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Heath Tile FAQs

Our tile is made by hand, glazed by hand, and fired and finished in our tile factory in San Francisco’s Mission District. We create glazes based on Edith Heath’s proprietary formulas, and design new ones based not on what’s trendy, but what’s beautiful, functional, and quintessentially Heath.

Understanding Heath tile: what perfectly imperfect means.

While we have high standards of quality, we do embrace variation as essential to the character and beauty of our tile. Glazes vary and are given a designation from 1-5, based on the degree of variation you can expect. At the same time, certain shapes, sizes, and clay bodies may vary as well. (You can expect +/- 1/16" variation, especially on longer tiles.) Your Tile Specialist will help you understand what to expect and how to make the most of the variation for your project.

Color & glaze variation

Variation in the glaze color/texture is rated 1–5. Glazes rated 1 exhibit very little variation; higher ratings show very high tonal and hue shifts. For glazes with a variation of 4 or 5, it is recommended to request several samples to accurately depict the effect the variation will have on the installation. Your Tile Specialist will help you understand what to expect and how to make the most of the variation for your project. You can also find some important installation tips here.

Lengthwise bowing & surface undulation

Clay is an elastic material. If you force an elastic material into a mold, it will attempt to regain its original shape as it moves through the production process. For this reason, you can expect your tile to have what we deem to be an acceptable amount of lengthwise bowing, especially in our longer shapes.

Surface undulation can occur in our tile for the same reason that bowing occurs. Undulation can be anything from a slightly raised corner or edge to undulation across the entire surface. Your Tile Specialist will help you understand what to expect and how to make the most of the variation for your project. Get more important installation tips here.


Heath Tile is very durable, making it suitable for most interior and exterior applications, including warm and cold climates (freeze/thaw), residential and commercial floors, walls, counters, showers, baths, swimming pools, spas and fountains (although certain glazes benefit from a pre-grout seal for wet environments; contact your tile specialist for further information on which glazes require a pre-grout seal).

Stoneware vs. porcelain

Heath tile is considered a stoneware tile, which differs from porcelain in the coarseness of the clay and the lowered firing temperature. However, our clay bodies are very unique for stoneware, as they are virtually non-porous and very durable. This means that they can, in many cases, take the place of porcelain.

Working with different clay bodies

At Heath, we offer two clay bodies: white and manganese. Each has distinct characteristics. In general, we do NOT recommend using two different clay bodies in a single project, since the differences between the two may unnecessarily complicate the installation process.

Finish options

While there are some similar colors in both finishes, matte glazes cannot be made “glossy” or vice versa: glaze formulas are unique to their color and finish and cannot be modified independently. Custom options may be available for certain projects. Please contact your Tile Specialist for more information.

Please note that some glazes are less acid resistant than others (listed along with the variation number), which may factor into your specific project needs. Our Tile Specialists can help you decide what’s best for your project.

Sealing tile

Textured matte and crackle glazes will benefit from a pre-grout seal to aid in grout haze removal and prevent staining from saturated grout colors. Installed tile should be sealed again after grouting to protect the grout and glaze, and potentially re-sealed annually if in a wet location or food prep area. This is particularly important for crackle glazes as the crackle will continue to develop when repeatedly exposed to moisture.

Tile care

You should be able to use any cleaning product specified for tile, though we suggest first testing the product in an inconspicuous area to be sure. Bar Keepers Friend is a product we use often and highly recommend. (You can find it in our store or most large hardware stores.) If your tile has a non-acid-resistant glaze, avoid cleansers that contain acids (such as vinegar and lemon juice). Also, avoid highly abrasive cleansers on higher gloss tiles as they may become scratched. Some tiles should be towel dried after cleaning to avoid watermarks caused by hard water.

Tile ordering considerations

Minimizing risk
We strongly recommend ordering 10% more tile than you think you need. This is a general rule of thumb when ordering tile, and it’s important to keep in mind. Usually when a tile is cut, the remaining piece can’t be used anywhere else, resulting in fewer tiles than expected. Job Completions (placing a small order to make up for the tile shortage) are costly and time consuming, and can often be avoided by ordering the recommended 10% overage.

As a general rule, tile is one of the last materials installed on a project. If additional tile is needed at this stage, there are often delays in the completion of the overall project. In addition, due to the inherent batch variation with Heath tile, a second run could end up looking significantly different from the original order.

Small vs. large quantities
Clients are often surprised that ordering a small quantity of tile is more expensive than a large one. Surprisingly, it is very time consuming to produce small quantities of tile. The setup time to make one, twenty-five, or 500 square feet takes the same amount of time — changing tools, cleaning glaze guns, setting application parameters, etc. So, the production cost per square foot is considerably higher for the low quantities.

Face Mounting
Nothing beats a hand installation of a handmade tile, since each piece is unique and benefits from careful placement of individual tiles. For easier installation, some of our smaller tiles can be prearranged onto large adhesive sheets. However, adjustments still need to be made during installation. We recommend 10% of your order be unmounted for seam and edge transitions.

Installing Heath tile

Visit our page on Installation Tips for detailed information on your install.



Interested? The Next Step

Send us a note to let us know how we can help with your project.

We also have tile showrooms in Sausalito, Los Angeles, and San Francisco if you want to see the product firsthand.


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    Dwell Patterns

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    Dual Glaze

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    In-Stock Palette

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    Stan Bitters

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