The production of zellige requires true craftsmanship. The maâlems (master craftsmen) start learning this niche process as apprentices. Historically used in geometric and floral shapes in the most beautiful palaces, zellige is only now becoming more widely available.
Our craftsmen start with raw clay which they soak in water and hand filter for impurities. At this point, the clay becomes a soft, malleable substance that can be placed into various molds. These pieces are then placed side by side and left to dry in the bright Moroccan sun. The tiles are flattened and shaped by hand and left to dry further. Each tile is hand dipped in glaze and then methodically placed in an earthen kiln. Heat is distributed unevenly throughout the kiln which gives zellige gorgeous variations.
Every tile is an expression of the artisan’s work that day—beautifully imperfect and unique. Lastly, the tiles are glazed and cut to perfection. Each tile is a piece of art in its own right.
For zellige, the highest quality of clay must be used and is found in the Fez region of Morocco. Once found, in underground mines or open pits, this clay is soaked in water until it reaches a soft texture. The clay is then filtered by hand to extract impurities like rocks and branches. After filtering, a skilled craftsmen flattens the clay into square shapes by hand, ensuring it is compact and with no air bubbles in it. The square raw clay tiles are then sun-dried on a rooftop.
After the tiles are well dried, another skilled craftsmen applies the glaze colors by hand, one-by-one, to only one side of the tiles. Once dried, the tiles are meticulously stacked in a natural olive-pit fired kiln. In these traditional Moroccan kilns heat circulates unevenly, imbuing each handmade tile with its own unique tone, texture, and color. This perfect imperfection is what sets Moroccan zellige apart from every other tile on Earth.
Once fired, a skilled artisan will use a medieval tool called a ‘menkach’, a combination of an axe and hammer, to cut and shape each tile into the desired shape. This intricate process involves great patience and skill. The final result is Moroccan zellige tile with both tonal and size variation, along with small chips, pits and cracks that are to be cherished and celebrated.
To ensure proper installation based on your unique site conditions, clients are responsible for hiring a skilled installer that has experience in installing zellige tiles. Zia Tile is not responsible for installation, ongoing care, or issues arising after receipt and installation of product. If client’s installer deviates from the instructions or recommendations below, this may result in costly and undesirable outcomes.
The authentic methods of creating traditional zellige will result in your order including approximately 15-20% of tiles with imperfections, ranging from hairline cracks or crazing and edge chips to pits and chips through the glaze that will expose the clay body of the tiles. When used and blended into your install by an experienced zellige installer, these perfectly imperfect tiles will give your installation the look of a traditional zellige surface. If you are seeking a more uniform look, you may consider increasing your order size by 20-25% to allow your installer to avoid using some of these tiles.
If you do not plan to work with these inherent zellige characteristics AND follow the installation instructions below, you should choose a more uniform tile.
REVIEWING YOUR ORDER
• Please inspect your order thoroughly upon receipt. Zia Tile cannot be held responsible for tiles that have already been installed.
• Each piece of zellige is made by hand, and extreme variations in color, shape and thickness are to be expected. Irregular edges, crazing, pits and small hairline cracks are common, to be expected, and part of the traditional aesthetic of zellige installations.
• Traditional zellige tile will have approximately 15-20% of these perfect imperfections. If a more uniform look is desired, we suggest increasing the order size by 20-25% to reduce the amount of variation during installation; however, if zellige tiles with these chips and pits are discarded, your install will lose the feel of an authentic zellige installation. It is also important to note that the matching grout color will fill these pits and chips to blend the overall aesthetic.
• To account for cuts, inherent variation, and potential breakage in transit, it is strongly recommended that all orders include a minimum of 15% overage to avoid costly add-on shipping and schedule delays.
• Due to the inherent color variation of zellige, it is very important to blend the tiles from all boxes in your order and verify layout before beginning your installation. You should be an active participant in your zellige layout to select color tones and optimal variation prior to installation. Note that not every tile in the box will be used so ensure you have 15-20% overage on all zellige orders.
For placing the tiles:
For cleaning and sealing zellige tiles:
• Before beginning installation, blend tiles from all boxes in your shipment, lay out the tile in the installation area, and ensure any variation is distributed evenly. To achieve a traditional zellige aesthetic, try to work with chips and pits and remember that grout will fill these perfect imperfections, giving you a more authentic installation.
• Residue and dust from shipping are typical. Tiles should be cleaned prior to beginning your installation.
Laying Zellige Tiles
• The surface should be well prepared and leveled by a licensed professional before placing the zellige tiles.
• Soak all glazed zellige tiles in room temperature water for 1-2 minutes to remove any dust and residue from transportation and to ensure tiles properly adhere to tiling surface. NOTE: DO NOT soak Unglazed Natural zellige, as soaking unglazed tiles can lead to efflorescence that is difficult to remove.
• Evenly apply a layer of thinset to the tiling surface.
• Butter the back of each tile with another layer of thinset.
For wall installations:
• Place tiles one by one onto wall substrate.
• Zellige tile can be spaced in several ways based on design preference. The traditional (and recommended) method for installation does not use standard grout joints; tiles are instead laid edge to edge OR with a 1/16” grout spacing if a specific grout line is preferred. Due to the inherent variation in zellige tile, it is recommended to level with wedge spacers to align tiles during installation.
For floor installations:
• 2×6 zellige are the traditional size for floor installations. With any zellige floor application, a minimum of 1/8” grout spacing is recommended and can be increased and/or layout can be staggered to increase the DCOF for flooring installations. 2×2 and trapezoid mesh-mounted zellige sheets will have less grout spacing due to hand placement on the sheets. These can be installed on the mesh sheets or removed from the mesh and placed individually.
• Particular attention should be paid to the application of the adhesive on the floor and back of the tiles to ensure perfect bonding between the tiles and concrete slab or flooring substrate.
• A diamond disc can be used for exact cuts and mitered edges. Wedge spacers may be needed in areas to align naturally uneven edges. Grout open, uneven edges or gaps where they appear.
• We recommend installing zellige from floor to ceiling or bringing drywall flush with the finished surface of your tile to eliminate the need for trim.
• If you have an exposed edge that needs to be finished in your design, we recommend having your experienced installer miter the tile or add a thin layer of grout to any exposed edge.
• If you do require trim, we recommend Schluter strips, which can be found at schuluter.com.
• Grout color is an important design decision – almost as important as the tile color itself. For a modern finish aesthetic, grout color should be matched as closely as possible to the color of the tile. For a traditional zellige look, explore neutral color grouts from Mapei. Visit our website or Instagram to view hundreds of zellige installation examples to decide what grout color is preferred.
• Before beginning to grout, allow thinset to properly cure for 24-48 hours before applying grout in open spaces.
• Always grout zellige installations as grout protects the tile. We do not recommend dry stacking zellige in any wet or dry application as grout is required to protect the edges of the tile over time.
• Once the tiles are placed and thinset has cured for 24-48 hours, spread grout with a rubber spatula, filling all spaces and gaps between the tiles and any surface pits, chips and cracks. The preferred grout specification is Mapei Ultracolor Plus FA grout for all glazed zellige.
• Carefully remove the excess grout with a damp sponge. Do not leave any grout to dry on the surface of zellige tile as it is very difficult to remove after the grout has fully cured.
• For unglazed zellige ONLY – we recommend using 511 Porous Plus Penetrating Sealer prior to grouting with Mapei Flexcolor CQ grout.
o After laying the tile and prior to grouting, apply penetrating sealer in thin layers until the tiles become fully saturated, wiping off any excess sealer before it dries. Do not over-seal as thick or excessive application of sealant can dry unevenly and result in an undesirable waxy film on the surface of the tiles. Allow sealer to cure, typically 1-2 days; always follow the sealant manufacturer’s application instructions.
o Apply Fila Matte Wax topical sealer following the manufacturer’s instructions after grouting to properly protect the unglazed zellige. Reapply Fila Matte Wax yearly or mor frequently as needed or desired.
Zellige in wet areas:
• Glazed zellige tiles are commonly used in swimming pools, shower walls, fountains, spas, and bathrooms. Ensure that the surface of each area is stable and waterproof prior to starting the installation. Use adhesive cement and grout appropriate for use in wet areas. Installers should fully seal tiles and grout lines that are exposed to continuous moisture with 511 Porous Plus Penetrating Sealer after grout is complete.
• If installing on a flooring surface in a wet area, slip resistance can be increased by increasing grout joint size, installing using a staggered or herringbone layout, and/or applying an anti-slip product after installation is complete. Always consult with your licensed installer on slip specific questions prior to installation and note that glazed zellige has a DCOF rating of 0.16. See attached zellige spec sheet for additional information.
• Vacuum or sweep tile regularly to remove abrasive material that can scratch the surface.
• Glazed zellige may be cleaned like most types of glazed ceramic tiles. Neutral pH products are recommended for cleaning. For regular cleaning, we recommend Miracle Sealants pH Neutral Tile and Stone Cleaner.
• Promptly clean up any spills, especially oil and grease on unglazed zellige. Un-cleaned spills can cause stains.
NOTE: f you purchased Unglazed Natural zellige, reference the grout and sealing notes above. Stains on unsealed unglazed zellige may be permanent so it is important to follow the sealing process AND expect patina, natural aging, and wear of unglazed natural zellige over time.
• Always use a licensed installer that has experience installing Moroccan zellige tile.
• Installers should always wear protective face and eye coverings when working with building materials including tile, mortar, sealants and grout.
• California Residents: Prop 65 warning
We’ll ship handmade cement tile and zellige anywhere that FedEx, UPS, DHL, and any LTL carrier can reach! If you live in Alaska, Hawaii, or anywhere outside of the continental United States, please email or call us for a custom freight quote as those are high cost delivery areas that will incur additional shipping costs.
All normal tile orders will deliver using LTL carrier service and are curbside delivery. The LTL trucking company that is contracted to deliver your order will contact you to arrange a specific date and time for curbside delivery.
During delivery, all customers are responsible for inspecting the shipment for shortages or damages against the packing slip and noting those damages with the driver on the Bill of Lading. Any issues with the delivery must be photographed and noted with the delivery driver on the shipping documentation in order to initiate a claim. The claims agents for the shipping company will request photos and written documentation to process the claim. Please take the time to ensure that this is done effectively during delivery in order to avoid any costs associated with replacement material for your order. Ensure that you have someone on-site to accept your delivery as any missed deliveries or delivery refusals will result in storage and redelivery fees to the trucking company.
Contact us within 48 hours after your delivery and we will work to replace any items damaged in transit as quickly as possible!
The Successful Delivery Checklist:
We encourage all customers to order samples through our website by clicking on the Request a Sample button each tile page. It is important to evaluate tile selections by first placing samples in the actual space where you plan to install to evaluate color, texture, and lighting in your space prior to placing an order. Samples are especially important with zellige tile. Given the very reflective nature of zellige, natural lighting in your space has enormous effect on the color tone of the tile once it is installed. Zellige will appear brighter in well lit spaces and warmer in areas that have less natural light. All cement tile and zellige sample orders are limited to up to 4 per tile design, and customers may order up to 10 samples total. We make every effort to ship all samples within the same shipment, but some samples may ship separately if specific samples are out of stock at the time the order is placed.
Some samples of special order tiles may be available and are limited to 1 sample per customer due to the limited amount of special order tile samples we have on-hand. Frequently, special order sample tiles will have a lead time that matches the order lead time listed on each individual tile page. All of our solid color cement sample requests are fulfilled in 4×4 solid sample color tiles.
The first 5 samples in our online cart are complimentary. Subsequent samples are $3 each and shipping is $8 for every 3 tiles shipped. Our samples typically ship out 2-3 business days after order receipt via FedEx, UPS, or USPS ground. For questions regarding samples, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All tiles are hand made with inherit variation from tile to tile. These standard characteristics enhance the beauty and wear-ability of the product. Understanding how tile colors are achieved and wear over time is critical to appreciating the beauty and performance of the tile. All customers are responsible for sealing and protecting cement tile ordered from Zia Tile to ensure that the tiles are maintained correctly. Zia Tile is always here to advise on how and where to successfully install cement tiles but makes no guarantees on performance or maintenance after installation.
In stock tile orders ship within 2 business days of order receipt. Custom cement tile and zellige lead times vary depending on the design and schedule needs of clients. All lead times provided are estimated arrival times to our warehouse in Los Angeles and can vary depending on customs inspections and port congestion. Once orders arrive to our warehouse, additional transit days (typically 4-7 days) are necessary to ship pallet wrapped orders to our customers via LTL trucking carriers. We will make every effort to meet or reduce lead times where possible, but there are no guarantees due to the custom nature of the manufacturing process and inherent challenges with international logistics. All customers are solely responsible for providing measurements and quantities needed for each order. In addition, all customers are strongly advised to order 15% more tile than necessary to ensure that enough product is on-hand to successfully complete installation. Please consult your tile installer to ensure that your take-off quantity and overage calculations are correct.
Keep in mind that the price of the overage quantity is minimal in comparison to the cost of rush product and one-off shipping in the event that more product is needed after the original order due to site conditions, mistakes in order quantities, or installation errors. Trying to save a few hundred dollars by decreasing or eliminating the standard 15% overage is the most common mistake customers make when placing orders. This mistake can end up costing 5-10 times more to place small incremental orders AND significantly delay projects by weeks or months! Our website automatically generates a 15% overage calculation by separate line item in the ordering cart. We cannot advise strongly enough to ensure that you have 15% overage on all of your orders to ensure your project is successful!
All orders require 100% payment at time of order placement. Payments are processed online or via phone. Invoices are provided and copies are sent via email as well as available by accessing the Sign In function on our website. Sales tax is applied at the time of payment and paid as part of the original order. Shipping costs are charged with each order. Any changes to orders, shipping dates, and/or shipping methods will result in change order costs that will be determined at the time of the change request.
All sales are final once payment is received. There are no refunds or exchanges after 6 hours of order receipt as inventory is allocated to each customer based on the time the order is placed. Made to order tile cannot be cancelled or exchanged and an order for tile that is marked “in transit” is considered final after 6 hours as inventory is allocated to each customer at that time.
Zia Tile does not accept any returns of unopened boxes of tile as we would never sell returned tile that has left our possession to other customers.
All of our orders ship throughout the US and Canada using LTL trucking providers. The LTL trucking company that is contracted to deliver your order will contact you to arrange a specific date and time for curbside delivery. All deliveries are made on a pallet, and each tile box weighs 35-55 lbs, so it is very important to coordinate your tile delivery with your contractor or installer in advance so that you have the proper labor on-site at the time of delivery to move the boxes from the curbside.
During delivery, all customers are responsible for inspecting the shipment for shortages or damages against the packing slip and noting those damages with the driver on the Bill of Lading. If there are any issues, please contact Zia Tile as soon as possible but no more than 48 hours after delivery. We will work to replace any items damaged in transit as quickly as possible! Any issues with the delivery must be photographed and noted with the delivery driver on the shipping documentation in order to initiate a claim. Zia Tile must be contacted about any delivery issue or damage within the 48 hour window that North American shipping companies allow to process a freight claim. After that timeframe, customers have accepted their tile and no freight claim, tile replacement, or refund for damage is possible.
The claims agents for the shipping company will request photos and written documentation to process the claim. Please take extra time to ensure that this is done effectively during delivery in order to avoid any costs associated with replacement material for your order. Any missed deliveries or delivery refusals will result in storage and redelivery fees paid to the trucking company.
The Successful Delivery Checklist:
Zia Tile strongly recommends that all customers heavily leverage a tile installer in the up front planning, measuring, ordering, sealing, and maintenance of cement tile, zellige, cotto, or ceramic products. Leveraging an installer with specific experience who will closely follow the installation and sealing instructions is strongly encouraged. Zia Tile is not responsible for installation, on-going care, or problems arising from any orders after receipt of the product. Detailed installation guides and tile specification sheets are available upon request.
Recommended Cleaning Products:
General cleaning – Always use pH neutral cleaners such as Miracle Tile and Stone Cleaner.
Heavy cleaning and stain removal – use Miracle Heavy Duty Cleaner (Acid Substitute) and follow instructions on label.
Our supply chain is lean, which is why we are able to price our tiles approximately 20-30% cheaper than other suppliers. We will warehouse your product free of charge for 4 weeks. After that time has expired, each order that is held due to customer receiving delays will incur a $300 charge per week.
All customers acknowledge and accept the terms and conditions of sale outlined above by placing orders.