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How to Choose the Right Tile for the Right Project

By Edited Oct 24, 2016 1 0
How to Choose the Right Tile for the Right Project
Credit: Amazon.com

There are many types of tile to choose from, but not all of them are right for all installations. And for that matter, not all are created equally. Some work great on walls, but will not withstand foot traffic. Some are glossed or glazed making them very slippery.

Before you embark on any tiling projects, you need to understand the differences between each and the pros and cons of installing them in certain rooms.

The following discussion will provide the basics to get you started. Armed with this information, you will be in a better position to make an informed decision when the time comes to select the right tile for a project.

Porcelain Tile

How to Choose the Right Tile for the Right Project
Porcelain tile is produced by pressing refined clay together, then shaped and placed into a kiln at very high temperatures. The result is an extremely hard surface that is very water, mold and mildew resistant.

Porcelain tile is manufactured in all shapes and size. Due to its white base color, it  accepts dye easily allowing manufacturers to create an almost unlimited range of colors and finishes making it a popular choice for homeowners.

Porcelain tile also accepts imprinted textures well making them perfect for wet locations like bathrooms or showers. Manufacturers are able to create finer, more intricate patterns within porcelain tile because of the way the color is created. It can even be cut so that it looks exactly like more expensive stone tile.

Glazed Ceramic Tile

Glazed ceramic tile is made from clay that is pressed into a shape, glazed and then heated in a kiln during the manufacturing process. The glaze provides color and creates a hard shiny surface. To make it suitable for flooring, the surface is then textured.

Glazed tile absorbs almost no water making it resistant to mildew. Because of the hard glaze, it is also scratch resistant making it one of the more durable types of tile.

Glass Tile

Glass tile is primarily used on walls although in some applications in can be used on floors as well. It is available in a variety of colors, shapes and sized.

Because most glass tile is translucent to some degree, it is important to use a white tile adhesive that will not show through the tile once they have been set in place.

Glass is impervious to moisture but is easily scratched or cracked, so it should not be installed where it will get hit by a swinging door or cabinet door.

12" x 12" Iridescent Glass Mosaic in Blue Iridescent
Amazon Price: $7.90 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 24, 2016)

Metal Tile

Metal is one of the most expensive options per square foot. However, if you mix a few in with glazed or porcelain, you can get a higher end look.

Metal tiles are installed just like standard tiles and are available in multiple shapes for most situations. They are available with smooth polished finishes, or unpolished. You can also order them with embossed designs.

Some metal tiles may weather a bit over time if it is exposed to moisture so you really have to be careful where you put metal tiles.

Blue Stainless Steel + Blue (Diamond Shape) Glass + Blue Galaxy Glass
Amazon Price: $45.00 $21.96 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 24, 2016)

Natural Stone Tile

Natural Stone Travertine
This type of stone includes a variety of different types including marble, granite and slate. Natural stone can be cut into precise patterns and installed just like manufactured tile.

Because stone is a natural material, variations in color and texture are to be expected, but that is what gives it the look of elegance.

Manufacturers offer stone tiles with added finishes such as polished, distressed and textured. All of these are attractive and slip-resistant, although very porous making it a poor choice for high moisture areas. In fact, most natural stone requires frequent sealing to prevent it from staining. The exception would be granite which tends to be less porous and less prone to staining, although it is still a good idea to seal it every couple of years.

Another thing to consider regarding natural stone is that not all types are abrasion-resistant. In fact, some natural stone is very soft and can be scratched just from normal use. Be sure to check with the specific manufacturer regarding the area you plan to install it.

Terra-cotta Tile

Terra-cotta originated in the Mediterranean and in Spanish regions and their former colonies

How to Choose the Right Tile for the Right Project
because it was easier to make locally and held up well in that climate. It is made by pressing unrefined clay into molds of various shapes and heated it in a kiln. Terra-cotta literally translates to baked earth.

Terra-cotta comes in many different earth toned colors such as brown, yellow and red. These colors are created from a combination of minerals unique to the soil in the area. The manufacturing process can make terra-cotta tile that is the same shape as regular tile so it can be laid in the same manner.  However, traditional, local made terra-cotta tile, particularly the type that is produced in Mexico has irregularities in texture and shape making it more labor intensive to install.

Terra-cotta is very slip-resistant making it ideal for flooring areas. However, unglazed terra-cotta is very porous  so it should be treated with a sealer before installing it in wet areas.

Terra Cotta 12" x 12" Cuadrado Tile in Brown
Amazon Price: $15.95 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 24, 2016)

Quarry Tile

Modern quarry tile is made from red clay put through dye that makes it resemble cut stone. The dye is also creates a ribbed back on the tile to improve mortar adhesion. The rough aspect of quarry tile makes it visually appealing and slip-resistant. However, the open texture means more maintenance.

Quarry is much more porous than glazed or porcelain tile making it prone to stains and mildew. Sealants must be added to increase the longevity.

Mosaic Tile

Mosaic tiles can be ceramic, porcelain, terra-cotta, stone or other types that are cut into small

How to Choose the Right Tile for the Right Project
pieces and mounted on a mesh backing to make one large tile with many smaller tiles.

These squares may be a solid color or contain a pattern. Individual mosaic tiles are also available for making custom accents and mosaics. Mosaic can be very low maintenance or it can required an occasional sealant depending on the material used to make the mosaic.

Mosaic is very slip-resistant in general because all of the small tiles make a lot of grout lines for a rougher texture.

Cement Tile

Cement body tiles are made in virtually any color and texture by using various dyes and shaped using various molds. It can even be made to look exactly like marble or natural stone.

Cement is a good choice for those on a budget because of its low cost and durability. However, unfinished cement tile is very porous and stains easily. And because it freezes and cracks easily outdoors, it should not be installed outdoors under certain conditions.

Cement is high maintenance and should be treated with a sealant once a year to maintain its appearance.

Genuine Mother of Pearl Shell Tile Natural Varied 3/8
Amazon Price: $42.00 $18.95 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 24, 2016)

Summary

You can find just about any type of tile in any texture or color for the job you need. The most important thing for most home owners when deciding on a DIY tiling project is cost. However, I would suggest that you consider other items such as ease of installation and cutting, and how much maintenance will be involved.

Most people opt for porcelain tile for bathroom areas because of its non-porous nature and affordability. For other areas of your home, it really depends on your own taste and creativity.

Tiling a wall or floor can be a very rewarding experience if you take the time to choose the right type and color and design a pattern. If you are new to DIY projects, start with relatively easy ones like creating a backsplash in the kitchen using a mosaic type which is easier to cut to fit around outlets and fixtures. Then you can graduated to more complicated areas of your home once you have the confidence to proceed.

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