How to Install Saltillo Tiles
Saltillo tiles are relatively inexpensive but installing the tiles is difficult and time-consuming which makes it very expensive. The tiles can’t be cut with a tile cutting board but with a diamond wet saw. This method takes extra care and time to do it right. Grouting the tiles also takes twice as long as other tile and that raises the cost as well.
Another major problem with installation is that the tiles are so porous they absorb the moisture from the grout and mortar. Even after they are set they are very easily stained with oil from the hands and scratched.
The first step in installing Saltillo tiles is soaking them in water so the grouting and mortar are not absorbed. Some installers then set the tiles with a thin mortar, grout the tiles and then use a sealant on both. This method tends to make the grout stick to the tiles which is impossible to remove. This installation method is definitely not for the do-it-yourself installer.
A second method is to soak the tiles, set them, and allow them to air dry. The tile is then sealed and then grouted. This keeps the grouting from sticking to the tile. The tile must be handled very carefully to prevent scratches and staining.
Professional installers charge $4.50 to $6.00 per square foot depending on location.
There are several treatments available depending on the look and feel you want. You have the choice of using a sealant to protect the surface from stains and scratches. Applying a mixture of linseed oil and paint thinner or a natural color enhancer gives you the natural, rustic beauty of the tile.
The tile can also be painted with a water-based paint or wood stain. Polyurethane protects the tile from rain and stains, provides a slip-resistant surface, and enhances the beauty of the tile. Whatever treatment you use will be absorbed very easily into the porous tile and will prevent the tile from being treated with other types of coatings in the future.
A sealant that forms a coating on the surface will protect and provide a glossy surface with several coats. An acrylic sealant won’t yellow and is long lasting. An acrylic floor polish can be applied over the acrylic sealant to add even more protection.