September 20, 2015 - Tilespect

Inspect for excessive shade variation in tiles post 1 of 5

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Excessive tile shade variation
This is the first of five posts – I broke them down from one very long post into printable chunks.

If you are here you are probably concerned about ceramic or porcelain tile defects. Just a quick mention

First a  Quick Summary  of key negotiation concepts:

  • If you suspect or find a defect DISCUSS THIS WITH YOUR TILE SUPPLIER if possible before deciding on a course of action.
  • The Solution to tile quality (defect) problems is influenced by the quantity of affected tiles
  • The earlier a problem is detected and action is taken, the lower the cost of the solution

Just to keep it simple and to be clear, tile quality is a often misused term which can mean a lot of different things but it is not accurate to use it when describing defects..
For example, whether you buy a low quality tile or a very high quality tile, it is its classification which dictates the occurrence of defects, not the quality, which in most cases is synonimous with price.
Classification of manufactured tiles is confusing because you might hear a tiler or tile salesperson describe a tile as 1st quality, 2nd quality and so on.
– This is a misuse of the term “quality” – the correct terminology is; 1st selection, 2nd selection and so on. So you can buy a 1st selection, low quality tile with no defects. Got it? Right, so on to the checks;
In these five articles I am going to discuss how to check and report on any manufacturing flaws.
First of all, it is important to note that perfection does not exist, but today’s porcelain and ceramic tiles come close.
So a first selection product actually includes an allowance for variation, and defects. A tile batch is not considered to be of 2nd selection if a low percentage of pieces showing some abnormal variation snuck their way through the selection process.

Before you begin make a note of the carton markings (product code, size, shade number, caliber number, production date and batch code) as well as the pallet it came from ( in case the job is larger than one pallet). Click the link above for a prompt sheet and form. The details you record will be immensely helpful in speeding things up when reporting defects to suppliers


1) Check for excessive tile shade variation;

This first check I want to talk about is shade variation in tiles ; This is the most common of all issues.
The issues could be related to batch sizes remaining in your local suppliers warehouse, or selection issues at the factory, or even design intent.

Shade variation can be quite confusing because it presents differently and in some cases is not actually a defect – but it can be a selection issue.

Before you order your tiles; Ask to see a typical square meter; Some tiles are intentionally varied in shade and color, to create the effect of movement. When your tiles are delivered they should honor the same intent;


Shade variationMake sure the shade variation really is excessive – sometimes variation is an inherent part of the product

Take for example, a big job where two shade lots were delivered, lets say four pallets of shade A and four pallets of shade B. The approach to resolving the issue is obviously not the same as if it was found that there was more than one shade in each and every carton!

The first problem is likely to be caused by the local stockist, while the second is more likely to be a selection issue at the factory. In the first case you send back four of the pallets in exchange for four more of the correct shade. The latter case takes more work.

This requires only your eyes to check.Shade variation is not a ceramic tile production defect, rather it represents a lapse in the selection process. The solutions vary from “on the job” re-selection to replacement of stock.Variations in tile shade (tone) occur in almost every production run and tile selection is designed to separate the products into each shade.

To check;

  1. Take one carton from one pallet, and for larger jobs take some pieces from another two pallets, then open the first carton and lay out 1 square metre of tiles or if large tiles at least 4 pieces on a smooth, flat surface. Are they all the same shade? Then take one tile out of each of the other cartons marked with the same shade numbers and add it to the panel to test if these also match
  2. Then return each piece to its correct carton but leave the original panel out. If all shades match, go to the next check #2 – if not see below;
Panel of tiles with matching shades

Panel of tiles with matching shades

If there is a shade difference, is it in keeping with the design intent such as a rustic look which has lot of “visual movement” ?

Shade differences are classified under four categories.


If it looks like a genuine mismatch,you will need to record whether the shade difference occurs. The occurence of the non-matching shades can be;

– Within each carton? OR

– Between different cartons? OR

– Between Pallets?


A)Try to quantify the number of shades and how much of each there is.

B) Get advice from your re-seller

TIP: Look at all the batch markings on the cartons – sometimes the same shade number is assigned but the production dates are different – if there is any difference in markings and the shades vary according to this difference then it is very easy to make a count of each without having to open more cartons (note: most manufacturers argue that only the shade number is relevant, but experience shows this is not always the case)

Possible Solutions

– Replacement of partial quantity with the selected shade (if stock of the desired shade exists) OR

– Replacement of whole quantity with a different shade OR

– Assign each shade to go into different rooms or areas, according to size and quantity OR

– Throroughly mix the shades so that the final effect is mottled (depending on the aesthetics this can quite satisfactory) AND/ OR

– Return the tiles and re-select

Tile quick Inspection Guide shade variation in tiles /