Translated from Italian, “pasta bianca” means “white body” and is used to describe a kind of tile that is manufactured mostly in Italy. Pasta bianca tiles are popular in home decorating worldwide. They are called pâte blanche in France, weissscherben in Germany, and white body tiles in America. The name comes from the pale ground color of the tile body, called a bisque or a biscuit, which is usually a light gray or beige. These tiles can be given a clear glaze to let the natural colors show, or they can be glazed with various colors, designs and finishes.
To create the tile body, a clay powder called talc is dust-pressed into a mold. The clay is a kaolinite produced from iron-free clays characteristic of deposits in France or Germany. After molding, the tiles fired and glazed. Firing occurs in tunnel kilns that heat the tiles to temperatures around 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit or 1,010 degrees Centigrade. After firing, further treatment occurs if rectified tiles are needed. The tile edges are mechanically ground down to an even straight edge with perpendicular corners so they can be laid closely together. A natural edge is left on unrectified tiles.
The two basic types of white body tiles are single-fired tiles — called monoporrosa tiles or Monocottura chiara — and double-fired tiles called Bicottura. In actuality, some Bicottura tiles that receive multiple layers of glaze can be fired up to four times. Both Monocottura and Bicottura tiles are available in many sizes, finishes and designs to allow great flexibility in decor possibilities.
Single-fired white body tiles are strong and durable enough so that if they have a matte glaze they can serve as interior floor tiles and some exterior applications. Modern tunnel kilns and improved glazes reduce the porosity of the clay during the monocottura process, making it more resistant to moisture penetration and freezing then it was when older periodic kilns were in use. Double-fired white body tiles are more porous than monocottura tiles, so they are restricted to interior use for such applications as bathroom walls and surrounds, tub and shower enclosures, countertops, vanities and accent walls. They can be very decorative and ornamental.
Monocottura pasta bianca tiles cost less and are quicker to produce because they have a shorter processing time. The single-firing process makes a stronger, more durable product that is easy to clean, hygenic and decorative. The tiles have flat backs rather than lug backs or button backs, necessary for better airflow in kilns and making tile installation easier. Bicottura tiles present the best techniques to use for interior decorative applications. Natural colors and shadings of pasta bianca tiles are attractive and blend well with almost any decor, and glazes are available in a wide variety of colors and textures. Color is permanent and will not fade with sun exposure or with cleaning. Ceramic tiles are one of the most stain-resistant building materials available.