Tiles have been used in homes for 12,000 years, and since then many different kinds of tiles have emerged. The styles, colours and designs are too many to list, but we want to introduce some basic guidelines for choosing what type of tile to use for your project.
The four most common materials for tiles are ceramic, porcelain, stone and glass.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles
Technically ceramic and porcelain tiles are not the same, although they are both made from clay and hardened by heat.
Porcelain has a very low water absorption rate. It has fewer impurities than ceramic and often contains more kaolin [link] than ceramic. Porcelain is made of quartz, clay and feldspar and is fired at temperatures between 1200 and 1400 degrees C. While tile manufacturers marketing departments often interchange the terms, the Porcelain Tile Certification Agency (PTCA) [link] certifies tile as being porcelain or not.
Porcelain is also harder and more durable than ceramic tile. The reasons for this are the higher firing temperatures and the higher feldspar content. Because ceramic tile is a little softer and less brittle, it is easier to cut and less prone to break while working with it.
While pricing does not always correspond to the quality, ceramic tiles are usually more economical than porcelain.
When we think of glass, we usually think of a fragile, clear finish as we know it from windows and drinking glasses. But glass tiles have become very popular in recent years and boast an enormous variety of designs. These tiles can even have a rough finish or a high gloss, shiny one.
Glass helps make a space look bigger and reflects light. It helps to keep rooms brighter.
You can find glass tiles often as accent strips or kitchen backsplash.
Many kinds of natural stones can be used as tiles:
- Granite tiles have the advantage that they are naturally antibacterial and aren’t damaged by water contact. You often see granite used as a countertop material as well.
- Marble tiles have long been used to create a luxurious look in a home. Depending on the choice of marble they can be placed to create a uniform look or a unique, organic design.
- Slate is mainly used for outside tiles and shingles. Used indoors they can give a rustic accent and a natural look.
- Travertine is a type of limestone. Travertine tiles are often used for bathroom floors and shower mosaics. Travertine tiles are soft and need to be sealed.
- Onyx is well known for its creamy pearl-like look and deep, striking colours. The cost and fragility of onyx make it a better choice for wall tiles and accents.
- Sandstone is extremely durable. It has a grainy look and feels and range in colour from yellow to pink and red.
Where best to use what tile material
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are very versatile and can be used for almost any application. For floor tiles, it is important to choose those that offer higher slip resistance. A COF of .50 (dry) is required for floors. But keep in mind that moisture makes tiles more slippery.
Glass tiles are better for walls, especially backsplashes. The colour and depth of glass tiles make them a great choice for any place where you want some accent or more visual depth of the tile. Glass tiles are usually too slippery for floors and would not hold up to the wear and tear of everyday use.
Natural and manufactured stone tiles are a great choice for almost any surface. As with the other tiles, you have to make sure that your floor tiles are suitable for floors. And natural stone may have to be sealed for use in wet areas.
Not all tiles are made for outside
As you know by now, there are many different considerations for using tiles for different applications. Tiles for outside have to withstand weather, frost, thawing and sunlight. Make sure to use only certified materials for outdoor use. The tiles you use for your patio or walkways should have enough grip to be safe and will likely look more rugged. Most of all, outside tiles must be frost resistant and withstand the freeze/thaw cycles without cracking.
Common tile related questions:
Should I use matte or glossy tiles?
- Because glossy tiles reflect light, they open up smaller spaces and make them appear larger, lighter and brighter
- The glossy surface makes the tiles easier to clean
- The shinier the surface, the easier it shows up dirt. So these tiles require more frequent cleaning.
- Glossy surfaces are more slippery, particularly when wet.
- If you want to create a soothing, serene atmosphere, the shiny look might be too distracting.
- Matte tiles have better traction than glossy ones; a big advantage for floors.
- The matte surface better conceals stains, smudges and dried water droplets.
- Matte tiles can create a natural or even rustic look. They are ideal for creating spaces that offer serenity and calmness.
- As mentioned, matte surfaces conceal imperfections, but that also makes them more difficult to clean.
- Because matte tiles don’t reflect as much light, smaller spaces are not opened up.
As you can see, there are many factors to consider before even choosing a design.
What is the difference between glazed and unglazed tiles?
Tiles are made of clay that is fired in a kiln. The glaze is applied before the tile goes into the kiln and the high heat fuses it to the top of the surface.
The glaze on the tiles gives them a lot more protection from liquids and stains. They also allows a wide variety of colour and design variations. Unglazed tiles gain their colour solely from the mineral deposits in the clay or the addition of natural pigments. If these pressed pigments form a pattern in the tile, the design goes right through the tile. This gives unglazed tiles a more natural appearance.
In most cases, unglazed tiles will need to be sealed to prevent staining, and this sealant has to be re-applied regularly.
Does sealing tiles and grout make them waterproof?
Applying a tile sealer regularly makes tiles and grout more resilient against stains and dirt, but it doesn’t make them waterproof!
A tile wall or floor consists of many layers and materials of protection. The final tiled surface of it is only the visible part.
At Advent Home Solutions we want to make sure that you can enjoy your home over a long period. Therefore we make sure we use only the best materials and installation methods. We use the superior quality of Schluter System membranes and materials to assure a good moisture seal under your tiles.
Let’s talk about your tiles
Choosing the right tiles for your project can be tough. We are happy to advise you using our experience and knowledge. We can help you sort through the overwhelming amount of choices and show you examples of what we have done for our clients.
I am pleased with the end product and would highly recommend Barry and his team for home renovations.”
Bathroom Renovation – Kate, Squamish