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What Is Quarry Tile: A Brief Guide

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Navigating through the different types of hard, stone-like floor tiles can be confusing. This includes quarry tile, terracotta, and ceramic and porcelain tile. Quarry tile stands out from these other types due to its unique characteristics.

Table of Contents

What Is Quarry Tile?

Quarry tile is a hard, dense, unglazed tile made from ground minerals. It’s produced in a process similar to brick-making. Despite its name, quarry tiles aren’t made from a quarry. Instead, their raw materials—clay, shale, and feldspar—are quarried. These tiles are typically harder than standard clay bricks. This is due to the minerals used and the high firing temperatures in their production.

Quarry tiles differ from other types like clay terracotta and ceramic or porcelain tiles in several ways:

  • Non-Porous: Unlike clay terracotta, quarry tiles are not porous, making them water-resistant.
  • Unglazed Surface: Unlike ceramic and porcelain tiles, they don’t have a glaze layer on the surface.

These features make quarry tiles suitable for many applications where durability and moisture resistance are critical. Learn more about where and how to use this beautiful, natural tile.

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Quarry Tile Essentials

Firing Process

Quarry tiles are not cut from a quarry as granite slabs are. Instead, they’re made from mixed ground minerals, shaped into tiles, and then fired at extremely high temperatures, over 2,000℉. This process gives them their distinctive hardness and durability.

Usage in Homes and Commercial Spaces

Quarry tile is versatile and suitable for both indoor and outdoor settings in residential and commercial buildings. In homes, they bring a unique, warm ambiance to spaces like sunrooms, entryways, or kitchens. Their durability and ability to hide stains make them a practical choice in commercial settings.

Color Variety

Although quarry tile is often associated with a classic red hue, it’s available in brown, gray, and tan colors. Lighter shades are also available, but it’s important to note that unsealed quarry tiles can show stains more readily. This is especially true in high-traffic areas such as patios or outdoor walkways where the tile is exposed to more elements.

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Water Absorption

Quarry tile absorbs a small amount of water, about 0.5 – 3%. This low rate makes it suitable for frequently wet areas, although it could be more water-impervious.


Due to the high firing temperatures, quarry tiles are less porous than other types. In many cases, high-quality quarry tile doesn’t need sealing. However, it’s less stain-resistant than glazed ceramic tile.

Sealing Effects

Contrary to some beliefs, sealing quarry tile does not damage or change its color. Applying a sealant helps prevent stains and discoloration, especially when the tile is exposed to more spillage or wear.

Size Options

Quarry tiles typically have smaller sizes than ceramic tiles. Most quarry tiles are found in 6-inch squares but can be as large as 8-inch squares.


Compared to ceramic tiles, quarry tiles are generally thicker. While most ceramic floor tiles are between 3/8 inch and 5/8 inch thick, quarry tiles range from 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in thickness.


A key feature of quarry tiles is their texture. They usually have a rougher surface, providing good traction for outdoor use. However, smoother varieties are designed for indoor use, which are comfortable for bare feet.

Quarry Tile: Pros & Cons


  • Slip-resistant and textured
  • Somewhat stain-resistant
  • Low water absorption rate
  • Thicker than other tiles
  • Indoor and outdoor versatility


  • Thick, difficult to cut
  • Can be uncomfortable for prolonged standing.
  • Prone to damage from heavy objects
  • Limited color and size selection
  • Efflorescence risk: salts may cause surface hazing.

Ideal Uses for Quarry Tile

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Quarry tile, versatile in nature, fits well in some places while others might have better choices. Here are some guidelines:

  • Main Interior Floor Areas: Quarry tiles are a good option for living rooms, dining rooms, and kitchens. They are durable and handle foot traffic well. Using area rugs can help soften the tiles and reduce noise in these spaces.
  • Interior or Exterior Walkways and Entryways: They offer high slip resistance, ideal for areas with heavy foot traffic.
  • Backsplashes: In dry areas, unglazed quarry tiles work well for backsplashes. However, for areas near stoves, it’s better to use sealed quarry tile to prevent issues with grease and food stains.
  • Some Countertops: Quarry tiles can be used on side counters that aren’t used for food preparation. You should avoid using quarry tiles on heavily used kitchen and bathroom countertops.

Color Options

Quarry tiles are available in a range of earthy tones. These include:

  • Dark Gray
  • Light Gray
  • Tan
  • Brown
  • Dark Brown
  • Beige

Red is the most commonly chosen color for quarry tiles. Its popularity is likely due to its close resemblance to the natural clay color in quarry tiles.

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What are the best ways to maintain and clean quarry tiles?

Regular sweeping and damp mopping with mild detergent are recommended. Avoid acidic cleaners, which can damage the tile. Sealing the tiles can also make them easier to clean.

Is quarry tile a good choice for high-traffic areas?

Yes. Its durability and resistance to wear make quarry tile ideal for high-traffic areas in both commercial and residential settings.

How does quarry tile perform in wet or humid conditions?

Quarry tile performs well in wet conditions due to its natural slip resistance and low water absorption rate, making it ideal for bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor spaces.

What are the environmental impacts of using quarry tiles?

Quarry tiles are made from natural materials and are environmentally friendly. They have a long lifespan, reducing the need for frequent replacements, and are fully recyclable.

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