabama and the weather is much warmer here than in some states.

I don’t have a swimming pool but I’m sure the rain has blown in a time or two. If you live in a cold climate, the combination of the moisture and the cold air can cause your tiles to crack. I think you will be okay with them inside your patio. I would love to change ours out and use some handmade tiles that I saw on a DIY show. They were gorgeous!


We have an enclosed patio with an in-ground swimming pool. My husband wants to do a small garden area inside the patio. He suggested we surround the garden area with vitreous tiles. We looked at some vitreous glass mosaic tiles and they are just gorgeous! However, I was a little concerned with the moisture inside the patio messing up the tiles. Does anyone know if they would be okay to use in that situation?

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