There's so much to think about when it comes to tile - whether it's for the front hall, the kitchen backsplash or the shower wall. Steven and Chris took a hard look at the pros and cons of several of the most popular picks and make suggestions of what works where - from fabulous style to sensible function!
A FEW GENERAL POINTERS
There are several basic shapes and sizes to choose from:
Smaller tiles are more forgiving with a surface that may be slightly irregular. Mosaics come on 12x12 sheets of tile that are evenly spaced on a net backing
Larger tiles good for well leveled floor or wall but floor must be perfectly leveled or they will crack. They're quick to install as fewer to do and provide a very contemporary look.
Matte tiles are non slip but may show the dirt more - have them sealed if possible or make sure you get a finish that is suitable for the floor, both non slip and easy to clean.
Glossy tiles will be slippery so not as good for the floor, easier to clean, good for backsplashes.
Always go for a darker grout - grout can get dirty very quickly and a light grout, once stained, is hard to clean and hard to remove to replace with new grout
Cost of installation - remember more tiles = more work!
Think of your lifestyle, and ask yourself lots of questions - how you use the space, how much maintenance, how high traffic an area is this, how comfortable does the floor need to be if you are standing there for hours, can it be repaired, how is it with kids and pets, what does will the tile floor flow into... When you know your answers, make sure the supplier sells you a tile that will work with your needs.
Ask to take samples home - a tile floor is very expensive to 'undo' - not like repainting a room, if you don't like them.
Ancient flooring material, lasts centuries, choose local stone which is more eco friendly because you're not using all that fuel to ship it and it will be cheaper than imported stone. Large range of stone from slate to marble, granite and limestone. Traditionally used in hot weather countries because it is cool to the touch.
Pros: high value perceived in re-sale, unique, piece of art. Lasts forever. Damaged stones can be replaced, durable, withstands wear and tear. Each piece is unique.
Cons: regular sealing because it is porous so that it won't be absorbed and stain. Seal twice a year. Try not to use light colour grout. Unique quality can make it time consuming to match when laying. So, lay out the tiles over the entire surface before installing so you can approve the result before installing. All your tiles should come from the same original batch. You cannot install stone yourself but must have an expert.
Best Use: Floors
Pro: Beautiful, long lasting, classic, luxurious, good resale
Cons: Expensive; high maintenance; must seal and clean regularly, can crack, stain and etch easily if it comes in contact with the wrong thing.
Very popular now, the rock has layers that are quite weak so tiles can flake and chip and must be resealed and maintained ( porcelain slate is a great alternative) For an installation to resist damage, it must be set on a solid surface with mortar.
Pros: Beauty, longevity
Cons: Softness, tendency to split, can be expensive ($4 - 6 sq ft)
Dense rock, very strong and hard. Many many varieties and colour from all over the world.
Best Use: Countertops, backsplashes, not often on floors
Pros: Durability, density, strength
Con: Limited trim options, expensive
Older than marble, soft, bathrooms only, honed / matte finish so must be properly sealed. Floors or walls, solid colour, not as much colour variation as marble, very uniform. Not for kitchen!
An aggregate made of marble chips in a bed of concrete polished until smooth. Often used in public buildings because it is long-lasting and can be refinished repeatedly.
Best Uses: Floors, walls, countertops, backsplashes
Pros: Unique beauty, elegance, longevity, easy upkeep
Cons: Expense, can cause slips but can have non slip treatment applied, must be professionally installed
General points: made from clay, fired, resists heat, hardwearing, easy to clean, immune to water and most household chemicals can not damage. Noisy, hard on the feet, cold but can be heated underneath, anything dropped will break. Glossy glazed tiles are slippery, unglazed tiles are naturally nonslip but can be slightly porous.
Where to use it: kitchens, bathrooms, floors, walls, countertops. Rated from 0 - 5 based on hardness; zero-two is suitable for wall tile, 3-5 hard enough for floors.
Man made of a dense mix of clay, minerals and water, hardened by oven firing and usually coated with some kind of glaze - for colour, pattern and texture. White or red clay base. Knock on ceramic - if you chip the product, shows the white or red, but can change. Ceramic is best known for its durability: intact installations in ancient Italy, Greece and Egypt that have survived more than 2000years
Pros: Easy to clean. Doesn't harbor germs, odours, doesn't stain or scratch. Durable, versatile, heat resistant low maintenance, easy installation - can install yourself. Non-allergenic, anti bacterial (hence hospitals and restaurants!) Low to high cost, cheapest !
Cons: Colour and size can vary slightly due to production runs - make sure all of your tiles come from the same lot. Shiny, glazed tiles are slippery and scratch - so use those on for walls . Installation can be time consuming and expensive, Floors must be completely level, or they'll crack. Fixing discoloured grout is tricky - so space tiles, close, use darker grout
Also manmade like ceramic, fired under higher temperature, very trendy tile now. Superhigh quality and stronger than ceramic, make it popular for restaurants and public spaces but for residential ceramic tile is strong enough.
Porcelain's low porosity means it needs a special compound for setting. Your installer must get specific instructions on installation from the manufacturer - DIFFERENT adhesives than ceramic.
Best Uses: Floors, walls, countertops, backsplashes
Pros: Toughness, variety of design, harder to chip than ceramic, colour typically goes all the way through so if it does chip you see the colour of the surface so it is not as obvious.
Cons: Requires modified setting material to install it. More expensive than ceramic. Light coloured matte porcelain tiles are super popular but very difficult to keep clean.
The warmest tile, retains heat if in a sunny room or near a fire, natural clay, fired in a kiln. Terra cotta is one of the oldest tile materials around, dating back thousands of years when it was sun-dried rather than oven-fired. Glazed or unglazed for a warm, rustic, weathered look. Good quality terracotta will last forever - but difficult to tell quality at point of purchase so buy from reputable supplier only. MUST be sealed properly with especially in kitchens. Wide price range.
Best Uses: Flooring, countertops, walls, high traffic areas
Pros: Beauty, longevity when well-made
Cons: Wide variations in quality, must be professionally installed and sealed according to manufacturers instructions.
Give an informal, artisanal, global feel to a room, use as accents, don't overkill the space with them, make sure you really like them, lay them out and space them first, on the floor, play with it like a puzzle, once laid, treat as you would terra cotta and seal.
Spectacular varieties and colors. Like jewels, elegant, sophisticated, sparkly, very trendy right now, but very very tricky to install and very expensive. May use sparingly in accents for a completely different hit of colour or personality than a handpainted tile, for example. Glass installation is a specialy - and NOT the job for the average handyman or general contractor. Most commonly used for walls, if used on floors must have non slip treatment.
Pros: Beauty, variety, glamour, cheerful, candy like, feel good, recyclable!
Cons: Very expensive, $15 - $35 sq foot plus cost of difficult installation
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