What to Know About Rectified Tile

Eleganza Neutra Rectified Tile

Eleganza Tile

Rectified tile is a term that is applied to specialty ceramics and porcelains. What does it mean when a tile is rectified? Are rectified tiles better than those that are not rectified?

What Rectified Tile Is

Rectified tile is fired tile—ceramic or porcelain tile—that has been mechanically cut or ground down to an exact size. 

Since it applies only to the tile's edges, it is called an edge treatment. Additionally, the edges are usually precisely cut at a square: a 90-degree angle.

Rectification is not considered better than other edge treatments. It is just a different treatment that allows for a different look: neat, trim, and precise, with narrow grout lines.

Where to Find Rectified Tile

All major tile manufacturers carry rectified tile. You usually need to look at the specifications and edge finish, to determine if a tile is rectified.

By default, all mosaic tiles are rectified since they are cut. But since mosaics are often stuck to a mesh backer, you won't be able to lay those tiles close together. You'll need to look for loose mosaic tiles if you want that.

Also by default, any kind of natural stone tile is rectified since it is not fired. All natural stone is cut and thus is rectified. This applies both to stone cut from the slab as well as engineered stone.

Rectification Controls Tile Shrinkage

If you have ever baked a pizza, bread, or cookies, you know that it is impossible to predict the eventual size of the product. 

With heat, it first expands, then it contracts as it cools. While ceramic and porcelain clays do have more predictability than dough, they still are subject to size variability based on minute differences in firing temperatures and composition of materials: tile shrinks upon firing.

Ordinary tiles that are molded and then fired, but not rectified, will have slight dimensional differences that may affect how neatly and precisely the tiles are laid out. It is important to note that rectifying affects only the tile's facial dimensions, meaning the side-to-side sizing you see when looking down at a tile. It will not correct the thickness of the tile.

Rectified Tiles Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Rectified tiles look very trim and neat when they are expertly laid.
  • Rectified tiles collect less debris because there are smaller and fewer grout lines.

Cons

  • Rectified tiles are usually more expensive than regular fired tiles since an additional step is required to produce them.
  • Rectified tiles can be more difficult to set because the grout joints are smaller.
  • When the edges of rectified tiles chip, the chips can be more noticeable since the edges are so straight and precise.

Reasons to Buy Rectified Tile

You Want Thin Grout Lines

For most homeowners, the main reason to buy rectified tile is to have a tile installation with minimal grout joints. The thicker the grout line, the more tolerance you have available to accommodate oddly sized tiles.

One way to look at this is to look at the opposite: tiles with ragged edges. Notice that quarry tiles—those thick, often red, and not rectified tiles seen outdoors—may have lines as thick as 1/2-inch. One reason for these wide grout joints is to cover for imperfect facial dimensions.

You Want to Lay Larger-Sized Tiles (15 Inches or More)

It is rare to find small rectified tiles. Just how small is the minimum, though?

Generally, a 12-inch by 12-inch tile is the smallest rectified tile that you'll find. An exception would be with mosaics that are 1-inch square or 2-inch square and are cut (and therefore technically rectified). But they are mesh mounted and the grout joint is predetermined.

You Want a Clean, Precise Grout Line

The clean, 90-degree angle afforded by the tile-cutting saw means that your grout line would be equally clean. 

For materials like honed, polished tiles that readily show errors, rectification is a necessity. It's important to make certain that your substrate is absolutely flat when laying large rectified tile.

You do not have the surface tolerances with larger tile that you might with 4-inch by 4-inch or 2-inch by 2-inch or certainly mosaic tile. Lippage will be immediately apparent when laying tile with thin grout lines.

You Want Fired Tile, Not Natural Stone

Rectified applies only to fired tile. You do not find the term applied to marble, granite, or travertine. Since these are natural stones, they are, by definition, already rectified since they need to be cut from larger blocks of stone.