When all you want is to choose a pretty tile for your home, it can be frustrating to be bombarded with technical details about the different types of tiles, but its important to do your research and choose a tile that going to work for your home and is going to last many years.
When designing our kitchen we discovered that fundamentally there are two main type of tiles, porcelain and ceramic. The difference between them lies in their genetic makeup. Ceramic tiles are made from red, brown or white clay, they can also contain other materials, whilst porcelain is made from white clay and also contains finely ground kaolin, feldspar or silica. Porcelain tiles are formed under a much higher pressure and fired at a higher temperature than ceramic tiles. Creating a more dense, more durable, almost water-resistant tile.
Porcelain tiles are better on floors as they are stronger than ceramic tiles due to being denser and more durable. They are less porous than ceramic clays making them harder and more impervious to moisture than ceramic tile.
Glazed porcelain tiles are manufactured with a glaze applied to the tile face. These are often cheaper and this basically means a photo or picture is printing onto the tile surface. A cheaper glazed porcelain tile may have the pattern repeated several times, which can be noticeable when laid.
Through-body porcelain is when the colour and design is the same all the way through the tile, they are often more costly but wear and chips are harder to detect.
All ceramic tiles are made of clay that is fired in a kiln. If the ceramic tile gets chips, the body of the colour in the tile is very noticeable therefore can be unsightly. Ceramic is mainly used for walls as it is lighter and less dense. This unfortunately also makes it is easier to break and not ideal for floors in high traffic areas.
Tile density has its pros and cons. While ceramic tiles are less dense than porcelain, making them a far easier material for do-it-yourselfers to cut due to being softer which results in them being easier to work with and install.
If you are purchasing natural stone tiles make sure you get the right advice for sealing and treating the tiles before and after fixing.
- Granite: The hardest and densest stone. It can be polished or smooth, honed flat or left natural. It is resistant to stains and water, but it is porous so should be treated and sealed after installation.
- Slate: Consists of layer of flat, hard-packed stone (compressed by the weight of the earth) making it almost as hard as granite. This material has a very strong structure, making it resistant to cracks and breaks however It can be prone to chipping around the edges. Like all stones, it is naturally porous therefore should be chemically sealed after installation, and will need to be resealed periodically.
- Limestone: Limestone is offers slightly less density and strength. It tends to weather beautifully with an antique look over time. Again, it is porous and will need to be sealed.
- Sandstone: An extremely porous material and not recommended in bathrooms and other humid or wet environments. Needs lots of work to be sealed effectively.
Porcelain and ceramic tiles can mimic the look of stone, however it is impossible to fully reproduce it. For this reason, people often opt for the less durable natural option, even though it requires more care and maintenance.
Porcelain tiles are best for Bathroom floors for water resistance, selected ceramic tiles can be used on feature walls.
Buy some samples of your chosen tile and take them home, test for durability by walking on them with muddy feet to see if they mark. Spend some time with the tile to see if it chips easy.
Buy 10% more tiles that you need, to allow for pattern cutting and breakages (and keep a few spares in the garage for the future, just in case!)
Tiles come in batches, when picking up boxes of tiles in the shop check the number and make sure they are from the same batch (just like wallpaper).
Floor tiles can be used on walls but can be heavy, so you need to check the wall can take the weight. And make sure they are fitted well with the right type of adhesive.
For all glazed tiles, the glazing helps prevent scratches and reduces wear making them more durable.
Do not use ceramic tiles in areas with high foot traffic, such as living rooms, halls and kitchens.
Dark grout shows less dirt, perfect for bathrooms and floors!