Tile is produced in mass quantity and must endure several levels of quality control along the way to ensure that the tile is up to a specific standard of quality and beauty. Those tiles are what manufacturers refer to as “seconds, b-grade, or builder grade.” But is it worth it?
When tile is fired incorrectly, irregularities may appear. Bubbles, watermarks, discolorations take away from the beauty and quality of a tile that has passed quality control. (Warped tile is unusable.) While you may be able to live with tile that suffers visual imperfections, the tile still needs to stand the rigors of time, especially if it’s floor tile.
Budgetary considerations are often the reason some of us buy seconds. You can purchase seconds for a huge discount, but you may not know the consequences of the choice until you’ve opened the boxes. And will you have enough?
There’s a chance that some of the tiles are already damaged, or could be damaged in transit, or when installed. The general rule when purchasing seconds is to buy 20% over what you think you’ll need in case any of the aforementioned scenarios are in play or have occurred. Plus, some seconds tile sellers won’t allow you to check the tile before you purchase a box; others don’t allow for returns. Who wants to be stuck with boxes of damaged tile?
Seconds don’t meet the ANSI A137.1 standards. ANSI A137.1 is a 2012 standard titled “American National Standard Specifications for Ceramic Tile.” The standards apply to ceramic tile and describes a wide variety of quality control metrics.
“These Specifications describe the normally available sizes and shapes of ceramic tile; the physical properties of Standard Grade and Second Grade Ceramic Tile, Decorative Tile, and Specialty Tile; the basis for acceptance and methods of testing prior to installation; the marking and certification of ceramic tile; and the definitions of terms employed in these specifications.” — American National Standards Institute, Inc.
There are many different quality control tests tile manufacturers execute while tile is being produced. Inspectors check for imperfections, flaws, and defective material as the tile is produced. There’s a level of quality that must be maintained that not all tile can meet. Tile is graded as either first or second choice. Anything beyond a second is taken right the equipment and discarded.
Characteristics of Second Choice tile:
• Off-Size. Size of tile vary more than the industry tolerance of 1/16″.
• Off-Shade. Different shades are present between tiles, sometimes very noticeably.
• Wrong Color. Tiles that come off the production line a different color that what was originally specified.
• Chipped edges. Tile corners that are chipped somewhere between forming and baking. Not often noticeable, but there are no guarantees in an unopened box.
• Glaze Imperfections. Imperfections during the firing. From pin-holes to uneven lines that span the body of the tile.
So basically, you have two choices to consider when buying tile: First Choice tile has no major flaws or defects. Any imperfection is rare and doesn’t affect the quality of the tile. Second Choice tile Failed quality control along the way and can have imperfections throughout any part of the tile.
Here at AFC Tile & Flooring we offer only first choice tile for the simple fact that it offers peace of mind in that it’s the best tile the manufacturers can offer.