House Planning: How to Choose Tiles
Glass, Ceramic, Porcelain…? Three Basic Questions Will Help You Make the Right Pick
Fancy techniques aside, tile simply refers to any kind of durable material that can be laid in rows over a surface. While people have interpreted that to mean everything from solid gold to broken seashells, in kitchens and baths it most commonly refers to stone, ceramic, porcelain, and glass. All of these materials are beautiful, strong, and come in a variety of shapes and colors.
So, how do you decide which material, cut, and size is best for your bathroom or kitchen? Like most problems in design, this is an issue of functionality and practicality. However, it can be resolved by answering three questions:
- Where will this tile be placed?
- What is your budget?
- How often will this tile be used?
1.Where will this tile be placed?
Deciding exactly where the tile will be placed will help you narrow down size and material. Are you using this tile for a backsplash? A counter? Floor? Walls? Most commonly, stone, ceramic, and porcelain are used for counters and floors. Glass is mostly used for walls and backsplashes. This shower has a ceramic mosaic floor (which provides a solid grip in an otherwise slippery shower), accented with easy-to-clean rectangular glass tiles.
Glass tiles are a common choice for bathrooms and kitchens today because they’re easily recycled and come in a wide variety of colors and finishes. Mosaic tiles — usually shaped in rectangles, squares, or “pennies” — have become increasingly popular. These glossy mosaic tiles work well on this bathroom floor because they’re easy to clean and provide traction during your post-shower dry down. Remember that a glossy floor tile isn’t the same as a glossy wall tile — before buying, explain to an in-store expert where your tile will be installed. Floor tile has to be safe to walk on, so you want to make sure that the texture and strength of the tile is correct.
A no-slip grip and incredible strength make porcelain a common flooring choice. It’s an extremely durable and water-resistant material that can even be used outside.
Ceramic tile is a good fit in bathrooms or other moisture-rich environments. It’s easy to clean and install, it’s waterproof, sturdy, and is a great value for the price. Designers also like ceramic tile because its surface is ideal for paint or decal ornamentation.
When it comes to durability, natural stone is the crème de la crème. It has a completely natural beauty, and since no two stones are exactly alike, a natural pattern will emerge on tiled floors or walls. Pay attention to maintenance requirements when choosing stone. Some stones need to be sealed, otherwise they’ll stay porous and can become stained or even crumble. A smooth stone works well for kitchen clean-ups, but a textured stone floor will help prevent slips on a bathroom floor.
Modern Bathroom by John Lum Architecture, Inc. AIA
John Lum Architecture, Inc. AIA
Consider shape and size. This is particularly important if you’re planning to install the tile yourself. Larger tiles have a distinctive look and are easier to fit and place than smaller tiles. If you’re using ceramic tile, check that all the edges are straight; this will make grouting much easier. Also make sure that all of your tiles are the same size — the manufacturing process can result in variations up to 1/4 of an inch.
Contemporary Bathroom by Angelica Henry Design
Angelica Henry Design
Square and rectangular tiles are also much easier to place than those with an irregular shape. These porcelain tiles with mirror inlays are absolutely stunning — but if this is a look you’re going for, it’s a good idea to call in a professional.
Contemporary Bathroom by Tracy Stone AIA
Tracy Stone AIA
2.What is your budget? There’s a wide range of prices for tile. Some general estimates (not including installation):
- Ceramic tile ranges from $2-$20 per square foot.
- Natural stone ranges from $7-$20 per square foot.
- Glass tile ranges from $7-$30 per square foot.
- Porcelain tile ranges from $3-$25 per square foot.
This glass tile countertop is beautiful in this bathroom, and makes everyday cleaning easy. If you like this look, consider how much use your surface will get. Glass tile might not handle wear and tear as well as other materials.
Traditional Kitchen by Norberry Tile & Plumbing Studio
Norberry Tile & Plumbing Studio
Ceramic tile is usually less expensive than glass and when glazed is just as easy to clean.
Beach Style Kitchen by Kitchens & Baths, Linda Burkhardt
Kitchens & Baths, Linda Burkhardt
3.How often will this tile be used?
While there’s no set industry standard for tile durability, most tile is classified using PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) ratings, which are:
1: No foot traffic.
2: Light traffic
3: Moderate to light traffic
4: Moderate to heavy traffic
5: Heavy to extra-heavy traffic
A lot of porcelain tile is classified as a 4 or a 5. This makes it a great choice for a family kitchen.
Traditional Bathroom by Mitchell Construction Group
It’s important to choose a floor tile that can stand up to the daily wear and tear of your household. Scuffs, spilled foods, cleaning supplies, dog scratches, etc. should all be taken into account. Make sure to choose a tile that is specifically formulated for floor use. This natural stone tile shower is a great example, since it has a high COF (coefficient of friction) to keep it from being too slippery. You’ll definitely want to do this when choosing a tile for your bathroom floor. Something with a slight raised pattern or texture will increase friction, even when wet.
Traditional Kitchen by Harrell Remodeling
If doing an entire stone or porcelain floor isn’t quite your style, consider doing what this family did, and create a kitchen “rug” out of tile. This part of the kitchen floor will probably be used the most by the family, and this tough and long-lasting stone won’t suffer the same damage as hardwood in this area would.
Contemporary Kitchen Contemporary Kitchen
If you’re feeling resigned to a practical, durable tile to protect your kitchen from kids and your golden retriever, take heart. The backsplash is one area where you can get really creative. This is an area that doesn’t take direct traffic, so you can be more free with materials and design ideas. You still want to make sure that your backsplash can still take a few hits — as it’ll still have to withstand splashes of hot water, oil, grease and cleaning materials. These colorful ceramic tiles are a great fit for a backsplash behind a stove: they can withstand the heat and are easy to wipe off.