TIP #1- Where to find second-hand cement tileshere)
Warning! This place is NOT meant for the faint-hearted! BUT, if you are someone who gets excited about old bathtubs/windows/fancy doors with coloured glass/fireplace marbles/iron fences with fancy patterns/old cement tiles then this is exactly the place for you.
Im guessing that they get their "stock" from old houses which are being demolished or renovated and their (heartless or insane) owners throw away lots of treasures. Most of the things are just out in the open, sucking up the Belgian rain or fading away in the sun (less likely option...). The area is quite large and its full of the most random items, you could find just about anything. (We were also looking for a pump for example, they had at least 5 different ones- unfortunately none of them were the right size)
If you are looking for cement tiles in particular ask the caretaker to give you directions, because a few streets away they have a big warehouse (actually, warehouse is a fancy word for what it is...) full of tiles. Be prepared, you might need to do some serious digging to get what you want- it is advisable to arrive with gloves and clothes you don't mind getting dirty... Although we didn't find the exact tiles to replace the broken ones in the basement, we did find others we couldn't resist. I think we spent at least 3 hours being amazed by the variety of patterns, shapes, sizes and colours and then finding a big amount of the ones we wanted to take.
- You are saving some of the Belgain cultural heritage if you use second-hand tiles
- You are being environmentally friendly, because no new tiles were produced for you
- You can find "the real stuff" with the original designs, perhaps even the same pattern you have in your house
- Most of the tiles still have the "gluing material" on them (not sure about the English expression), but if you are lucky, you can find large amounts of the ones you like. Once you've done your selection, you can get them cleaned from this cement looking "gluing material".
- Some of the tiles are quite damaged, or they might not have enough for the purpose you'd need it for
The first and probably most obvious choice is Emery & Cie. They sell a whole range of things to make your home a special place, but they are particularly strong in tiles- cement tiles, traditionally made moroccan tiles, ceramic tiles etc etc etc.
- You can find a wide reange fo colours, sizes, patterns and its all new
- Their amazing showroom helps you imagine the potential combinations/uses
- After you've placed your order, delivery can take several weeks
- Given the method of production, the colour might not be exactly the same as you've seen in the showroom. We havent figured out how to dodge this problem, we ordered something that matched our ancient cement tiles perfectly, but the one we were delivered was quite different and it didn't match the old ones at all... I havent been able to decide whether this is some marketing crap they tell their clients, or its really true and you just have to live with this much risk in your life...
Another option is Carrelages du Marais close to the Central Station. This is a small shop with a small selection, but worth a look if you are not looking for something too specific...
TIP #3- The perfect guy for the job
We were very happy with the work of our "carreleur". He has several years of experience with zellige (traditionally made moroccan tiles) as well as "normal" tiles. You can find his contact details here.
Final tile outcome
Eventually, we found a French company in Paris, which had lots of tiles on stock and two different colours that would have satisfied our criteria. We ordered the minimum aount (3,6 m2) and a liquid product to protect them and everything was delivered to Belgium.
The colour is exactly what we expected and the product is yet to be tested.