Tile is a versatile accent that allows you to add decorative and useful embellishments to your kitchen, bathroom and many other areas. Depending on what material you choose, tile can last for the entire lifetime of a house, so it's important to select a style and color that you will enjoy for years to come. Tile is made from either ceramic or stone, with a number of different options available within each category. Knowing which styles and finishes work best in each room and what materials are best able to withstand moisture and resist stains will help you determine which type of tile is best suited to your needs. Consider the following questions to help make your selection:
• What types of applications can tile be used for?
• What size tile will you need for your installation?
• What material is the tile made from and what are the benefits of each?
• What styles of trim tile are available?
• Are there any special features or finishes you wish to have?
Types, Trim Tile and Installation Considerations
In addition to being composed of many different materials ranging from limestone to porcelain, tiles come in a vast array of colors and shapes. Neutral colors allow you to dress up an area with colorful paints, rugs and furniture, while giving you the flexibility to completely alter it any time you want a new look. Bold, bright colors, on the other hand, provide a dynamic look that can accentuate and define a room. Available shapes include traditional squares as well as rectangles, diamonds, hexagons, octagons, circles and more. Whether you are installing a tile floor or a shower wall, you'll want to consider how much wear and tear it will face on a daily basis and select materials that are suited for your application.
Ceramic tile is composed of clay, minerals and water, which are pressed together and then fired at high temperatures until they solidify. It may be glazed or unglazed. Glazed ceramic tile features a liquid glass coating that helps tile resist stains, scratches and fire while protecting it from fading and making it easier to clean. Unglazed tiles have no coating and possess an even color all the way through, making them ideal for high-traffic areas. Porcelain tile is versatile and can be used both indoors and out. It's dense and hard, so it stands up well to heavy traffic. Quarry tile provides natural good looks while offering excellent traction. Terra cotta, also called Saltillo, tiles may be either handcrafted or machine made and provide a unique, old-world look. Mosaic tiles are 2" or smaller in size and are ideal for countertops and walls, both indoors and out.
• Glazed tiles may be single or double fired with single-fired tiles possessing greater strength
• Glossy glazes provide a smooth, shiny finish which is more prone to scratches and nicks
• Unglazed tiles should be treated to resist stains
• Porcelain tile resists water and can be coated for better traction
• Quarry is highly durable and can be installed outdoors in nonfreezing areas
• Apply a special sealer to terra cotta tiles for extra protection
• Mosaic tiles resist moisture and stains and don't easily chip
Stone tile varieties include granite, marble, slate and limestone. Polished stone offers a shiny, mirror finish that is ideal for walls and low-traffic areas where they won't be subjected to harshly abrasive materials. Honed stone features the smoothness of polished stone without the reflective qualities, making it less likely to show damage and more economical to maintain. Marble provides an elegant, timeless appearance that's suitable for interior walls, moderate-duty floors or cladding in areas of the country not subject to freezing temperatures. Slate offers a subtle, natural beauty that resists fading, abrasion and chemicals, making it ideal for interior and exterior floors, walls, tabletops and cladding. Sandstone and limestone provide economical alternatives, though they may be more brittle.
• Agglomerate is made from natural stone and synthetic polymers and provides durability
• Heavy-texture finishes provide a rustic look and resist slipping
• Granite features flecks of quartz, feldspar and mica that provide unique character
• Granite tiles are ideal for interior and exterior walls and heavy-duty floors
• Sandstone may be used for both internal and external applications
Size is an important consideration. Larger tiles are generally easier to install, though smaller tiles and mosaic tiles can provide more intricate patterns. In most cases, floor tiles are larger than wall tiles. Ceramic tile is rated based on the amount of moisture it absorbs, so be sure to select tiles with minimal absorption if you plan to install them outside. To ensure that the flooring tile you purchase is safe to walk on, look also at the COF rating. COF stands for coefficient of friction and refers to the smoothness of the tile. It is rated on a scale of 0 to 1 with higher numbers, 0.6 and up, representing non-slip surfaces. You may also want to look at a tile's PEI rating, which measures surface wear. Grade 1 tiles are best used for wall applications. Grade 2 tiles work well for wall applications and light-traffic floor areas and Grade 3 tiles are suitable for floors with light-to-moderate traffic. Grade 4 tiles provide greater durability for moderate-to-heavy traffic, while Grade 5 tiles handle heavy foot traffic. Most tile is easily cleaned with soap and water, though some may require stronger commercial cleaners if it becomes stained.
• Non-vitreous tiles absorb 7% or greater of moisture, making them suitable for indoor use
• Semi-vitreous tiles absorb 3-7% of moisture and should also only be used indoors
• Vitreous tiles absorb 0.5-3% of moisture, meaning they can be used outdoors in areas that do not
experience temperatures below freezing
• Impervious tiles absorb less than 0.5% of moisture, making them ideal for exterior use
• Make sure tile edges are smooth to make grouting easier
• Purchase tile with a higher COF rating (0.6+) to ensure walking surfaces are safe and slip-resistant
Trim tile is used to create borders and accents as well as for finishing corners and edges. There are a number of different types available. Consult the chart below to learn more about them.
Uses and Points to Consider
|Base Tile||Feature a flared bottom||• Provide a transition to the floor for the bottom
row of wall tiles
|Bullnose/Surface Cap||Feature one rounded edge||• Ideal for finishing off the top of a wall, bathtub
surround or countertop edge
• May be used vertically or horizontally
|Double-Out/Corner Bullnose||Feature two rounded edges||• Perfect for completing the corner of a tile
|Rounded-Top Cove Base||Feature a rounded, finished top similar to a bullnose||• Use as a cove base in situations where wall
tile won't be installed above
|Stack-On Cove Base||Feature a coving on the bottom and flat edge at the top||• Ideal for use where wall tile meets the floor|
Acid Wash Finish: This stone-tile finish is shiny and features small pits in the surface. It shows fewer scratches and provides a rustic appearance.
Flamed Finish: Featuring a rough, abrasive texture, a flamed stone finish is ideal for exterior applications. It is primarily used on granite.
Brushed Finish: A brushed finish gives stone a weathered look, providing atmosphere to exterior applications.
Split-Faced Finish: This finish provides a rough texture similar to a flamed finish, but it's not quite as abrasive. It exposes the natural cleft of stone and is primarily done on slate.