My 1955 Sacramento Eichler has pretty standard 4" ceramic tiles in the shower, but a neighbor down the street who is an old timer in these parts says that they originally had either some new-fangled (for the time) plastic or metal tiles and if mine has regular tiles it's not original. Since the style is so 50's looking, I just assumed they were original. What gives?
Well, this has been a bit of a mystery for me as well. I do know that there were Eichlers in the 50's with enameled metal (tin?) bathroom tile. I saw metal tile in 2 Palo Alto homes (in one case, butter yellow, in the other a turquoise green). As far as I can tell, the metal tiles were adhered directly to the mahogony panelling (no waterproof backer board) and so water damage to the wall was common. People apparently replaced them pretty early on with backer board and ceramic tile. My home, San Jose 1960, also has ceramic tile but I found when replacing the adjacent bedroom panelling that it was replacement tile
I'm sure someone more knowlegeable than myself will be able to provide more insight (Tom E., are you out there?) My guess is that there was probably not a choice in a given subdivision as to metal or ceramic so if your neighbour indicates metal was the norm for your tract, quite possibly your ceramic tile is a replacement.
As a side note I have copper tiles in my Kitchen (see pictures at link)
They simply are pieces of copper beveled at the edge like a tile and et into a heavy mud on sheetrock. The irritating thing is they have a finish over them to prevent corrosion and in spots its been scratched and the copper has corroded underneath the finish..
Reading about the odd materials used for tiles, I was reminded of Lustron Homes. These houses were built in the post-war era. They are prefabricated houses made of porcelain-enameled steel. The same material is used throughout the houses - interior and exterior. Instead of painting them, the homeowner washes and waxes them just like an automobile.
Here's a Web site with more information:
Our MCM neighborhood (Arapahoe Acres) in the Denver, Colorado area was built from 1949 to 1957. The original bathroom tiles were/are steel with what appears to be a baked-on finish that creates a finish very similar in appearance to porcelain. Over the years, these tiles have been replaced in many of the homes due to rusting at the joints of the tiles. Of particular interest is the 5" square dimension of the tiles - obviously not commercially available today. We have used 6" (plain surface) tiles with appropriate colors for our restoration efforts.
Regards, Dave Steers
Our 1952 Eichler, and all the ones in our neighborhood, had the green aluminum tiles in the bathrooms. Yes, they were adhered with tile mastic directly to the paneling. Last year I removed the remaining ones and posted their availability on this board. No takers. Too bad, they're gone now.
Our '55 - '56 San Mateo house had them in brown. A lot of ours had had lathe stapled through and ceramic tiles installed over the metal tiles! Needless to say, the luan panelling holding all this up got pretty nasty, so I just removed it all. I have saved a box of these brown aluminum tiles - the ones remaining without dents or staple holes. IMO they're not pretty and probably not the best material choice either, but part of me can't throw out original equipment. If you're interested, though, let me know.