Glass Tile for Backsplash
Credit: capdevielle via Wikimedia Commons

Tile is a natural choice if you are looking for a floor or wall covering that is beautiful, durable and affordable. Whether it is ceramic, glass tile, travertine or porcelain, virtually all types can be installed by a homeowner as a DIY project.

Besides its durable and ease of installation, one of the other benefits of tile is that it allows for a lot of versatility and creativity for the individual home. For example, some might alternate varying  colors  to form patterns on floors or walls, create elaborate insets within flooring or a kitchen backsplash and create borders to form unusual patterns and colors, and that is just the beginning.

The right bathroom wall design or flooring in the kitchen can make rooms seem larger or more intimate if that is the goal. If you want to brighten a room or make it seem more formal, there are options for that as well.  The combinations are endless but it important to select the right option for each type of use. There are differences between flooring and wall tiles and the distinctions are important to understand  if you want your work of art to last.

Selecting Tile for Floors

Tile a Kitchen Floor
Credit: Opensource

The most important consideration for a floor covering is not how attractive it will look believe it not. You can have the most beautiful tile on your floors in the world, but if it is not durable enough to hold up to foot traffic, then you will be replacing it within a few years at considerable cost. Products specifically designated for use on floors are engineered to tolerate these additional stresses, but they can also be used on counter tops, or even walls, although they can be harder to mount because of their additional thickness and weight compared to tile specifically designed for wall.

Note: If you are using flooring products on walls and are planning on using trim pieces or borders on your walls or counter tops as highlights, they tend to be harder to find so your options may be limited.

When shopping for floor tiles, look for brands with a rating by the American National Standards Institute or the Porcelain Enamel Institute if possible. If not, check with your local flooring store to verify that the type you are thinking of buying is appropriate for your particular project.

Before you buy anything, sit down and think about what you will be using it for and where it will be located. Will it be in an area of significant moisture such as a bathroom? Floor tiles usually have a moisture rating assigned to them.  These ratings dictate where it can be used and whether or not it should be sealed.

Floor Tile Ratings

Additionally, depending on the manufacturer or distributor, it may also have a rating for Tile a FloorCredit: Opensourcequality, usually Grades 1 to 3.

Grade 1 – Standard grade

Grade 2 – Indicates minor glaze and size flaws

Grade 3 – Indicates major flaws, recommended only for decoration purposes

Tile designated for outdoor projects is often rated for frost as well.

Finally, the tile may be rated for its resistance to slipping, basically the amount of friction it generates from shoes. The higher the number of the rating, the more slip resistant the tile is, so consider that for high traffic areas, or bathrooms that are likely to be damp after a shower.

These are all crucial points to consider before ordering boxes and boxes of tile for your project.

Selecting Tile for Walls

Wall tile is generally thinner and weighs less because it does not have to hold up under a lot of weight and heavy traffic so you have to select the right tile for the right project.

Furthermore, because wall tiles tend to lend themselves to more creative designs, there tends to be more trim and decorative options for insets, borders and finished edges for kitchen backsplashes.

As stated earlier, you can use tile designated for floors as wall tiles, but because of its weight, it tends to slide down the wall when applying it with thinset. There are devices called battens that can help control this, however, it is probably best to use wall specific tile if it is your first time tiling a large project. Again, look for brands with a rating by the American National Standards Institute or the Porcelain Enamel Institute if possible.

Note: Wall tiles should never be used for flooring or on counter tops.

Wall Tile Ratings

The same rating for flooring tiles apply to tiles meant for walls.  They too come with a moisture rating so pay attention to this aspect if the tile is going to be in an area of heavy moisture or humidity, else mildew and mold will form or on behind the tile and the surface it is adhering. It is also important to note which tiles are moisture resistant, and which are required to be sealed for resistance to water and stains when shopping at a retailer.

Grade 1 – Standard grade

Grade 2 – Indicates minor glaze and size flaws

Grade 3 – Indicates major flaws, recommended only for decoration purposes.

It is particularly important to pay attention to the slip coefficient for the tile you select for your bathroom floors. Remember, the higher the better. Some professional installers recommend using something like tumbled stone in the bathroom because it has a natural texture to it.

Tiling walls is the time to let your imagination go and have fun with your design. There are styles for every effect you desire, from subtle to more formal, so figure out what you want and how it will blend in with the rest of that area of your home before you go out and purchase large quantities of tile.

Ceramic Tile vs. Natural Stone

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Final Thoughts

Tiling a KitchenCredit: Stefan Bakos via Wikimedia CommonsWhether you choose natural stone, porcelain, ceramic or glass, tile is a versatile and durable option for your home that allows maximum creativity and elegance when tiling walls or floors.

Be sure to choose the right option for the kitchen or bathroom, and pay attention to manufacture’s ratings and recommendations when purchasing and during installation. Some products have very specific instructions set forth by a particular manufacture and you must follow them if you want your work to adhere properly and not have any cracking or spots that are not level.

When you are finished, you should be able to slide a quarter across the flooring without any hiccups or run your hand down the wall and not feel any pieces jutting out. Then you can be proud of your personal masterpiece because it will last for many years.