How to: Deal with Tile Shade Variation
Shade Variation. You’ve seen it listed somewhere on the packaging, on the manufacturer specifications, online, somewhere. But have you ever really thought about what this was for? Maybe you’ve done some research or, unfortunately, have noticed that individual pieces of your tile are different, slightly or greatly, from the rest of the pieces you've bought. This is usually most obvious when you buy the same tile from different locations or different periods of time. Essentially, because your tile is coming from different lots, produced at different times.
Isn’t tile, just tile?
When it comes to porcelain, ceramic, or natural stone tiles, no two sheets are identical, for the most part. The tile production process creates varying results, all of which must fall inside an acceptable margin in order to be considered for retail or commercial use under a specific product line. When we take 2 sheets, each at the opposite end of the acceptable margin spectrum and place them side by side, the variation becomes more obvious to see. The variations are even more obvious when they occur in tiles that are much lighter or darker because the variations interrupt the uniform look of the overall installation.
Categorizing Shade Variation
The Ceramic Tile Distributor Association (CTDA) has created a shade variation rating system to solve this problem and help manufacturers be more transparent with customers regarding expectations for shade variations on specific products. To keep it simple the variation ratings are as follows:
- V1 = Uniform Appearance - Differences among pieces from the same production run are minimal.
- V2 = Slight Variation – Clearly distinguishable differences in texture and/or pattern with similar colors.
- V3 = Moderate Variation – While the colors present on a single piece of tile will be indicative of the colors to be expected on the other tiles, the number of colors on each piece will vary significantly.
- V4 = Substantial Variation – Random color differences from tile to tile, so that one tile may have totally different colors from that on other tiles. Thus, the final installation will be unique.
How do I use shade variation to my benefit?
Thanks, in part to the CTDA’s rating system, the solution to dealing with shade variation for any current or future project is relatively simple. Don’t ever rely on a single chip or sheet of tile. In order to gain a sense of a products “true look.” We suggest purchasing an entire box of the product or at the very least obtaining a minimum of 4 full size pieces of the tile, in case it is something like natural stone or otherwise that comes in slabs rather than boxes. Purchasing multiple pieces allows you to get a better idea of what the tile truly looks like, including shade variations. This way you have a much better understanding of how your finished installation will look.
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