Barker tile, also sometimes called Ceramalite or tileboard, is a finishing product that looks like real tile but is much easier to manage. Barker tile is made from a sheet of compressed wood, which is then covered by a waterproof coating and molded to look like tile. The tile pattern is stamped into the coating during manufacturing.
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Barker Tile Basics
This type of tile product has some advantages: it's easy to install, even over existing surfaces, and is very easy to maintain. The product can withstand heat, chemicals, moisture and steam due to the surface coating. It's an inexpensive alternative to real tile and is a quick way to make an upgrade to a room.
One of the downsides, however, is that the product inside is compressed wood; any crack or chip to the surface coating can expose the wood to water, which will swell the tile irreparably. Once damaged, the tile is useless and must be removed and replaced. Harbour Breeze Home recommends avoiding the use of tileboard in or around a shower or tub.
Because of this, Barker tile is often used in areas indirectly exposed to water, moisture or steam, instead of the direct exposure of a shower or bath. It can be used in other areas of the bathroom, kitchens and laundry rooms — high-use areas that will benefit from how easy it is to clean and maintain without the risk of water seepage.
How to Install Barker Tile
The most important thing to remember when installing Barker tile is to take careful, accurate measurements, use a level and be sure all edges are properly sealed. First, clean the surface to be covered with the Barker tile, then wipe it down with water to ensure there isn't any residue. The surface should be thoroughly dry before installation of any tile covering.
Measure and cut the pieces of Barker tile to fit to the installation surface. Global Product Sourcing suggests that you let the tileboard acclimate to the area you'll be adding it to. Then, cut out holes for faucets and wall fixtures using a circular saw. Leave a 1/8-inch gap between pieces of the tile as well as along the edges; these spaces will be caulked to make sure edges are sealed against water.
Apply a waterproof traction adhesive to the back of the first panel according to the manufacturer's instructions. Usually this involves applying a line of adhesive around the piece, about an inch from the edges, then filling in the outline with additional lines.
Adding the Tile
Press the Barker tile (adhesive side first) into its space on the wall (or another surface). Be sure the tile is properly aligned with previous measurements and markings. Gently press the tile into the wall using your palms in an all-over motion. Repeat for the additional pieces of tile until all tile has been mounted onto the surface, and then check the manufacturer's instructions for the adhesive; most have to cure for at least 12 hours before additional steps can be done.
After the adhesive has cured dry, apply a silicone caulking sealant to the gaps between tiles. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for application of the caulk. Smooth each line as it's placed and use a damp sponge or rag to clean any chalk off of the surface of the Barker tile before moving on. Most silicone caulking sealants need to dry for at least 24 hours after application.
After Installing Barker Tile
Once everything has dried, clean the surface if necessary and examine for any flaws or damage. Fill in any gaps as required.
Be sure to check the Barker tile occasionally for cracks or gaps that might allow access to the wood board underneath the surface. As long as the coating remains in good shape, the tile covering should have a reasonably long lifetime.