All forecasts made in this report are at 2016 prices.

The ceramic tile industry makes a wide range of products for covering floors and walls with applications in private, public and industrial buildings. The tiles can be produced in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can incorporate different patterns.

The ceramic tile market is commonly segmented into:

  • glazed tiles

  • unglazed tiles

Glazed tiles represent the largest element of sales. The production process is similar to unglazed tiles with further processing undertaken. Unglazed tiles are either pressed or extruded from clays in a plastic state, and then fired at high temperatures, which increases the durability of tiles. Many tiles are vitrified as they are often used in heavy wear applications.

Unglazed tiles have both commercial and residential uses and applications, including:

  • facing of walls

  • hearth places and mantlepieces

  • floor coverings

  • paths

Glazed tiles are further covered with a vitreous glaze that can be applied by:

  • single firing

  • double firing

Single firing was pioneered in 1974 by Marazzi of Italy. The process now accounts for 65% of global glazed tile production.

Applications for glazed tiles include both commercial and residential applications. Major commercial uses include:

  • hotels

  • hospitals

  • sports and leisure centres

  • swimming pools

  • shopping centres

  • underground and mainline stations

Primary residential applications include:

  • kitchen or bathroom wall tiles

  • kitchen or bathroom floor tiles

  • conservatory floor tiles

Further market segmentation concerns the distribution and application of tiles. Contractors dominate commercial applications and the residential market, and are especially important in the new build sector of the residential market. Tiling is seen as the province of the general builder, but only a very small share of tiles are actually distributed through builders' merchants. However, a wide range of individuals purchase tiles from DIY stores or retail tile specialists, and then install the tiles themselves.


Reports are researched and written by MBD’s in-house, specialist business-to-business consultants. Research is based on both an analysis of official information and on original, trade research, providing both a quantitative and qualitative view of the market. MBD’s unique range of frequently updated reports provide an integrated body of on-going research, enabling deep understanding of the prevailing trends and drivers of these trends based on trade opinion.


The following abbreviations have been used in this report:

BOE Bank of England
CBI Confederation of British Industry
CIF carried insured freight
CIPS/NTC Chartered Institute of Purchasing Suppliers/NTC
CPI Consumer Price Index
DCLG Department for Communities and Local Government
DTI Department of Trade and Industry
DIY Do-it-yourself
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Market positioning

The use of ceramic tiles differs depending on the sector.

In the commercial sector, there are a diverse range of applications.

Hospitals only account for a small percentage of total commercial applications for ceramic tiles. Tiles are generally not used in flooring applications because of the hygiene implications of grout between tiles, though some are applied around wash basins. The hospital construction and refurbishment market is strongly influenced by government expenditure and policy. The health sector is generally protected in times of austerity, but this does not always translate into capital expenditure.

Construction and refurbishment activity in the sports and swimming pools sector has been a major area of potential development for ceramic tiles in both the public sector and private health and fitness clubs.

Shopping centres and retail premises have previously proved buoyant applications for ceramic tiles. Out-of-town retail developments stimulated market opportunities, but shifts in planning restrictions and the economic performance of the retail sector have resulted in major changes in demand. Increased investment in town centre shopping developments has generated demand for ceramic tiles in recent years as the government encourages the development of town and city areas by easing planning restrictions. Demand from this sector is expected to moderate over the next few years as major schemes have been completed and the recent economic downturn hits plans for new shopping centres. There also continue to be major retail casualties as the sector faces increasing competition from online trade.

Railway stations, including both mainline, tram and underground stations, also represent an area of strong demand.

Other public sector building activity is subject to a variety of influences and has been buoyed by lottery funding, but is generally under continued public spending pressure as the government continues to struggle with the public debt.

Major applications in the housing sector tend to be in wet rooms, such as kitchens and bathrooms, for both new construction and refurbishment work; and increasingly the floors of conservatories, garden rooms and orangeries, which have become a major lifestyle trend and a cost effective method of enlarging a property. Increased demand for ceramic tiles also reflects the development of underfloor heating systems, innovative anti-bacterial grouts, and the interior design trend for open plan kitchen/dining areas. Nevertheless, the UK remains a low per capita consumer of ceramic tiles compared with many continental European countries, especially those in southern areas.

High house price inflation continues to characterise the UK as new construction falls short of rising demand, and a substantial imbalance remains between housing supply and demand. High levels of house moving activity have also previously been an important influence on general DIY activity and home improvements.

This report addresses the following key questions:

  • What are the colour, shape and texture trends in ceramic tiles?

  • What are the driving forces for market change?

  • What impact are competing materials, such as splash boards and laminates, having on the market?

  • How will the UK exiting the EU affect the market?

  • Is the UK changing its use of ceramic tiles?

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