Old Pinwheel Black and White Tile??

I recently removed a layer of linoleum from my bathroom floor and discovered a really cool pattern of black and white tile. After some research on the internet, I found out that this particular pattern was popular in the 20's and 30's. The patter has 1" black tile in the center with 1" x 2" white tiles around the center black tile in the form of a windmill. My question is...what is the material. It looks and feels like grantite or marble. It doesn't feel like plain old ceramic tile. Also, when I drilled through it to reset my toilet anchor bolts, it was VERY, VERY hard. Was granite or marble tiles commonplace back in the 40's and 50's? It also appears, due to the grout lines, that each and everyone of those small tiles were laid individually. ANy info on this tile system would be greatly appreciated?
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On 16 Nov 2003 20:13:02 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Mitchell) wrote:

That is likely unglazed porcelain tile. The are sometimes referred to as "encaustic" tiles. Very hard and very dense, as tiles go. Even without a glaze, incapable of absorbing significant amounts of water, which is good for a bathroom. Also, somewhat slip resistant.
Around our town, there are many old commercial buildings with this type of tile floor. They were available in many colors, although most are somewhat muted and 'earthy'. Since the color runs all of the way through the tile, many of these old floors still look great, even with heavy wear patterns.
You can still find such tiles and they aren't expensive.. Just talk to your local tile/stone shop. Skip the big box home centers, as they likely won't even know what you are talking about. That said, most of the newer stuff has what they call a 'cushion' edge; basically a slight rounding to soften the edge profile. Most of the old stuff had sharp, square edges.
David Glos
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Thanks David. Your explanation sounds just like what I got. Fortunately, the tiles are in great shape...just a LOT of elbow grease to get the mastic from the linoleum removed from the floor. I am using a combination of Strypeeze, a small wire brush, and alot of small circles!! It appears that each tile was individually laid, as opposed to todays's 12" x 12" mats with embedded small tiles. Do you know if this was the practice during the late 40's, early 50's? The pattern does not show any signs of 12"x12" mats, in fact, there are very small irregularities from each grout line to the next. If this the case, WOW!
(Mitchell) wrote:

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On 17 Nov 2003 20:02:17 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Mitchell) wrote:

Don't know what the practice was in the 40's and 50's. A couple of pieces that I pried up in my old bathroom, which I'm guessing are original to the 1905 house construction, showed no signed of a backing scrim. Most of the modern mosaic type tiles have some type of backing, which is really just for holding alignment when they go down. Coarse jute/natural fiber or rubber dots are common.
I also found my beautiful white 1" hex tile floor under some hideous striated pink sheet vinyl. There were a couple of minor hariline stress cracks, which I don't really mind. There was a larger area, around 40 sq. in., from a previous owner moving the toilet, which had to be dug out and patched. After bringing the mortar substrate up to proper level and letting it cure, I set the individual tiles with thinset. Did them all at once, and noticed that, in batches, they tend to self center. You can kind of jiggle them with a hard rubber float, like you would use for grounting. With their small size, the setting mortar tends to work up between the joints and form the grout line. As the thinset began to cure, I carefully cleaned the grount lines.
Don't be too afraid to use some scotchbrite pads with an abrasive cleaner, like comet, and really scrub on that floor. Since the color runs all of the way through the tile, you are not going to hurt it. Just to be sure, check in hidden location to verify. If you have a orbital sander, like for woodworking, with a hook-n-look fastener backing, you can cut a piece of the scotchbrite pad to fit and use that with a slurry of Comet.
It WILL look good when done. You have to wonder why someone would put sheet vinyl/linoleum over such a floor.
David Glos
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