Prices shown are the base price for a relatively small order. As the size of your order increases, the cost of your tile will come down at set thresholds.
Cuban Collection cement tiles are the old-world standard of 8 inches (20cm x 20cm) square. It takes 2.3 tiles per sq ft. ....so, for example, ...100 sq ft is 100 x 2.3 =230 tiles.
The Border Edge and Corner tiles are also 8 inches (20cm x 20cm) square, even though they may look rectangle in some instances.
If you want to print out some graph paper gridded in 8" squares, click here. Hint: Tape together two or more sheets for larger layouts. This is really handy for border layouts. Just use colored markers on your graph paper to mark out field tile and borders.
About Cement Tile in Cuba:
We are fascinated by Cuba and her robust, beautiful, much loved, colorful, well-preserved cement tiles !!!
--Cuba is a showcase for fabulous encaustic cement tile from both Spain and from local factories. The island of Cuba once produced some of the most colorful and stunning patterned cement tiles in the world and they can be seen not only in the capitol city of Havana but also in the coastal colonial towns in Cuba. Taste in Cuba runs more toward the floral and foliage patterns than in other parts of the world where cement tile exist, and we are happy about that.
The process of making pressed multi-layer cementous tile was invented in Europe around the mid 1800's and traveled to Cuba with the many émigrés from Spain. The Spanish term "Mosaicos Hidraulicos" comes from the intricate mosaic-like patterns and the hydraulic presses used to make these tile. Some say it is from the water necessary to the process. Cement tile are hardened through curing with adequate water for the Portland cement to undergo its chemical change and become strong. They are not fired in a kiln like ceramic tiles. See our "How Cement Tiles are Made" page to understand more about the process.
Cuban Mortar Tiles, as they are sometimes called, were originally imported into Cuba from Spain, many from the Barcelona area where the famous "Escofet y Cia", in Barcelona was established 1886. Also prominent was "Butsems and Sola & Cia" factory (1856), "Orsola Sola" and "Salvador Bulet y Cia". The Escofet tile factory produced wondrously colored illustrated tile catalogs from which many tile patterns were either ordered or copied.
At the time, this invention of artistic patterned cement tile floors seemed the perfect marriage of art and industry. The earliest presses were hand or donkey powered but the industrial revolution made available the hydraulic press that could apply consistent pressure and the hydraulic systems could provide the necessary pressure to operate multiple presses at once. For a short time in history in both Europe and Latin America there was an explosion of interest in hydraulic cement tiles (Mosaicos Hidraulicos).
Cuba is a country enthusiastic about decoration and color so it is no wonder that cement tiles (also called Cuban tiles), once introduced, became very popular here. Between the years 1890's to about the 1960's the Cuban mortar tiles, as they were sometimes called, became the preferred flooring of Cubans all over the island. When the first cement tiles arrived from Spain in the late 1800's there was a building boom from the export of sugar. This facilitated the installation of the new cement tiles into the current construction. Later during the uncertain years of WWI the well-to-do invested in the relatively safe category of real estate and homes were updated and embellished. Even after sugar production declined the coastal communities continued to grow and homes were upgraded with money from agricultural trade activity.
Because of the weight and fragile nature of cement tiles (before installation) it only made sense to set up regional tile making workshops around Cuba because the demand was great and roadways were primitive (and still are to some degree)! Tile presses are ship-able and the skills are not too difficult to teach. The group of towns known as "Las Villas" consisting of Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, Sagua la Grande and Remedios were connected by business interests and also geographically. The last three are even connected by the Sagua River. Melissa Adams and Lundy Wilder of Villa Lagoon Tile visited Havana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos and found both highly detailed, sophisticated, multi-tile patterned floors and the more simple rustic cement tile designs which were probably produced locally or regionally in the smaller towns.
The tradition in Cuba, as in Europe, was to install a pattern field tile with a coordinated border (single, double or triple rows of border) of pattern tiles and a row or two of solid color tiles between the border and the wall. The doorway threshold between rooms usually had a creative intermediate arrangement of pattern and solid color tiles to facilitate the transition from room to room which might change patterns.
We, Melissa and Lundy, were escorted, on foot, around some of Havana's older districts by an architect who works for the city's office for preserving historic buildings. What we saw were not only former homes converted to (seemingly slowly functioning) public service offices but also former grand homes now converted to roughly chopped-up tenement housing. Rudely constructed new irregular walls cut former entrance halls in half or thirds with total disregard for the cement tiles the walls sat on. It was bizarre. Haphazard walls now dissect the previously large rooms into a "rabbit warren" of make-shift apartments which may or may not have utilities.
Walking the commercial streets in old Havana led us to numerous small shops and offices where lovely cement tiles were still very much in use. Many front porches and gave an indication of the fantastic tiles in the home.
As a grand capitol, Havana, continued the European tradition of flooring their most important and front rooms in marble and reserving cement tile for the family rooms towards the rear in a home. The same was true for public buildings. More and more 'revisions' of buildings in Havana have resulted in cement tiles being replaced with chap Chinese ceramic tiles of dubious quality. At the very best they are boring to the extreme. The lovely original encaustic cement tiles are ever present but they require a sharp eye to spot them. Digging into the private homes and exploring courtyards and rooftop terraces leads one to the best displays of cement tiles.
Traveling to the smaller towns along the coast ws key to finding cement tile patterns that were new to us and new colorways of some old familiar patterns. This required some long days on the 'exotic' Cuban highways and the patience to ride behind horse and donkey carts and a good deal of swerving to avoid large potholes.
The larger homes in the southern coastal town of Trinidad have very high quality tiles, especially in the sala (parlor) and the saleta (family room) towards the front of the house and more plain or rustic cement tiles towards the rear. The complicated multi-tile pattern floors in Trinidad or Cienfuegos may have been produced in the large factories in Havana and shipped or imported from Spain. Many of the more rustic, simple designs were most likely made in locations close to the installation. In smaller towns one sometimes sees rustic versions of original tile pattern seen in a more finely detailed version in Havana. Most likely these simplified versions were copied and the color separators were made locally. We had a delightful stay in Trinidad. The candy colored homes give one the Caribbean vibe immediately.
In Cienfuegos wonderful encaustic cement tiles cover over three quarters of the historic district. The rest is marble or bricks. Cienfuegos was less affected by the collapse of the sugar economy than other areas outside of Havana. The wealthy bourgeoisie built for themselves Neoclassical and Eclectic homes and buildings. Many of these homes are adorned with finely patterned Cuban cement tile of a quality and distinctiveness to rival those seen in Havana. In the early days tiles were imported into Cienfuegos from Barcelona and Havana. Cement tiles of good quality were probably also produced nearby and available at a relatively low cost as they are seen humble homes in the area. Five workshops were large enough to advertise in the regional periodicals. These include El Arte Industrial founded in 1924, La Industrial, Fabrica de Losetas and Manuel Busto all in Cienfuegos. The city historian in Cienfuegos says it was founded by the French under Spanish rule in 1819 and that the French arrived with many skilled workers. We found a wonderful cement tile pattern in an apartment, that was once a part of a grand home, which required nine molds to make the pattern. Now a mom consoles a toddler and looks after an infant in a somewhat junky room with a museum quality floor.
The coastal town of Baracoa is primarily thought of as the banana export hub. Even though it is fairly isolated, over time, the primitive wooden floors gave way to the wondrous new cement tile and "outpost" Baracoa did not feel the need to compete with Havana and its marble so the designers of the city's public buildings as well as owners of homes chose Cuban cement tile. Early tiles were imported from Havana's big "La Cubana" factory and many from Barcelona according to the town's historian. By 1939 Baracoa had two of its own cement tile factories. One of these factories was in business until the 1960's making the relatively quickly and cheaply produced fake marble tiles, often called "jaspeado" and known all around Key West as "Cuban tile". One notable exception: the marbled cement tile seen in The Municipal Museum of Regla, Guanabacoa, near Havana, Cuba has some examples of hand-marbled cement tiles of such fine detail and quality that they are in a class by themselves.
Generally, according to Anna Joynt, the tiles in Baracoa have a chunky robust quality to them. The patterns almost resemble a 'jungle look" in earthier colors like what comes to mind in African hand-blocked fabrics. Factories there included the "Prada" and the "Badel" factories.
Santiago de Cuba
At the far end of the island, on the Eastern tip Cuba's second largest city, Santiago de Cuba had at one time, three cement tile makers: "La Santiaguera", "La Artistica" and a factory owned by "Juan Cano". The Cuban cement tiles there rival those in Havana. The distance and travel time and difficulty probably meant that most cement tile on the Eastern tip of Cuba was either imported directly or made near the region.
Current Situation in Cuba
The huge upheaval that occurred when Castro came into control and the USA placed the embargo on importing Cuban goods or exporting to Cuba.
When we (Lundy and Melissa) came to Havana in 2016 we found one fully functioning cement tile small workshop, Artes Próceres mosaics factory behind a home in the suburb of Havana. The owner, Emmanuel Servais Agboton, came to Cuba from Africa in 1980 and has made it his mission to preserve the old ways and offer tiles for historical restoration and new construction. Much of this production goes to private homes.
Although the owner, Emmanuel, has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, his true calling is the art of the hydraulic cement tile. His most experienced worker is 74-year-old José Agustín Hernández, who started making mosaic tiles in the 1950's at the prestigious La Campana factory.
When we visited, the owner had been called away due too a family death, but his staff was very gracious to answer our questions, allow photos and let us see all phases of his tile production.
This video made by LaHabana shows Emmanuel at his home at the tile factory in Havana and the making of cement tile there.
The Los Yeros family project, from Las Tunas province, participated in the third edition of the Cuban National Craft Fair 2015. We have not visited this area, but we have read that "The Yeros transcend national level. Right now they are preparing projects covering Mozambique, Haiti and some Central American countries. As for the island, the president of the National Union of Architects and Construction Engineers of Cuba (UNAICC) made a custom mold for a large-scale purchase destined mainly to the provinces of Havana and Mayabeque."
We have also read of other state owned or state licensed cement tile operations which only make the most rustic of tiles, usually a solid color or poorly executed fake marble look, and often have difficulty obtaining the required materials for consistent production.
Much of the information we have on the history of cement tile in Cuba and the regional differences in its usage and patterns we have learned from UK architect Anna Joynt. Anna spent six months traveling and researching cement tile in Cuba during 2009.
A SHORT VIDEO OF THE CUBAN COUNTRYSIDE AS WE DRIVE TOWN-TO-TOWN IN SEARCH OF CEMENT TILE