Ceramics & Porcelain

by Darren
Ceramics feature Jnl 1 15

Discover a wealth of new trends in ceramic and porcelain tiles and how these are adapted to suit the South African environment.

A bevy of new ceramic and porcelain tiles have filtered into the flooring industry, which is already making its mark in the South African sector. International expositions have been coherent in identifying these trends, especially with regard to ceramic and porcelain tiles, which have a reputation for being durable and long-lasting. In addition, they are easy to install and necessitate minimal cleaning as they don’t require sealing or deep-cleaning programmes.

The following pointers will highlight some of the most prominent trends that will undoubtedly affect the South African flooring industry going forward. New themes that have been identified this year include geometric designs, monochromatic colour combinations, interlocking tiles and tiles featuring inserts and unique details. The trend is also moving towards more surface texture (enabled by imminent digital dry and digital wet glaze application technology) on tiles that add depth to the products.

However, these trends are often adapted and customised to the needs of the country, which will implement and translate them in response to industry demand.

Telling Technology

Advancements in technology are still on the rise, resulting in the manufacturing of ceramic and porcelain tiles that will amaze and excite the flooring industry. Creating the look of wood and stone tiles inspired several introductions to the flooring sector via inkjet technology.

Current trends highlight the formation of wood looks that have intricate graining material, while also creating the appearance of hand-carved designs that are rustic and distressed – all thanks to technology.

Three-Dimensional (3D) technology is supremely popular, as it can create the look of highly textured materials that emulate the appearance of stacked stone, which is currently in great demand. A big trend has also been the use of decorative glazed porcelain tiles using 3D technology to mimic a look and feel of texture. 3D technology, along with inkjet and digital printing, has been successfully used to imitate the look of specific floor types such as stone. Inkjet has also allowed for the reproduction of marble-look-alike tiles that appear highly polished and are available in an array of colours.

Shapes, Patterns & Size

Another trend that has come to the fore is the use of raised patterns within tiles. Shapes and sizes in varying styles are making a big comeback within the flooring industry and tile sizes are getting larger.

Another trend involves the printing of patterns that can be effectively and strikingly used for branding, such as logos. Wood-look plank tiles with some areas painted and others not are also making their appearance. A unique application can be created by implementing patterns of weather-beaten, worn-out planks, for example, creating a look similar to that of exposed aggregates in cement.

The revival in terracotta floors made from glazed porcelains and no sealants are also available in numerous shapes, finished with hues of red and orange. This clearly explains why geometric designs are in trend – so too the varying shapes and sizes that increase the use of interlocking tiles.

It has become evident that the increase in tile size adds to the look of naturally ageing wood, which is why this trend continues to be seen in the industry, be it global or local.

Colours & Textures

Think bold and colourful with an authentic feel! Interiors that are clean, fresh and minimalistic are key, which is why white, black and varying grey tones are becoming more desirable, i.e. monochromatic colours are gaining significant momentum.

In addition, metallic colours that incorporate high-gloss, polished finishes are also prominent. However, even when a bold colour such as yellow is identified as a current trend, it doesn’t always imply that industry will go ahead and install a yellow floor.

These colour guidelines can be used in the form of accessories to accommodate these trends without committing to a bold floor type that will outlive the lifespan of trendy new flooring developments.

Future Foresight

According to Richard Nuss, Marketing Manager at Norcros SA (Pty) Ltd, new digital technologies are enabling more detailed designs, particularly digital glaze application which allows for matt and gloss finishes on the same tile. Furthermore, wood-look porcelain and ceramic planks will continue to grow in popularity. “Specifically to the commercial market, but also in domestic applications, cement and concrete designs will be among the favourite options,” he notes.

When asked how the South African flooring industry will implement these trends, Richard first highlights that several of these trends in colour and design are available from local manufacturers and, if the project is large enough, customised designs are indeed possible. “Existing technologies such as water-cutting gives specifiers and contractors alike an opportunity to ‘slice and dice’ tiles into different shapes and formats, while offering a long-lasting and hardwearing ceramic surface,” he states.

South African Implementation

Industry professionals are of the opinion that South Africa will become more subtle in its colour usage regarding ceramic and porcelain tiles, opting for blue and white floors and rather incorporating brighter accessories. In addition, it is believed that sandstone and slate designs – with their earthy and homogeneous tones – will remain a favourite option in South Africa.

Richard continues by highlighting that translucent tiles are a major innovation in Europe, but local applications are limited. “The market is starting to see a range of polished options, with semi-polished products leading the way with their great combination of smooth and matt finishes, ensuring a beautiful but forgiving surface to the tile,” he continues. “These semi-polished products prevent scratches from becoming quickly visible, so that the tile surface is left in pristine condition for a much longer period of time. Digital technologies and designs have no effect on the surface of the tile, and these beautiful designs last just as well as the classic roto-colour tiles.”

It has become evident that the future of ceramic and porcelain tiles offers exciting opportunities for manufacturers to create and then install flooring types that not only comprise quality products, but are so authentic in appearance that they cannot be distinguished from their natural counterparts. Consequently, manufacturers of these particular types of flooring will continue to enhance their product offerings, and in turn introduce trends that ignite industry input.

Acknowledgements and thanks are given to the following for the information contained within this article: Richard Nuss, Marketing Manager in the Tile Africa and Johnson Tiles divisions of Norcros SA (Pty) Ltd; Lance Foxcroft, CEO of Ceramic Industries Limited; and Coverings 2014 Exhibition.

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