What Is Non-Vitreous Tile

When shopping for ceramic tile you’ll often see it classified as, “non-vitreous.” Most consumers who are new to tile, actually have no idea what this means. So what is non-vitreous tile? Here’s what you’ll need to know.

One of the ways that ceramic tiles are classified is by how much water they absorb. The absorption is measured as a percentage. Depending on the percentage the tiles have, are classified as either non-vitreous, semi-vitreous, vitreous, and impervious.

What is Non Vitreous Tile?

Different from ceramic tile of other classifications, non-vitreous tile is considered to be very soft-bodied tile. It is also highly porous which means that it absorbs a lot of water. In fact, it will absorb around 7% of its weight in water, or more.

This is due to the fact that air pockets make up around 7% of the body of the tile also known as the bisque. And the amount of water a tile will absorb depends on how many air pockets it has.

How It’s Made

All ceramic tile is fired in a kiln when it is manufactured. However, non-vitreous tile is fired at lower temperatures and for a shorter period of time when compared to other ceramic options. (This is why they are softer and more absorbent.)

In fact it’s usually fired at about 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit and for around twenty one hours. Because non-vitreous ceramic tile costs manufacturers less to produce, it’s usually cheaper to purchase than vitreous tile.

What Is Non-Vitreous Tile
Where It’s Used

The fact that it is so water absorbent means you shouldn’t install non vitreous tile in showers and other wet areas. If you do, there’s a chance that the tile body won’t be able to thoroughly dry out and become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Non-vitreous tile therefore shouldn’t be used outdoors either, since it will be exposed to rain, moisture, and snow. It is not freeze/thaw stable. So when used as outdoor tile in colder climates, the water that has been absorbed into the body of the tile will expand as it freezes and this may cause cracking.

It should be installed only dry areas such on walls and fireplaces for example. Non-vitreous tile is also commonly used for crafts and hobbies as well.


When installing non-vitreous tile you’ll want to adjust your methods a bit to account for its high water-absorption rate. So be sure to set your tile right after your spread your tile adhesive.

You should also mist any unglazed areas of the tile with water before you grout. This will help to prevent the body of the tile from absorbing the water from the grout resulting in it curing too fast.

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