Saltillo tile is thick and clay-based, and its less-than-exact character is one of the things that makes it authentic and charming. Those same natural flaws make the tiles a tad uneven, though, so don’t be surprised if your table and chairs are a little bit wobbly when they’re placed on them. Likewise, most manufacturers do not “rectify” the tiles, which means each piece might be off just a hair size-wise from the others. That means you’ll need more grout between tiles than you would with porcelain pieces.
1. Seal your porous Saltillo every year to avoid stains from spills, and consider installing it in low-traffic areas in your home. Some people keep Saltillo out of their kitchens, where most spills and most traffic occur in a home. If your Saltillo patio has a shade cover, seal it with a penetrating sealer to keep it from absorbing spills. Keep your sprinklers clear from this clay tile or you’ll be dealing with the same efflorescence that plagues your stucco.
2. If you’re removing Saltillo tile from a large room, consider staying elsewhere until the job is done. When Saltillo breaks, it crumbles, and that creates an awful lot of dust. Ask your contractor to close off the room with plastic and tape, and get the family as far away from the work site as possible.
3. If you love the look of old Mexico but your bare feet can’t tolerate a Saltillo tile patio that’s muy caliente, set your tiles upside down. The undersides of Saltillo tiles are unglazed and coarser than the glazed tops, so they feel cooler to the touch.
4. And if you love the look but can’t bear the thought of maintaining your authentic clay tile, consider using a faux Saltillo made from porcelain. Hoblit notes that Saltillo-look porcelain tiles come in a wider variety of sizes than the real deal—up to 18 by 18 inches—so you can opt for fewer grout lines. And the porcelain version is level to prevent wobbly furniture and rectified so each tile is the same size as all the others.