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Tile Flooring Lifecycle

Phoho of ceramic
tile in a dining area or coffee 

When it comes to tile flooring, there are many types to choose from. In this section we've focused on the lifecycle of ceramic tile flooring (which includes porcelain), as well as glass tile, two of the most commonly used tiles today.

Throughout the lifecycle of tile flooring, it can have several different environmental impacts. Eco–friendly, green tile flooring made from recycled post–consumer or pre–consumer content is one of the greener alternatives on the market. Recycled glass tile is pieced out of previously used glass from household waste (such as pickle and mayo jars) and windows as well as post–industrial content such as defective windows that never make it to consumers. Recycled ceramic tiles are most commonly made with post–industrial content from mine or factory waste. This is often generated from the manufacturing of ceramic tiles made with new materials. Post–consumer ceramic tiles can also be broken into pieces and recycled to be used in tile mosaics. As an added benefit, recycled tiles are often made locally so they don't have to be transported great distances. At the end of their life, recycled content floors tiles can often be recycled and used to make new flooring once again.

Use this section to learn more about the lifecycle of ceramic and glass tiles from manufacturing to disposal, and why they can be an eco–friendly and practical choice for your home.

Featured Tile Products

Manufacturing of Ceramic Tile and Glass Tile Flooring

Factory illustration representing the 
manufacturing process of tile

The process of obtaining new raw materials and manufacturing ceramic or glass tile flooring can be energy intensive. One must consider equipment and energy needed to mine the resources, transport the raw materials, and manufacture the ceramic or glass tile flooring. In addition, these processes can result in environmental pollution and negatively impact land and water quality.

To reduce the negative impacts that manufacturing tile flooring can create, manufacturers can use recycled content in their tiles. Both post–industrial content and post–consumer recycled content can be used to make eco–friendly ceramic or glass tiles, reducing the need for new resources and the energy required to obtain them.

Transportation of Ceramic and Glass Tile Floors

Truck illustration representing 
transportation of tile flooring product

Ceramic and glass tiles can be manufactured just about anywhere in the world and shipped to just about anywhere. First resources are shipped to the manufacturer for production of the tiles, and then the tiles are shipped either to local floor retailers and green building supply stores or directly to consumers. Because these floor tiles are relatively heavy when compared to most other types of flooring, they require more energy for transportation. Longer transportation distances obviously mean more fuel usage which overall can contribute to global warming and increase the product's carbon footprint.

While those imported ceramic tiles may be the look you have been searching for, locally sourced tiles are usually more environmentally friendly simply due to the fact that they won't travel a great distance to reach you. You can often find locally sourced recycled glass, ceramic, and porcelain tiles, though product availability can vary by area depending on what materials are available. The less distance recycled glass tiles have to travel, the smaller their carbon footprint will be.

Installation of Ceramic and Glass Tile Flooring

Illustration of tools representing the  
installation process of tile flooring

Proper installation is very critical to the "greenness" of your glass or ceramic tile floor as properly installed tile floors last longer and require fewer replacements.

Glass tile and ceramic tile are installed using very similar products and methods. Common products used to install glass and ceramic tile include mortar, grout, anti–fracture membranes, self–leveling underlayments and more. To make your tile flooring installation as green as it can be, choose eco–friendly supporting materials to work with such as green tile grout, and so on. These materials will commonly have green certifications for low VOC's and meet E1 standards.

Care and Maintenance of Ceramic Tile and Glass Tile Flooring

Globe or
Earth image representing environmental 

When considering the lifecycle of glass tile flooring and ceramic tiles and the effects they have on the environment, one must also take into consideration tile floor cleaners and cleaning equipment used to clean tile floors. When possible, choose green tile cleaners that have low levels of VOCs and are deemed biodegradable. If using a tile floor cleaning machine, be sure to choose energy and water efficient, eco–friendly machines. By taking these steps, your tile floor cleaning can be just as green as your eco–friendly tiles themselves. For a more in–depth tile floor how to guide on care and maintenance, visit FindAnyFloor's section on Tile Flooring Care and Cleaning.

Disposal, Reuse or Recycling of Tile Flooring

Green Recycle Symbol
representing reuse and recycling of tile 

Ceramic and glass tile flooring will often last for generations, but eventually will need replacing. When taking up old tiles, they can be disposed of, reused, or recycled. By choosing to reuse or recycled your ceramic tiles or glass tiles, you can further contribute to the green movement. The difficult part can be finding a way to reuse or recycle your tile floors. Some local recycling facilities may recycle your old tiles for you, but many will charge a fee to do so. If the tiles are unbroken and in good condition once removed, you can reuse them by cleaning off any adhesives and reinstalling in another area. Ceramic and glass tiles that are broken can often be used to make tile murals. Architectural salvage warehouses will sometimes purchase salvaged tiles and thrift or second chance stores, community centers, and other local organizations will often take tile donations.

For more information on eco–friendly, recycled content floor tiles, visit FindAnyFloor's section on Green Tile Flooring Buying Questions.