Supported by gains in the U.S. construction and housing markets and robust overall economic growth, U.S. ceramic tile consumption increased for the first time since 2018, according to the Tile Council of North America (TCNA). At Coverings 2022, TCNA Executive Director Eric Astrachan reported that total U.S. ceramic tile consumption in 2021 was 3.11 billion sq. ft., up 9.9% from the previous year.

The following table shows U.S. ceramic tile shipments, imports, exports, and total consumption in thousands of sq. ft.

Year US Shipments (incl. Exports Imports Exports Total Consumption Change vs. Previous Year
2021 918,264 2,233,142 37,986 3,113,421 9.9%
2020 898,533 1,966,443 31,009 2,833,967 -3.6%
2019 895,332 2,077,038 31,782 2,940,588 -5.4%
2018 940,300 2,196,935 29,746 3,107,489 1.5%
2017 990,972 2,099,307 28,492 3,061,787 5.7%

*Note: U.S. Shipments + Imports – Exports

U.S. imports in 2021 reached their highest level in 15 years. The 2.23 billion sq. ft. of tile imported last year was a 13.6% increase from 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Spain, which in 2020 supplanted China as the largest exporter of ceramic tile to the U.S. by volume, maintained this position. Spanish imports held a 22.2% share of total U.S. imports by volume in 2021, up from 20.7% the previous year. Italy was the second largest exporter to the U.S. by volume, its highest position since 2008. Italian-produced tiles made up 17.4% of the U.S. import market last year, up from 16.6% the previous year. Mexico, which was the third largest exporter to the U.S., has seen its share of total imports fall steadily over the last decade from an all-time high of 31.5% in 2012 to 16.1% last year. Rounding out the top five were Turkey (13.5% share) and Brazil with a 10.7% share of U.S. imports by volume.

The five countries from which the most tiles were imported in 2021 based on volume were:

Country Sq. Ft. 2021 Sq. Ft. 2020 % Change
Spain 495,564,193 407,249,860 21.7%
Italy 388,225,617 325,939,270 19.1%
Mexico 359,595,768 335,246,651 7.3%
Turkey 300,873,685 248,851,082 20.9%
Brazil 238,513,562 234,794,244 1.6%
All Countries 2,233,142,091 1,966,443,251 13.6%

On a dollar basis (CIF + duty) Italy remained the largest exporter to the U.S. making up 31.6% of 2021 U.S. imports, followed by Spain (25.3% share) and Mexico (9.8% share).

Country Total $ Value 2021 Total $ Value 2020 % Change
Italy 790,675,424 628,564,234 25.8%
Spain 633,944,124 468,556,063 35.3%
Mexico 244,896,355 223,989,682 9.3%
Turkey 227,643,808 187,703,524 21.3%
Brazil 171,157,677 150,568,515 13.7%
All Countries 2,502,773,371 2,002,787,363 25.0%

The average values of tile (including CIF + duty) from the five countries that exported the most tiles to the U.S. in 2021 based on volume were:

Country Sq.Ft. 2021 Tot Val 2021 Val/Sq.Ft 2021 Val/Sq. Ft 2020
Spain 495,564,193 633,944,124 $1.28 $1.15
Italy 388,225,617 790,675,424 $2.04 $1.93
Mexico 359,595,768 244,896,355 $0.68 $0.67
Turkey 300,873,685 227,643,808 $0.76 $0.75
Brazil 238,513,562 171,157,677 $0.72 $0.64
All Countries 2,233,142,091 2,502,773,371 $1.12 $1.02

U.S. Shipments

U.S. manufacturers shipped 880.3 million sq. ft. of ceramic tile domestically last year, a 1.5% increase from 2020. Though imports’ share of U.S. consumption grew from 69.4% in 2020 to 71.7% last year, domestically-produced tiles’ share of consumption (28.3%) remained far ahead of all other individual countries exporting tile to the U.S., with the nearest being Spain (15.9% of U.S. tile consumption), Italy (12.5%), and Mexico (11.5%). In dollars, 2021 U.S. FOB factory sales of domestic shipments were $1.36 billion, a 5.0% increase from 2020. U.S. shipments comprised 35.2% of 2021 total U.S. tile consumption by value, down from 39.3% the previous year. The per unit value of domestic shipments increased from $1.49/sq. ft. in 2020 to $1.54/sq. ft. last year.

U.S. Exports

U.S. ceramic tile exports in 2021 were 38.0 million sq. ft., a 22.5% increase from the previous year. The two largest consumers of U.S. exports by volume were Canada (70.7%) and Mexico (14.3%). The value of U.S. exports rose 29.8% from $31.2 million in 2020 to $40.4 million last year, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Housing Market Highlights

In the residential market, despite supply chain and labor issues, new home starts rose for the twelfth consecutive year and were at their highest point since 2006. The 1.60 million units started in 2021 represented a 16.0% increase from the previous year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

With record-high average new home prices and a low supply of available properties, new single-family home sales fell for the first time in a decade. The 770,000 units sold in 2021 represented a 6.3% decline from the previous year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Import issues: I’m probably telling you what you’ve seen every day in the news: freight costs and container shortages, gas prices in Europe, which is a significant issue and a challenge for European tile producers, which they consider a crisis,” Astrachan said. “The good news is it’s driving a lot of discussion and new technology using clean hydrogen—what they call clean gas—hydrogen gas combined with natural gas or full electric kilns. The technology is in process, but is not yet implemented.”

Other factors include raw material supply disruption from Ukraine, which is one of the largest producers in clay for Europe, limited ability to raise prices because the price of the U.S. is driven by many other things. “It means the best possible time to build tile factories in North America,” Astrachan said.