Are Cement Tiles Frost-Proof?

We hear a lot of opinion about whether or not encaustic cement tiles are "frost proof". Where we are located the temperature rarely drops much below the freezing point is it is difficult to test here. For that reason we decided to use our Maytag deep freezer to do some testing. The internal temp of a home deep freeze is suppose to be close to zero degrees Fahrenheit.

We used a square portion of a Surf "Agua" tile that was a leftover from a tile job. This aprox 8" x 8" piece of tile was first soaked for several hours in water and then sealed in a zip-lock bag and placed in the freezer. When it was removed and allowed to thaw in the open air, there was no visible damage.

We then took the same tile and submerged half of it in a bowl of water and left the upper half out of the water. This was placed in the freezer. The water around the time froze solid. It was allowed to thaw in the sun and no visible damage could be observed.

We have repeated this over and over and each change in the tile.

Based on this experiment, I would not be afraid to use our cement tile outdoors in a part of the country that gets freezing weather but VLT makes no warrenty on freezing. I would make sure that the tile was set into a solid bed of mortar (no tunnel runs of air under the tile) and that the tile was securely grouted and sealed.

As with so many things, I think the risk of tile failure in an outdoor setting is for water to get up under the tiles and expand as it freezes. This could cause cracks and lifting of the tile.

The above photo is a close up of the edge of the tile that we repeatedly froze and thawed. You can see the intact wear layer of color on the face of the tile.

We will continue to test our tile and put this same piece that has had repeated freeze/thaw sessions in the baking hot sun this summer and if we ever see any sign of deterioration, we will report that here.

- Lundy Wilder