How to buy finished or unfinished Saltillo floor tiles

There is absolutely nothing like Saltillo floor tile to add warmth, charm and Old World ambiance to any room. I absolutely love it—I mean look at this room, nothing else gives you that look!

Dining room with Saltillo floor pavers

But how do you choose when there seems to be such variation in selection, type and quality?

It helped me to first understand a few terms:

 CLASSIC SALTILLO PAVER: these are red clay floor tiles, typically from the Saltillo region in Mexico where the clay is found in abundance. Typically they vary in shades of rose, peach, tan–depending on the clay and humidity when they are fired.  This color variation adds to their timeless appeal. Classic Saltillo are cast in forms that are removed once dry enough. They typically have small surface irregularities that add to the charm. If you’re really lucky, you may even find one with a dog or coyote print! The tiles have a smooth face like in this photo of a pre-sealed, unfinished Classic natural Saltillo tile:


We also offer an Antigua version – which increases the number of dents and irregularities and adds an ancient, weathered look to the tile. This photo also shows a beautiful decorative border.

Antigua floor pavers and trim

SUPER SALTILLO: these are identical to the classic Saltillo but an additional step in the production rounds the face edges to give a rounded, more finished edge. Super Saltillo have a more pillowed look. These come in Smooth only.

SEALANT: A PRE-Sealer is often applied to Saltillo tiles at the factory that makes the surface water repellant. This keeps them from being saturated with water during the installation process.If Saltillo becomes saturated with water, salts present in the clay will migrate to the surface adding an additional cleaning step to the installation process. Mexican Tile Designs only sells pre-sealed Saltillo in order to protect the quality and the appearance of the tile.

Kitchen Saltillo floor pavers

FINISH: There are several types of top Finishes that can be applied to Saltillo tile that give it that warm reddish and amber glow that we all love. Mexican Tile Designs sells several quality products for this purpose. Typically, several coats of a penetrating sealer such as Stone Glamor are applied. This is followed by a final topical finish such as Mex-Seal. It is applied like liquid wax. The topical finish provides a satin gloss finish that is extremely durable. Our stairs have about 9 years of traffic on them and they still look great. If you live in one of several states (such as New York or California) which limits the type of finishes that can be used, we can offer several other alternatives.

Covered patio with Saltillo tile flooring

It is possible to buy Pre-finished tile, but I strongly recommend against buying these. While it may seem the easier and sometimes cheaper alternative, it can be a disaster. I had a friend with a beautiful Pre-Finish Saltillo floor. A contractor accidently dropped his hammer and chipped a tile. No matter what she used to try to match the finish, it just never blended in and the chip remained visible. But if she’d applied her own top finish, she could have easily sanded the chip and applied the same finish to make the spot virtually disappear and blend perfectly to the rest of the floor.

In this photo below, what looks like gloss is actually worn areas on pre-finished tiles where the finish has worn off. To match this with new finish would be nearly impossible, since the factory finish cannot be duplicated. If you had finished it yourself, you’d know exactly what to use and it probably wouldn’t have worn off in the first place.

Why not to buy Pre-finished Saltillo tiles

On my next blog I’ll talk about how to choose the right shape and size of Saltillo that’s perfect for your project.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, remember that Mexican Tile Designs will always give free friendly design help! 1-866-320-1628.