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.
Always open several boxes at once and randomly mix zellige tiles with multiple tones and textures. Each hand-cut zellige tile is unique and contains subtle variation in both color tone and size. Crazing, pits, corner chips, and small hairline cracks are expected with zellige tile and are an important part of their desired natural aesthetic. For those customers that are new to zellige tile, these imperfections can be surprising as they are unlike any other tile. It is important to be prepared in advance and work with an experienced installer that knows how to properly install zellige. After grout is complete with any zellige installation, these natural characteristics and uneven edges create the charm of authentic zellige tile.
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 installed during installation. Then, set the control sample range of tile with your installer to only install tiles that fall within the desired color and texture range.
Laying zellige tiles:
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; 4×4 tiles are instead laid edge to edge while other shapes are laid by hand with minimal grout spacing.
Zellige tiles can be easily cut as needed with a traditional tile cutter and snapped apart. A diamond disc can be used for more 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.
Zellige on floors:
2×6 glazed zellige are the preferred size and shape for floor installations. All unglazed zellige shapes can be used in floor applications due to their higher COF. 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.
Zellige in showers and swimming pools:
Zellige tiles are commonly used in 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. Pool installers should always seal pool and spa waterline grout lines after any tile install is complete, including zellige, due to continuous water exposure.
Our Unglazed Natural zellige is the only zellige tile that requires sealing. Seal the unglazed zellige once before grout with 511 Porous Plus which acts as a grout release, then again after grout is complete with Fila Matte Wax topical sealer following the sealant manufacturer’s application instructions.
Zellige tiles are glazed and therefore do not require sealing, as they are protected from water and staining. Mix the tones and shades from different cartons to achieve harmony within the color hues and surface variations. Evenly apply flexible adhesive for ceramics on a well prepared and level surface and also on the back of the tile. For surfaces in direct contact with water - shower walls, shower floors, pools, spas, fountains, etc. please ensure the base surface is waterproofed before installing zellige tiles. For areas where tile is continuously submerged in water like pools, spas, and fountains, always grout and then seal with 511 Porous Plus after installation is complete to seal the grout lines that are exposed to continuous moisture. For 4x4” zellige on walls, no grout line is needed (place edge to edge), but we recommend that seams, chips and pits are hand grouted with a very liquid joint cement in a neutral or matching glaze color. After drying, remove excess cement with a damp sponge & remove any remaining blemishes as soon as possible by hand. For on-going cleaning, simply use mild soap or a neutral pH cleaner.
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. 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 email@example.com.
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.