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solutions for outdoor tile installation?

updated thu 5 sep 02


Cavalier Lisle Art & Design on tue 3 sep 02


My wife and I have been creating decorative tiles with Laguna Miller
lowfire casting slip (which fires between cone 06 and 2), and screen
printing and painting them with Laguna cone 06 underglazes, and
finishing with a lowfire clear.

This is fine for indoor decorative pieces.

However, we have begun working on a commission for an outdoor
residential installation, and are concerned that since the clay body
is not vitrified when fired at 06 or 05, the tiles might absorb
moisture from the unglazed back of the tile, and discolor or have
glaze flake off.

(The tiles will be installed in the San Diego California area, so
freeze/thaw is not much of a worry.)

Can anyone recommend a low fire white casting slip body that
vitrifies at a temperature near cone 06 or 05?


Does anyone know of a sealant that would close off the back of the
tiles to keep moisture out?

Thanks in advance for any advice,

Marc Lisle

Joanne Van Bezooyen on wed 4 sep 02

Can you go to a cone 6? I successfully make cone6 porcelain tiles for
outdoor installations and pools. I am not familiar with any low-fire clays
that will be satisfactory.

Joanne L. Van Bezooyen, artist
Art Gecko Designs, custom murals & art tile
11220 E. Via Madre
Tucson, Arizona, USA 85749
(520)749-1685 home
(520) 760-1584 studio and fax

Stephani Stephenson on wed 4 sep 02

Though Joanne states that she is " not familiar with any low-fire clays

that will be satisfactory.", I must assure you and her that there are
many MANY tiles successfully made and successfully installed ,(indoors
and outdoors), which are fired at temps lower than cone 6.

Of course I prefer cone 04 to cone 02 over cone 06, it's true! and yes
If I were working at cone 6, the lower temps would just seem, well,
'soft', to me. But think of all the tiles from Spain and Italy and
Mexico which have survived centuries....and these were not even mid
range stoneware.So don't get freaked out by the fact that you have made
lowfire tiles.

The tilemaker I work with , Laird Plumleigh, has done many , many
outdoor installations in the San Diego area , including the main
fountain in the Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park. The fountain which sits
between the Art Museum and the Mingei museum.. This large fountain, done
in the Hispano-Moresque style, is composed of glazed tile fired to cone
04-03, and includes tiles submerged continuously. I also have completed
tile installations in outdoor locations in San Diego, both in fountains
and in other exterior settings such as wall murals, all cone 04.
In addition these tiles were not dust pressed but rather pressed from
moist clay, similar to potter's clay consistency, though not quite as

Though much commercial tile is dust pressed and is therefore not as
porous as moist clay when fired, I would think that cone 06 clay tile
would be similar to saltillo tile in some ways, especially when one is
considering which sealants and installation products to use.

Saltillo tile, (tile made in the Saltillo Mexico) to my understanding is
often fired as low as cone 08, though some of it is fired higher, up to
cone 2. It is also very porous . Though not suitable for exterior
applications in northern climates it is used extensively in southern
U.S. regions.

When sealing unglazed tile I think of my tile as if it were Saltillo
tile, even though my tile is less porous and is stronger than Saltillo.
But I look for professional grade products geared for Saltillo.
When sealing glazed tile I will sometimes use a penetrating sealant
designed for glazed tile or for stone.

An important component of a good installation is use of a thinset
mortar which will protect against moisture seepage from the back of
the tile, as well as sealants for the tile and for the grout.
there is a very informative website by a Texas tilesetter named John
Bridge, I have listed his website below. this is a great website with
many tips and information.

I always work with a professional tilesetter and generally do not
install projects myself. Good tilesetters know SO much about process
and materials. They are worth the expense in my opinion. One tilesetter
I work with in San Diego is a third generation tilesetter as well as a
tilemaker. What he knows about installation would take me a long time to

For the people who first asked the question about doing an installation
in San Diego...if you need the name of a good local tilesetter, I can
give you a name or two. write me off list.

Stephani Stephenson

Tilesetting site: