One of the most common flooring or cladding used in middle and upper class residential projects as well as commercial projects is ceramic tiles. Starting prices of ceramic tiles have come down considerably over the last two decades, driven by mass production. They provide users a wide range of colour and design options, are quick and easy to install and give a fairly long life. Due to these benefits, ceramic tiles have almost completely replaced flooring options used a few decades back; plain cement, red oxide, and mosaic etc. Premium ceramic tiles have also replaced natural stone flooring like marble and granite.
However, there are some areas where ceramic tiles are not appropriate. For example, in applications demanding a traditional aesthetic. In such applications, there are a few traditional cladding and flooring options that are still available to users. However, since these alternative products cannot be mass produced to the extent of ceramic tiles, they will inherently remain a niche option. Typically, such flooring are custom made on order; delivery lead time being 1 or 2 months at the least depending on order size.
They originate from a small town in the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu. The manufacturing process is manual and orders are almost always custom made. A number of units operate in and around Athangudi.
The tile is essentially made of three layers and is constructed upside down. The top layer is constructed rst on a glass plate using a stencil with the design. A frame keeps the contents that are applied within the stencil from falling off. The top layer consists of cement and sand mixed with pigments to give different colours. After the top layer, the middle layer is constructed by adding a mixture of dry cement and sand. Finally, the bottom layer is constructed using a mixture of water, cement and sand. After a day, the tile is cured in a water bath for 7 to 10 days before usage.
Bharat Floorings, Mumbai
It is probably the oldest company in India manufacturing cement tiles (Established 1922). Keeping a low profile over the years, it is among the few companies which can supply high quality cement tiles with traditional patterns to a discerning audience. They have been successful by sticking to their original products and designs; relying on the heritage value. Over the years, their clientele includes colonial era buildings, landmark suburban stations in Mumbai, hotels, private residences etc. They have a strong legacy in and around Mumbai but their products can be found all over India.
The manufacturing process has some similarities with Athangudi Tiles. The key differences include mechanization; for example, usage of hydraulic presses to increase its compactness and consequently, its specifications and performance.
Blue Jaipur Tiles
It is believed that blue pottery came to Jaipur through interaction with what is now Afghanistan. With support from local rulers, it came to widely used in the region. Though more commonly used to make pottery, one of the products that can be manufactured using this old technique are wall tiles. Such tiles can be found in historic structures like the Purana Qila & Sheesh Gumbaj in Delhi, Man Palace of Gwalior etc.
The raw materials (Quartz, Glass Powder, and Other Materials) are mixed and cast into a mould with the required shape. The moulded part is then dried and then coated with a primer before painting colouring, glazing and finally fired in a kiln.
Off late, this art has been on the decline due to inability to standardize and modernize production process in small scale units, inability to find suitable alternatives to rare raw materials that are needed, and inability to market products to prospective customers among others.
These flooring options can be considered in projects where an ethnic or traditional look and feel is required. In some cases, these options can also reduce the carbon footprint of a building; due to reduction in distance of transport of material from afar; especially with respect to imported options. Since these flooring materials can’t be mass produced relative to modern options like ceramic tiles, they won’t be appropriate for large projects. Typical usage would be in ne dining restaurants, heritage hotels, premium homes, premium retail shops, or villas built with a traditional theme etc.