The first thing to consider when evaluating tile is where it will be used.
A floor tile in a heavy traffic area will need to be strong and able to hide dirt and possible scratches. A wall tile can be chosen more for its looks than for its durability.
Here are a few options.
Ceramic Wall Tile with a Crackle Glaze
Decorative, with a glass-like glaze - Beauty is only skin deep here – scratch through the glaze and the body of the tile will show through, so this type of tile should only be used on a wall.
Crackle glazes can also be problematic in areas with high moisture, like a steam shower. Over time the build up of moisture in the cracks can lead to the surface finish detaching from the body of the tile.
However, we have used this beautiful tile in guest bathroom showers to beautiful success!
Commercial Grade Ceramic Wall Tile
Often less expensive, this type of wall tile has a soft, gypsum-based body that makes it easy to cut. Generally they come in uniform size and color and are easier to cut and install than some other types of tile.
The white subway tiles so many people are installing these days falls into this category.
Handmade Glazed Wall Tile
Tiles made by hand have an irregular shape that creates a rich texture, making them an ideal choice for Arts & Crafts influenced designs.
Expect though to find a considerable amount of color variation in the glazing and also in the form. That is part of the charm of a handmade tile, but not every person is comfortable with its irregularity.
I think these tiles look extra remarkable when used in older Craftsman or Spanish Revival homes.
Like porcelain, marble has color all the way through, so deep scratches don’t expose a different color. But like all stones, marble is porous and must be periodically sealed to help prevent staining.
We selected a blue and a white marble for our own master bath, and are finally scheduling a re-sealing after nearly ten years. The original seal held up great!
Depending on the degree of polishing applied to a stone, it can be suitable for use on floors, walls, or both. Highly polished surfaces reflect light and brighten dark areas, but show scratches more easily.
Honed or matte finishes are better on floors because they’re more slip-resistant and hide scratches better.
Handmade Sanded Floor Tile
The addition of a small amount of fine sand to the glaze of some floor tiles gives it a slip-resistant finish. All tile flooring becomes more slippery with the addition of water, so this can be a good thing for some installations.
At a recent jobsite, where we wanted visually matching floor tile at the interior and exterior spaces, we used the rougher version at the exterior and the smooth version at the interior. To the eye they look the same, but when there is dew or a little rain water at the exterior, there won’t be much chance of slippage!
We use a lot of glass accent tile, and occasionally as a primary tile. It is a beautiful option that reflects the light in a way no other tile does. And it is easy to clean and resistant to stains, mold and mildew.
Porcelain Floor Tile
Denser than ordinary ceramic tile and impervious to moisture, porcelain tile is tough and stain resistant, making it a good choice for high-traffic areas.
Porcelain tile can be glazed or unglazed and can range in size from small to 18” or more.
These days, we are doing a lot of 12” x 24” porcelain tile at both walls and floors. It’s a great modern look and means there is a lot less grout to keep clean over the years!
A little less dense than marble, limestone is also quite porous and can stain fairly readily unless properly sealed.
Stones like limestone can be “cleft” so they leave an irregular surface, but are usually “gauged” (cut) and polished to varying degrees of smoothness.
The material used to fill the gaps between the tiles should also be considered.
Traditional cement-based grouts come either sanded or un-sanded. Sanded grouts are used in joints 1/8” to 1/2” wide while un-sanded grouts are used in joints narrower than 1/8”. If you omit the sand in a wide joint, the grout is more likely to crack.
Grouts are now modified to include additives that give the grout join increased flexibility and improve stain resistance.
Epoxy grout is virtually impervious to stains and mildew, making it a great choice for kitchen countertops and shower stalls. It’s available in a range of colors and doesn’t fade or need sealing. It should last as long as the tile itself. It cannot be used with most stone or porous tiles.
Stains & Sealers
Many common foods and beverages are acidic and can stain stone and some types of tile. Many cleaners also contain mild acids and can dull some ceramic tiles as well as polished marble or limestone.
To protect your tile and stone, be sure to use an appropriate sealer. Also, keep in mind that regular grout will stain too and needs to also be sealed.
There are a wide variety of products out there to consider when remodeling your kitchen or bath. Have fun taking in all of the amazing tile options available to make your home your favorite destination!!
Sasha Witte can be reached at www.SashaWitteDesign.com or (562) 434-8824.