Whether you are renovating a bathroom or adding a backsplash to your kitchen, tile with its timeless elegance is sure to add value and beauty to your home. But with so many choices in the market, how do you choose the right one? Knowing what’s out there is the first step, so here we give you a breakdown of the types of tile and their pros and cons:
Ceramic tile is made from a combination of clay and other minerals that have been fired in a kiln. It comes in two forms: glazed and unglazed. Unglazed tile, AKA quarry tile, is very porous and can stain easily. The glaze not only protects and seals the tile making it more durable, but it also gives it the color and design, allowing for infinite combinations.
Ceramic tile is similar to porcelain tile, and while some companies use the terms interchangeably, they are not the same.
Ceramic tile is not as dense and has a higher absorption rate. That means that ceramic tile may chip or damage more easily than porcelain tile, and it shouldn’t be used outdoors because it is not frost-proof. But its price (from $1 to $15 per sq ft) and the fact that it can be used anywhere indoors, make ceramic tile a very popular choice.
Porcelain tile is also made of a mixture of clays, but these are finely ground and fired at high temperatures, creating a dense, durable product that’s resistant to moisture. Porcelain tile can be used indoors and outdoors, and it’s available in matte, unglazed or high-polished finishes.
Whether you choose ceramic or porcelain tile, make sure you check the PEI scale to determine which tiles are suitable choices for your application. The PEI system rates the surface of a tile from Class 1 to Class 5, with 1 being least resistant to abrasion to 5 being most resistant. Any tile can be used on walls, yet floor tiles need to be more durable to withstand the wear and tear of foot traffic. A Class 2 or greater is a perfect choice for light residential use. For high traffic areas such as kitchens and entryways, choose a class 3 or higher.
Tiles made of natural stone offer durability and the beauty of color variation, but they are also the most expensive option. The types of natural stone are:
Granite is a dense-grained hard stone. It’s actually the second hardest known substance, behind diamonds. Granite is an igneous rock formed either from the melting of sediments deep within the Earth or through magma (lava) activity. Granite is not only durable but also naturally beautiful with vibrant patterns and veining. Once polished, natural granite will maintain its high-gloss finish virtually forever. It also cleans in seconds. Because of its durability, it’s suitable for kitchen countertops, wet bars, entry walls, floors, fireplaces, and bathroom vanities. Flamed or honed granite can be used almost anywhere.
Slate is a fine-grained, metamorphic rock, commonly derived from sedimentary rock shale. Best suited for floors, walkways, roofing, kitchen countertops, and wet bars, slate shades within the same color family often vary widely. Slate usually requires two types of sealants before grouting: one to clog the tiny pores in the stone and another one as a protective layer.
Travertine is a variety of limestone formed in pools by the precipitation of hot mineral-rich spring water. It’s another form of marble that’s less dense and highly porous. Travertine can have a honed, unfinished surface, or the holes can be filled and then polished to a high gloss. It’s best-used in entry walls, floors, fireplace surrounds, vanities, shower walls, tub decks, and mosaics. It is not recommended for kitchen or wet-bar countertops because it can be easily stained and scratched. Travertine requires more care than granite as some cleaning products can be destructive to its surface, but it costs less than other natural stone products.
Marble was once limestone that underwent a metamorphosis from the intense pressures and high temperatures within the Earth. The combination of the natural materials in these deposits and geologic events produces unique colors and veining of great depth and intensity. It can be used in bathroom walls and flooring, as well as for fireplace surrounds. It is not recommended for kitchens unless the stone is honed and sealed.
Glass tiles are made from thin pieces of glass with translucent glaze fired onto the back of each tile. They’re sold either individually or in predesigned mosaic patterns set on a mesh backing. The translucence and endless color varieties of glass make it one of the most beautiful choices for contemporary backsplashes. Glass is naturally mold and mildew resistant, waterproof, and very easy to clean. But glass tile is pricey compared to ceramic and porcelain tile. It also requires professional installation to avoid adhesive mistakes that will show throw the translucent material.