Choosing & Installing Heath
The distinctive, handcrafted nature of Heath tile is beautiful, but it does take careful installation.
The following guides will help you in your planning and installation in general, and in working with specific patterns. Please read these carefully, ask your Tile Specialist any questions you may have, and keep these on hand during the installation process.
We offer two types of tile
You order the shape and glaze, and we make it for you. With over 100 glazes and dozens of shapes and sizes to choose from, our Made-to-Order tile is a powerful, versatile tool for architects, designers, professionals and homeowners. Our Made-to-Order Collections are Classic Field, Dimensional, Tapestry, Dwell Patterns, Mural, Dual Glaze Rectangles, and Dual Glaze Triangles. Made-to-Order tile is subject to lead times.
Overage and pieces that do not live up to our first-quality standards, offered at up to 75% off retail. Available exclusively from the Overstock Tile Shed in Sausalito.
Designing Your Tile Installation
Before choosing your tile, consider these guidelines to select the right color, pattern, and feel for your project.
Scale the tile for the space. You can use a large tile for a small space to make a statement, but it’s often safer to choose a smaller tile.
Try not to mix tile sizes and shapes. Generally it’s safer to keep to a consistent tile size, although we’ve also seen it work when mixing sizes is part of the design intent and works well with the context.
Avoid mixing different clay bodies. At Heath, we offer three clay bodies: white, brown and manganese. Each has distinct characteristics that may make it more challenging to install together.
Tile should work with the light in the room under multiple conditions. Like anything else, the texture and color of the tile should be chosen with an eye to the quality of light in the room – how much there is, and if there’s a cast to it – and the type of mood you’re after.
Pattern and Variation
Make sure there’s a clear focal point for the installation and that everyone (the homeowner, designer, contractor, installer) agree on where that is. A strong focal point will honor the overall design of the room, not just for the tiled surface. Use variation and pattern to bring the focus to where you want it, not away.
Make sure any pattern has enough space to repeat. This provides the greatest impact.
Consider the distance from which you’ll see it. If you’ll mostly be seeing the tile up-close, it pays to be extra-precise in layout, and the way in which things like corners come together. If it’s an accent wall you’ll see from far away, the emphasis moves to the overall look and effect.
Even if you’re working with a single glaze, a higher variation glaze will work a lot like pattern. High variation tile will have less chance of blending well in a smaller space, so the variation differences will be more evident. If this is the desired effect, great. If not, it’s best to consider a lower variation tile. Buy extra tile (particularly if it’s overstock) to take account of variation.
Think of grout as one of your most vital design tools. Grout can emphasize or lessen the depth and variation of our tile, creating texture and dimension – or it creates a surface where the tile becomes the backdrop to the grouted pattern.
Create pattern: High contrast grout emphasizes individual shapes and creates a strong pattern, while a tonal grout color, is more subtle, and puts the attention on texture and relief. Similarly, a wide grout line will emphasize pattern, while a very thin line emphasizes color, variation, and dimension.
Create visual unity: For installations using multiple glazes, using the same color grout as the underlying clay body ties the pattern together nicely, creating a sense of cohesiveness and flow.
Emphasize key tones: Use a grout color to bring out a particular tone in glaze, particularly if there’s a great deal of variation in a glaze and you’re seeking to emphasize a particular tonal range.
For more traditional designs, this means using bullnose or or glazed edge tile that blends with the rest of the installation. Schluter generally works better in more modern installations. Unless the Schluter edging is going to be used as an accent, the color should blend as closely as possible with the tile. Painted wood trim the color of your walls can also be used (especially with more traditional homes).
Hire a Pro
We strongly recommend hiring a professional (and preferably one who’s worked with Heath tile before) to install your tile.
Installing Your Tile
You have your tile, and are ready to install (hooray!). Here are few but very important items for you to consider to ensure your installation looks its very best.
Inspect and Sort
Once you’ve planned your installation, carefully inspect AND SORT the tile you’re working with (do this with all boxes). Heath Tile is designed to be perfectly imperfect (within defined tolerances) in glaze, size, and curvature. It’s imperative to understand the nature of the variation in your particular tile order:
- Inspect all of the tile in good light, and put aside pieces that really stand out.
- Sort the tile into at least 3 piles (and up to 5 piles for higher variation glazes) by groups of color, darkness, and lightness. Pull from them in equal rate to create a consistently blended surface.
- Tiles should also be sorted based on their length and direction of bowing, especially on longer tiles and dimensional shapes. Some shapes and sizes have more curvature than others.
Lay out the tile in advance in good light to help the eye to pick up subtle variation. (Especially recommended when working with white glazes.) In general, the goal will be to get an even blend, and not large concentrations of color or tone. Examine the layout from both near and far.
Choose the right grout width. We recommend a minimum 1/8" grout line for smaller sizes, minimum 3/16"–1/4” for medium to large sizes. (See below for specific recommendations.) In some cases, an even wider grout line may be necessary to achieve the best overall look depending on specific tile characteristics and installation.
Wider grout lines give flexibility to adjust for natural size variations and curvature, and can coax the eye into registering straighter lines. A larger installation/area of tile allows for flexibility in your grout spacing.
Don't rely on one size spacers; shimming will help maintain level lines and create a balanced look throughout the installation.
We recommend using sanded grout formulated for 1/8” to 1/4” spacing. Some sanded grout may contain large/sharp aggregate that can scratch tile. If you’re grouting glossy tiles, we recommend testing the grout prior to grouting your installation. Every bag can be unique, so if your installation requires multiple bags, please test each bag. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing and applying grout.
Use Thinset, Mortar, or Mastic, depending on site underlayment requirements. (Keep in mind that mastic is more forgiving than thinset for moving things around.). If the tile is not flat, use a thicker layer of thinset to build up the tile. Review the installation, making any additional adjustments for color/size before grouting.
Pre-Seal and Pre-Grout
Refer to our Tile Specifications Booklet (PDF) for pre-grout seal recommendations by glaze. Test grout in an inconspicuous area before installation for color and aggregate mix.
Take out spacers on a daily basis (after setting). Make sure to clean off extra thin-set and grout along the way before it hardens too much! Grout haze should be cleaned off the surface of the tile immediately.
Mounted material is blended in the factory, with modules intended to “assist” successful installation. Color variation and module blending will require cutting through tape and adjustment of individual pieces of tile. Refer to your tile pattern instructions for more detail.
Once face mounting has been removed, re-evaluate the overall module layout, variation and grout spacing, and make any required adjustments before grouting.
Recommended Grout Spacing
1/8" Minimum recommended grout
2x2, 2x4, 2x6, 3x3, 1x3, 3.5" hex, 4" right triangle, little diamond, half hex, wide hex
3/16" minimum recommended grout
2x8, 2x9, 2x12, 3x6, 3x9, 3x12, 4x4, 4x8, 6x6, 5" hex, 6" right triangle, bowtie, oval, diamond, dimensional triangle
1/4" minimum recommended grout
6x12, 12x12, crease in, crease out