POLISHED PORCELAIN TILES
A porcelain tile is an excellent quality ceramic tile this is due to its sintering at high temperature which results in high technical properties and characteristics, a fully impervious product with a high degree of hardness.
In an untouched state, the surface of porcelain tiles have very low open porosity, while internally, closed porosity is much higher. The higher porosity is a result of a grinding process, when 0.5mm to 1.0mm of material is removed from the surface layer, thus exposing a totally different surface quality, effecting light reflection, staining qualities and surface hardness.
A further application of a dedicated penetrating or nano sealer is often followed by most manufacturers to assist in the finished effects of light reflection.
The level to which the tile surface is ground determines the finished appearance of the tile, either a polished or honed finish. A honed surface finish has a low sheen when compared to a high polished surface finish.
High quality porcelain tiles achieve a very low water absorption level, this is usually below 0.1% and classified as ISO B1a; this is well within the required maximum 0.5% International Standard.
GENERALISATION: SURFACE REFLECTIVITY
Surface reflectivity is a surface effect that is known to occur on polished porcelain tiles that undergoes a surface grinding process during the manufacturing of the tile. A high polished finish can present itself to varying degrees as hazing or clouding on the surface of polished porcelain tiles when subjected to strong direct daylight or unnatural lighting.
This type of hazing/cloudiness within the surface of the polished porcelain tile is most noticeable in large areas where floor to ceiling windows are present. Surface reflectivity can be minimised through good design principles.
When reflective tile installations are subjected to strong direct daylight or unnatural lighting, they can cast undesirable shadows or reflect light unevenly at certain times of the day or under limited conditions, this can present a rather aesthetic problem for some customers.
However, its effects are restricted to a very low percentage of polished porcelain tiles whose technical characteristics are otherwise not impaired.
THE CONSIDERED OPINION: AUSTRALIAN TILE COUNCIL NSW DIVISION
The ATC NSW executive has for some time now been discussing with its members and other experienced industry members, this condition of surface reflectivity and poor polishing presented in some polished porcelain tiles. As such the following technical information is put forward for the ATC NSW member’s consideration.
On matters of importance where the ATC NSW is to provide advice, opinions or recommendations to its members, the ATC NSW must remain cognizant of relevant Laws, Regulations, the ATC NSW Code of Ethics and any relevant Australian Standards to ensure that proper advice, opinions and recommendations are provided.
The relevant ethical statements on this matter within the ATC NSW Code of Ethics are;
To regard our customers as our most valuable asset, to provide quality tiles, and to ensure all dealings with the public are fair, ethical and equitable.
The relevant AS ISO Standards in this instance are:
AS ISO 13006 – 2013: Ceramic Tiles - Definitions, Classification, Characteristics and Marking. Refer attached document.
AS ISO 4459.2-1999: Determination of Dimensions and Surface Quality.
The relevant applicable law in this instance is:
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission Law 2012 (ACCC) Refer to document below
Tiles classified as “first quality” under existing international standards do exhibit surface reflectivity and/or poor polishing surfaces effects.
To date surface reflectivity is not mentioned in ISO 13006--2013 because the development of a test method for condition associated with installation conditions is yet to be determined.
Therefore surface reflectivity is not listed as a defect, but that does not mean that surface reflectivity is not a defect nor does that mean that it will be considered a defect in matters of dispute.
The ISO Standard’s, requirements for the surface of first quality tiles states that “a minimum of 95% of the tiles are to be free from visible defects which can impair the appearance of a major area of tiles”.
Additionally ISO Standards for acceptable surface qualities requires surfaces to be viewed in normal conditions under a 300lux direct light at a 1 metre distance and not against direct strong angled light.
It should be noted that:
There is legal precedence that in matters of dispute, on reported consumer dissatisfaction with this visible condition to the surface of polished porcelain tiles: that this aesthetic problem for customers has been accepted and regarded as a non-defect tile quality, however there is also legal precedence to the contrary that it is regarded as a defective quality of tile.
It is known that in some cases that surface reflectivity has been treated to remove or improve this visible condition to tiles that have been installed.
The ATC NSW objective is to minimize any impact on the sales of polished porcelain tiles but most importantly without breaching the Consumer Law and affecting the Consumers confidence with tiles and tiling.
Consumer complaints received by the ATC NSW on surface reflectivity and poor polishing are all related to the occurrence of strong low angled light and as such these complaints are of a lower number compared to faulty workmanship in the laying of tiles.
No doubt there would be a number of ATC NSW members who import/wholesale or retail polished porcelain tiles that have not had problems with these issues or if they have, they have managed this issue In-House and as a consequence do not receive consumer complaints.
As the supply chain is able to check for surface defect before dispatch to site, the supply chain should ensure that tiles sold as first quality tiles affected by this condition, are not installed (Refer to attached ACCC Selling Guidelines).
Polished porcelain tiles have the potential to present to varying degrees, the condition of hazing or clouding on the surface of polished porcelain tiles, therefore stock should be inspected for reflectance before display and if found to be subject to surface reflectivity, the customer should be advised.
Therefore and to ensure all dealings with the public are fair, ethical and equitable, within the selection process of polished porcelain tiles, the consumer should be fully informed on the inherent characteristic of polished porcelain tiles.
It would be reasonable to assume the average consumer would not be aware of these possible conditions and their extent.
It is possible and also reasonable to expect a consumer to want rectification of one of these conditions if they are unexpectedly affected by it.
CONSUMER SHOWROOM INFORMATION
In a progressively more litigious society and cognizant of the defence costs in a law suit, it would seem prudent to ensure that a duty of care is met.
Given the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission Law 2012, (Selling Guidelines) & the NSW Act/law relating to the Sale of Goods: Sale of Goods Act 1923. Specifically: Sale by description---Implied condition as to quality or fitness---sale by sample
The following information may be helpful.
- • The customer to be given clear advice and information about what surface reflectivity could look like when polished porcelain tiles are subject to direct strong low angle light.
- • Photographic examples of surface reflectivity or poor polishing marks should be displayed to ensure certainty before purchasing polished porcelain tiles.
- • The customer should be advised that polished porcelain tiles are not mirrors and therefore a mirror like finish should not be expected from a polished porcelain tile.
- • Some porcelain tiles on display when subjected to critical lighting that is light from another source, such as sunlight or artificial light striking the surface of the tile at an oblique angle, may display hazing or clouding within the finished surface of the tile.
- • Showroom lighting, particularly fluorescent lighting, may not reveal the same surface reflectance properties as found in situ/onsite. It would therefore be prudent to advise the customer to check how the surface of the newly supplied tiles, appear within their particular lighting condition before the tile laying commences.
- • Some polished porcelain tiles may not be suitable for your situations. However there are many other tiles on display to enable selection of a tile that would be suitable for your specific situations.
- • Provide an information brochure on surface reflectivity lighting effects and poor polishing marks to all customers who purchase polished porcelain tiles and record that transaction.
The Tiler's Perspective
Tile layers need to be cognizant of; provision of services requires: to ensure that when the tiling work has been completed either within new/existing residential or commercial, that it will be acceptable in appearance and finish. (ACCC --they will be acceptable in appearance and finish).
Given that some residential Building Companies apply a “Restricted” access policy (within the contract) during construction of residences, it is impractical to expect the consumer to exercise an inspection of the tiles delivered to site before or during the installation phase.
Therefore within new residential buildings, the tiler’s expected general checks before & during the laying of the tiles becomes more problematic.
Given this condition of surface reflectivity, which is mainly noticeable on tile installations that are subjected to a strong direct day light or unnatural lighting, a tiler’s duty of care becomes an onerous one.
Critical light induces a visual condition. This visual condition is mostly site specific and may only be noticeable after the tiles are laid and any factory applied wax coating is removed, the tile joints are grouted and any grout haze is fully removed.
The issue of identifying the condition of surface reflectivity is somewhat incumbent on the tiler to exercise their duty of care and to inspect before and during the tiling process, for any possible surface lighting effect.
Appropriate checks can indentify such effects as haze and poor polishing marks.
However, to presume that the tiling would cease and consultation undertaken before proceeding with the tiling if any surface lighting effects are identified during the Installation of the tiles, is indeed a risky presumption.
It would seem that the suggested consumer information as listed above should be articulated to the tiling contractors with the intention to minimise any after installation disputes on matters of the finished surface with porcelain tiles that are subjected to strong direct day light or unnatural lighting.
Porcelain tiles are sometimes applied with a wax coating on the surface of the tiles to protect the surface during transit.
A wax coating may conceal surface reflectivity or poor polishing. Ideally, if there is a wax coating on the porcelain tiles, some tiles should have the wax coating removed, preferably from different packets and inspected for any possible surface lighting effect before the commencement of the tiling installation. Indeed a risky expectation.
If there is a factory applied protective wax coating on the surface of the porcelain tiles: then consumer should be advised of that coating and its purpose. The consumer should also be advised to provide those details to the tiling contractor at the time of quotation for the installation of the tiles.
The consumer should not have the mind set & assume that it is the responsibility of the tiler to remove protective wax coatings from the surface of the porcelain tiles.
Tile layers may charge for the removal of the wax coating applied to porcelain tiles. If the cost for removal of the wax is not included within the initial quotation for laying the tiles, then that may bring about a dispute, as to who is actually responsible and who will pay to remove the wax coating from the surface of the tiles.
AUSTRALIAN COMPETITION & CONSUMER COMMISSION (ACCC)
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), Consumer law states the following in relation to Warranties and Guarantees on products and services;
Every time a product or service is provided/sold to consumers, both suppliers and manufacturers guarantee that goods:
- • are of acceptable quality
- • they will be safe, durable and free from defects
- • they will be acceptable in appearance and finish
- • and they will do the job that such things are usually used for
- • And will match any description given to the consumer
A supplier also guarantees that the consumer is buying goods that:
- • are fit for any disclosed purpose—will do the job the consumer is told they will do
- • will match the sample or demonstration model
- • have a clear title and no undisclosed securities
- • And consumers also have a right to undisturbed possession
A manufacturer guarantees that repair facilities and spare parts will be made reasonably available.
A service provider guarantees that services:
Will be provided with care and skill--they will use an acceptable level of skill and/or technical knowledge and take care to avoid loss or damage.
Are fit for any disclosed purpose.
Will be supplied within a reasonable time if no time frame has been agreed.
Failing to meet a guarantee
If a product or service fails to meet a guarantee, a customer has a right to obtain a remedy. The type of remedy, and who must provide it, will depend on the extent of the problem.
On Goods Supplied
If the problem with goods supplied is a major fault, the customer can demand a full refund or replacement.
There is a major problem if the goods:
Have a problem that would have stopped a reasonable person form purchasing the item if they had known about it.
Is unsafe, is significantly different from the sample of description.
Is substantially unfit for its common purpose and can’t be fixed easily within a reasonable time.
Does not do what the business said it would or what was asked for and can’t be easily fixed.
If the problem with the goods is minor fault, the customer can ask the supplier to fix the problem.
The supplier can then choose to repair, replace or refund the goods.
Any repair must be carried out within a reasonable time. On Services Rendered
If the problem with a service is major fault, the customer can choose to cancel the service contract with the supplier and get a refund, or keep the contract and get compensation for the difference between the service delivered and what they paid for.
On Rejection of Goods
The consumer cannot necessarily reject goods and as such should be strongly advised that they should check where practical to ensure that the tiles before being laid are not subject to surface reflectivity under any specific strong daylight or unnatural lighting. Tiles laid and not checked before the tile installation may negate any claims for rejecting the polished porcelain tiles.
AS ISO 13006 – 2013: Ceramic Tiles - Definitions, Classification, Characteristics and Marking.
A new issue of a Ceramic Tile standard was issued in March 2013.
ISO 13006 1998/AS 4662 – 1993: “8.1 marking” issue requirements were and remain
Tiles and/or their packaging shall bear the following marking:
a) Manufacturer’s mark and/or trademark and the country of origin.
b) Mark of first quality.
c) Type of tile and reference to the appropriate annex in this international/Australian Standard.
d) Nominal and work sizes, modular (M) or non-modular.
e) Nature of the surface, i.e. glazed (GL) or unglazed (UGL).
There have been several upgrades throughout the new issue to quite a few areas, some items of interest: AS ISO March, 2013 issue marking additions are:
f) Any surface treatment applied after firing.
g) Total dry weight which the tiles and their packaging shall not exceed.
+ h) The new Standard requires that: each tile conforming to this Standard is required to bear on its reverse side or edge, the country where it was manufactured.
3.0 Terms and definitions.
For interest and which may assist with corrections to literature, the new standard defines a selection of ceramic tile terms and definitions given within the Standard as:
3.1 Ceramic tile
Thin slab made from clays and/or other inorganic raw materials, generally used as covering for floors and walls usually shaped by extruding (A) or pressing (B) at room temperature, but may be formed by other procedures (C), then dried and subsequently fired at temperatures sufficient to develop the required properties.
Note: Tiles may be glazed (GL) or unglazed (UGL); they are incombustible and are not affected by light.
3.2 Porcelain tile
Fully vitrified tile with water absorption coefficient less than that or equal to a mass fraction of 0.5%, belonging to groups A1a and B1a.
3.5 Polished surface
Surface of glazed and unglazed tile, which has been given, a glossy finish by mechanical polishing at the last stage of the manufacture.
3.11 Rectified tile
Ceramic tile that is, after firing, subjected to a precise mechanical grinding of the edges.
3.12 Back feet
Parallel ridges running across the back surface of some exterior wall tiles which possess geometry, intended to facilitate an interlocking connection between tiles and cement mortar.