Are handmade zelliges (pronounced in French: sea lilies) going to break through? Yes, if the trend-setting tile industry is to be believed. Characteristics of zelliges include chisel-cut edges, subtle differences in color between them and irregular shapes. And you can install these tiles with or without grout.
Craftsmen can distinguish themselves with zelliges. Because with these tiles they can achieve a lively, cozy wall with a timeless look . Breda-based De Tegel BV has been making headway with zelliges for some time. The company therefore possesses a great deal of knowledge about both the production and processing of tiles. The production could be improved quite a bit. So the company decided to build its own workshop in Morocco, the birthplace of zelliges. Zelliges expert Marcel Kop was involved: “At the time, the tiles were produced under poor working conditions. The mutual tile quality could also leave something to be desired. In order to offer a better and above all constant quality, we started working locally with the support of the Dutch government. Meanwhile, the workers in our workshop make the handmade zelliges under better working conditions and at a fair wage. All workers are paid 150 percent above the minimum wage, work in a clean place, are insured, build up a pension and can use medical services free of charge. Our people are trained by European professionals. The environment is also considered: processing of toxic-free pigments from Europe and recycling of some 95 percent of production waste.”
Top of the market
“Because of our approach and choice of high quality, we are at the upper end of the market in terms of price. You can also see that: on our zelliges there are hardly any damages and pits. Moroccan clay contains many lime seeds. Those will start working in the first few months after production. They press against the enamel, which can break it. Therefore, after firing and glazing, we let the tiles work out for about four to five months. A strict selection is then made, and for the tiles with a white or yellow clay grain, our people cut the edges cold by hand at an angle. This requires more craftsmanship because more difficult to perform than with still warm tiles. These edges are irregularly shaped and create the handmade look.
We offer two qualities: in addition to tiles made of white or yellow clay, we also offer zelliges made of red clay. The red clay tiles are almost as easy for tile setters to work with as ceramic ones because the edges are cut at an angle and tight by machine.”
Contact with tilers
“Since we supply these wall tiles, we have a lot of contact with craftsmen. They realize with zelliges many kitchen walls and increasingly bathrooms. After all, zelliges are waterproof, glazed tiles. Based in part on their experiences, we drew up documentation on how the tiles should be processed. And if you still can’t quite figure it out, feel free to call us.”
1 and 2 mm cement joint
“Before you start tiling, clean the tiles. For example, the underside of zelliges may be sandy or dusty. Get that off quickly with a few swipes of a damp hand or cloth. You glue the tiles on 8 mm adhesive beads, fully set. Count on being able to do less square footage with these tiles, including
If you have a lot of work experience with tiles. For red clay tiles, keep the usual joint width of 2 mm.
The hand-cut tiles are all exactly 10 by 10 cm and 5 x 5 cm. You can set these with a narrower joint. Because by cutting the tiles at an angle, the wider part of the cement joint will be out of sight. You can also install either type of tile without a grout, but only in areas where it always remains dry and clean.”
Sanding sharp edges
“You can come across specimens with sharp edges. Cleaning wipes can get stuck behind them. If you incorporate zelliges in the bathroom, make sure you pay extra attention to the tiles you place at elbow height. Really sharp corners you carefully blunt with fine sandpaper P320. It’s best to cut the tiles to size with the angle grinder. If it has to be really precise, then grind the tiles first with the grinder on the back and then with the tile cutter on the front. Then you get a tight cut line after breaking.”
“Zelliges are also subject to trends. For example, customers are more often asking for mosaic panels: 30 x 30 cm tiles composed of mosaic work . The joints of these tiles are narrow, so for a beautiful tile appearance, you have to adopt them as a tiler. Some of these tiles have protruding edges, so you will have to mitre the external corners. Because stucco profiles break the mosaic appearance.”
More labor arithmetic
“The tile price of zelliges is from 125 euros per m2 including VAT. Because of more labor, you can make hours with this tiling. Given the higher square meter price, you work mainly for customers who choose a special look and quality. No two tiles are the same. As with natural stone, you have to deal with thickness differences. This too contributes to a lively wall that can pleasantly break the austerity of many contemporary interiors. You can express your creativity well with zelliges and thus distinguish yourself.”