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belgian reproduction - installation guide

A Message from clé
As is standard in the tile industry, installation deems acceptance of materials. Do not install if there are visible issues. Our tiles are subject to variations in color, texture, size and finish. Misuse by contractor or end-user including but not limited to negligence, physical and/or chemical abuse is not covered by clé’s warranty.

clé’s guides are only to help direct you in the right path for a proper installation. Each project is unique and therefore requires a professional who can provide the exact specifications for your project. Installation methods should conform to The Tile Council of North America’s Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation (current edition).

IMPORTANT: Critical Installation Note

Note that in order to achieve a darker look with belgian reproduction flemish black tiles (dark grey/black finish), pieces can be intentionally stained with grout. Do not seal or use grout release prior to grouting. If sealant or grout release is applied to the tile prior to grouting this will prevent the dye in the grout from penetrating the tile. Avoid using quick drying grouts.

Preparing Walls and Floors

Blending

  • Due to color and shade variations, mix tiles from all boxes once they arrive and place them in their installation area for a few days prior to installation. 

    • Much like hardwood, this allows the tiles to absorb the humidity of the space around them before installation.

Subfloor and Substrate Preparation 

  • Subfloor and substrate play vital roles in tile installation. Refer to the TCNA Handbook (current edition) for the most appropriate installation method for your projects needs.

  • Substrates should be structurally sound, free of coatings, loose debris and other bond-impeding substances. 

  • Before installing, make sure your substrate is level, clean, dry, strong and has a slightly rough surface. 

Floor Installations  

  • A concrete slab is the best subfloor to install over. 

    • Wood subflooring is also acceptable - given that your floor joists can support the weight of the installation. 

Concrete Slabs

  • Do not lay tiles directly onto fresh (uncured) concrete.

  • If installing over a slab, ensure it is the right height, level and fully cured, which takes 28 days. 

    • Important note: A fully cured concrete slab is not necessarily moisture-free - this can be problematic if left unchecked. Moisture left in the slab will escape through the tiles leaving behind powdery white limestone deposits (efflorescence). 

    • To check the moisture content, tape a piece of clear plastic wrap (about the size of a piece of paper) onto your slab making sure edges are thoroughly taped down and allow to sit overnight. If you see condensation under the plastic the next day, apply a waterproof membrane before proceeding with your installation.

Wood Flooring  

  • Assuming that your floor joists are sufficient and not flexing, you can install tile over a plywood subfloor if the following requirements are met:

    • It complies with the architect’s specifications for your site 

    • You first put down a quality brand and dimensionally stable cement backer board. Backer boards provide a firm and even surface for tile. 

  • If your installation cannot accommodate the thickness of cement backer board, you will need to use an underlayment membrane to ensure proper installation. 

    • We recommend Schluter and Noble for installation mats.

Wall Installations 

  • Belgian Reproduction tiles can be installed over the following surfaces: drywall, plaster, cement block and cement backer board (for moist areas). 

  • Walls still require the same substrate care as floors.

    • Walls require a flat, smooth and dry surface, completely free of any loose coatings. 

    • Any cracked surfaces must be scraped smooth and patched. 

  • If using a backer board, follow the installation guidelines from the backer board manufacturer. 

Wet Area Installations 

  • For areas subject to moisture (showers, pool surrounds, ect.) check with your architect or contractor to determine the level of waterproofing required.  

  • You may need moisture barriers, waterproof membranes or other moisture-resistant products (i.e. cement backer board). 

    • Review the manufacturer’s recommendations prior to installing

Expansion Joints 

  • Expansion joints are needed for any large floor or wall application(s) in order to prevent cracking or fracturing from movement of the substrate. 

  • Refer to the TCNA Handbook for how to properly place expansion, construction, isolation, contraction, generic and perimeter joints for wall installations.

Setting Tile 

Important - Review Before Setting: 

  • Install tiles after all other construction is completed - tiles dirtied at the construction site will be difficult to clean. 

  • Handle tiles carefully to avoid damaging edges, however, chipped edges can be eased with a dual grit sanding stone.

  • Layout tiles as a ‘trial run’ to ensure proper placement when they are laid in the mortar.

Setting Tile 

  • Apply a bond coat of modified mortar or non-sagging adhesive in accordance with adhesive manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Belgian Reproduction installation should utilize thinset methods leaving at least a ½” grout joint, avoiding the use of spacers. 

    • Clean the excess dust from the tiles prior to setting. 

    • Allow mortar to cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions prior to grouting or sealing.

  • The adhesive should completely cover the back of each tile. 

    • Back buttering is recommended for tiles 8” X 8” or larger. 

  • Gently press tiles into adhesive with a perpendicular back and forth motion to collapse ridges and ensure a level set. 

    • Do not hammer tiles into place.

    • Do not allow excess adhesive to form into the grout joints.

  • Continuously check that tiles are level throughout the installation. 

  • To avoid staining, quickly remove any adhesive from the tile surface using a damp cloth or sponge.

  • Let the tiles and mortar dry completely after installation, following the manufacturer's instructions. 

    • Drying can take several days depending on climate conditions. 

    • Do not seal, polish, cover or walk on your installation until it has dried completely.

Grouting 

Do not seal or use grout release prior to grouting if you will be intentionally staining the tile with grout for a darker finish on Flemish Black tiles. If sealant or grout release is applied it will prevent the dye in the grout from penetrating the tile.

There are two methods that can be used to grout the Belgian Reproduction - the traditional float method or a combination of using a grout bag and floating.

For the combination method, quickly fill the minimum ½” joints using a grout bag. Then add additional grout to the surface and float it over the unsealed tiles in order to stain them. 

The grouting instructions below are for the combination method.

Before Grouting

  • Clean the installation with warm water to remove any residual dust or dirt. If detergent was used be sure to rinse the floor thoroughly with plenty of clear water. 

  • Mix enough grout to fill a grout bag and have more on hand to smear over the tiles to stain them.

Applying Grout 

  • Dampen grout joints and tile with a sponge.

  • Working in smaller 3’x3’ or 4’x4’ sections fill joints using the grout bag.

  • Do not clean your grout joints yet.

  • Float grout over the section that was just filled.

  • To stain the tile, apply the grout in a thin layer using a rubber float.

    • The grout will be difficult to move around a dry tile so you may continue to lightly dampen the tile with a sponge as you float grout.

    • Do not to flood the tile with water as this could cause issues with the grout as well as efflorescence.

  • Remove excess grout with a trowel (do not scratch the tile) or a clean, slightly damp sponge. 

After Grouting

  • Clean any remaining spots of grout from the surface.

Sealing  

Belgian Reproduction tiles are porous and should be sealed to maintain their appearance and avoid staining. Sealing further protects tiles in a moderate traffic area for at least a year or even many years depending on usage. Always follow the sealant manufacturer’s instructions for reapplying sealant.

 

Before Sealing 

  • If you did not thoroughly clean your tiles after grouting, do so now. 

  • Tile surfaces must be free of moisture, grease, oil, dirt, wax or any other foreign matter.

    • If moisture is trapped under the sealant, dark patches and hairline cracks will develop.

Applying Sealant 

  • Apply a minimum of two coats of Miracle 511 Seal & Enhance to the entire installation (tiles and grout lines) following the manufacturer’s instructions. Up to four coats of sealant may be added to further enhance the dark color.

    • Do not cover or place anything on sealed tiles until they have completely dried as per manufacturer’s instructions.

Sealing Wet Areas (Backsplashes, Bathrooms and Showers) 

  • Use a waterproofing, penetrating sealer (Miracle 511 Seal & Enhance) to seal the tiles and grouted areas. 

  • Single coat reapplication of the penetrating sealer is required once a year in shower applications due to the continuous exposure to water.

  • Depending on your situation there may be more suitable sealant options. Consult with your contractor or installer and check with sealant manufacturers for more specific information.

  • Do not wax tiles in wet settings 

Sealing Outdoor Installations  

  • For exposure to freeze/thaw, use a waterproofing sealer on tiles.
    • Comply with the manufacturer’s instructions in order to properly seal tiles.
    • If water does not bead up on the surface of the tile, your tiles are not properly sealed.
  • Do not install tiles below grade (waterproofed or otherwise).
    • Tiles will still absorb ground moisture and have freeze/thaw and/or efflorescence issues.
  • Do not install tiles directly on soil as this can also cause freeze/thaw and/or efflorescence issues.
  • Walls will require weather flashing at the top of the installation.
    • Waterproof support will always be needed at the top of a wall installation to prevent moisture from forming behind tiles.
  • Do not wax tiles in outdoor settings 

Wax (Optional for Belgian Reproduction Installations)

To achieve a rustic textured look liquid wax can be applied to the surface and then sanded. Apply the liquid wax to the tile following the manufacturer’s instructions for application.

Once the wax has dried per the manufacturer’s instructions, lightly sand the tile to give it a rustic finish. Randomly sand the tile with 120 grit sandpaper using small circular motions (spending about 10 seconds on a tile). For best results this should be done by hand, a sanding block can be used for assistance. We do not recommend the use of electric palm sanders, as they will produce a surface that is too even in appearance.

Maintenance   

For cleaning of terracotta tiles, we recommend the use of colorless and neutral pH cleansers- only to be used for the purpose of removing soil or stains. Some clients prefer to use an oil-based cleanser such as Murphy's Oil Soap in order to allow the terracotta to deepen in tone and develop a patina more quickly. A nylon scrub brush used with such cleansers can be useful for particular rigorous maintenance as is necessary, and should be used only as a limited cleaning program.