In a current garden project, I am
creating a little patio area and with it comes the choice of sourcing the tiles. And regarding tiles, the choice can easily overwhelm you. With my conscious approach, I decided to narrow the choice down to a more sustainable option. But why using reclaimed floor tiles instead of new ones? And what does reclaimed even mean ?
image from Natural Stone Consulting
What reclaimed tiles are
Reclaimed tiles come from deconstructed buildings (not demolished) that are now ready to serve another project with the same purpose. They do not go through a complex technical process to serve their second life, unlike recycled materials (e.g., plastic bottles recycled into carpets).
The beauty of it is that you can use tiles used in builds centuries ago and across the globe.
Note that not every reclaimed tile is suitable for flooring or even for outdoor use; so do pay attention to these elements when sourcing.
More often, you will find traditional English quarry tile, from the Victorian era or later. Some companies also import French reclaimed terracotta tiles that are slightly lighter in colour than the English ones. Perfect if you are after a Mediterranean look !
The benefits of using reclaimed tiles
1- They add character
With their vintage look and their natural patina, reclaimed tiles will always add more character than new ones. What I love about them is their imperfection, and their uniqueness. Each tile has its own wear and tear, and will consequently give your project a unique look, unlike new factory made tiles. You could use “reclaimed style” tiles, but I mean… what’s the point? You might as well get the real deal.
2- They make History
Having items that have had a previous life is an element that always gets my heart, and this is why I love vintage items: they tell a story!
Unfortunately, I am not sure you will know where your tiles come from, but that’s when your imagination comes into play! How cool is it to fantasize about the stories your tiles have to tell! But maybe it is only me and my poetic side ! hehe!
3 – They are eco-friendly
Using reclaimed tiles means reusing something that already exists and therefore does not involve using valuable resources to produce them.
Thus, you participate in the reduction of landfill waste.
4 – Buying reclaimed materials helps small businesses
Some tile chain stores supply antique tiles; however, you are more likely to source them from your local reclamation centres, which are small businesses. Buying reclaimed materials thereby contributes to a conscious approach to your home design project.
5- They are durable
Unlike new materials, back in the days, materials were made to last. Also, these tiles have been salvaged from previous buildings and they are still good for use. It is an indisputable proof of their solidity. Terracotta and encaustic tiles are very durable which makes it a solid option for flooring.
The Cons of Using Reclaimed Tiles
Because they come from previous constructions and therefore are not massively produced like modern tiles, the availability of reclaimed tiles is limited. Therefore, it is advised to buy more than you need in case you would need replacement later. Especially for patterned tiles like Spanish encaustic tiles. Knowing that reclaimed tiles are not necessarily cheaper than modern tiles, it might be something that puts you off a bit. The good side of their scarcity is that it adds up to the uniqueness of your design!
Another con that people may find is their aged look. Indeed, not everyone is after this vintage patina. If you are looking for a modern feel, reclaimed tiles are probably not your go-to option.
Where to find reclaimed tiles ?
As I mentioned earlier, you will find renowned, leading tile suppliers that sell reclaimed floor tiles, such as London Stone, Natural Stone Consulting, Lassco, Fired Earth and their reclaimed terracotta tiles (note that Fired Earth means Terre Cuite in French and TerraCotta in italian 😉 or Bert & May
You also have small family-run businesses like Maitland & Poate selling beautiful Reclaimed Encaustic Spanish Tiles, or Lubelska for reclaimed brick and terracotta tiles.
You can find reclaimed materials at your local reclamation centres. If you are in the Bristol area, I recommend :
Rosegreen reclamation in Fishponds
Ben’s tiles & reclamation in Frampton Cotterell
Wells reclamation in Coxley, Wells
J A T Environmental Reclamation in Pensford BS39 ((by appointment only)
Bath reclamation in… Bath (by appointment only)
If you know other good suppliers of reclaimed flooring, please let me know in the comments!
If you want me to help you incorporate reclaimed floor tiles into your home design project, book your free call with me now.