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Understanding Tile Finishes

10 May 2021

When choosing tiles for your home or workplace it is just as important to consider the finish of a tile along with the colour, shape and size. Do you want tiles that absorb light or have a high degree of reflectivity, or maybe something in between? What about texture or slip resistance? There is a bewildering array of finishes which are often designed for use in specific applications. It is therefore essential to understand the differences, where they should be used and how they will affect the design of a space.

When you visit our stores, our showroom staff will help you seamlessly navigate the myriad of finishes and ensure you find the right tile for your design scheme and application. But for those of you who love to delve a little deeper we have prepared a summary of the variety of finishes currently available.


Different areas have different tile surface requirements. Cave Forte Rock 595x595mm polished and outdoor anti-slip. Indent only.



Polished stone or porcelain is achieved when a tile has repeatedly passed under a series of polishing wheels, with each iteration using increasingly finer pads, water and a polishing compound. This process is repeated until a smooth and shiny reflective surface is achieved. Natural stones are usually finished at this point and require sealing upon or just prior to installation. Many porcelain tiles these days are nano sealed by the manufacturer requiring no further action by the purchaser, however some polished porcelain will need to be sealed. Whilst porcelain tiles are inherently non-absorbent, the polishing process does create miniscule pin holes that can absorb dirt, so sealing is essential.  Polished tiles have a very luxurious and elegant character but do have a higher slip risk than non-polished.


Polished porcelaain finish. Pieno Perla Vernata polished 600x1200mm.



A glossy finish is different from polished, in that it is created with a glossy glaze instead of a polishing wheel process.  A glaze is basically a glass-like layer added to the surface of a tile to protect any printed design and seal the tile surface, making it non-absorbent and easier to clean. These can be both ceramic and porcelain tiles. A glazed finish can be glossy, matt or textured.  Virtually all wall only tiles are glazed and most contemporary porcelain and ceramic floor tiles. A glossy glazed tile has a reflective surface and can brighten up a space. They are easy to clean and can add a sense of luxury and a very modern feel. Really high gloss tiles are often less resistant to abrasion and designed for wall only use. Glossy tiles can have even higher reflective properties than polished and are preferred on walls.


Glossy finish - glazed porcelain wall tile, Tribeca Sage Green 60x246mm



A lappato finish, is also known as semi-polished or honed. They are partially polished with fewer iterations and polishing wheels used than fully polished tiles.  They are generally comprised of porcelain and can be glazed or unglazed. The effect is a soft matt finish with areas of sheen that play gently with light. It is a very contemporary finish and popular on both floors and walls. They are the perfect balance between polished and matt tiles, with a higher shine than matt, but a gentler finish than a traditional polished tile. 


Lappato tiles have a semi-polished finish. The lappato texture varies depending on the design of the tile collection.

Punto Latte Zero Lappato 600x600mm - no longer in stock.



Matt, or matte, tiles do not reflect light and can be smooth or textured. They are designed to absorb light, the exact opposite of a polished or glossy finish. This lack of reflectiveness creates a softer and more contemporary look. Matt tiles are more slip resistant than polished tiles when wet and are the most common finish for our interior floors, whilst also being very popular on the walls. Matt tiles can come in a wide variety of textures and degrees of slip resistance.


Many designs and styles can have a matt finish. Featured here is Penny Round Palissandro Blue natural stone mosaic,

Sospiri Bianco 121x 140mm glazed ceramic wall tile and Frammenta Pearla 600x600mm glazed porcelain.



Generally exterior areas such as front entrances, pool surrounds, and ramps require the highest level of slip resistance. As such, most outdoor anti-slip tiles have a fine grit or sand added to a matt glaze to create a rough almost sandpaper-like finish. These are not used in interior areas as they are very difficult to clean. In exterior areas they can be scrubbed and hosed down, or even water-blasted to clean.

Rough gritty surface of the exterior anti-slip tile. Cave Portovenere Rock 590x590mm.



Microtec finishes are the future of tile surfaces and relatively new to the New Zealand tile market. They are a smooth matt finish tile with incredibly high levels of slip resistance. They can be laid throughout interior and exterior areas, even poolside, whilst remaining easy to clean. Microtec is a manufacturing technology that is incorporated into the glazing of porcelain tiles that becomes an intrinsic part of the tile. It will never wear off. They look and feel amazing, and we certainly expect these to eventually displace the traditional sandpapery finishes of the most slip resistant tiles.

Microtec has the look and feel of a smooth indoor matt tile but has very high anti-slip properties and can also be laid in exterior areas.

Enzo Coal Microtec 600x600mm.


Whilst these are the key terms you will hear to describe the surface of a tile, there are a few other terms frequently used that can add to the confusion. These include:


SOFT / SATIN finish tiles – which are matt tiles with an incredibly smooth finish that feels lovely to touch.

Soft or satin finish - a very smooth an incredibly tactile matt finish. Statuario Satin 600x1200mm.


TEXTURED tiles encompass a wide array of matt finishes that are made by pressing the materials into a mold that gives a textured effect. These molds can be of natural stone, wood, concrete, chiseled stone, tin, the options are virtually limitless.

Textured finish - Evo-Q Light Grey Mix 200x1200 has three different textured surfaces.


MULTI-FIRED – are textured tiles often with a 3d-effect or metallic detailing. They are usually created through repeated additions of layered detailing and firing in a kiln beyond the one or two firings most other tiles undergo.


A multi-fired tile with a 3-D effect. Diamond Deep Blue 400x800mm ceramic wall tile.

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