Ceramic tile flooring and wall products come in a broad range of colors, textures, patterns and sizes. When combined with a spectrum of grout and glaze options, they offer up some serious styling options for any taste and any home.
Here’s what you should know about the beautiful and vast world of ceramic tile styles.
The Big 3
There are 3 primary types of ceramic tile: glazed, unglazed and porcelain. Know the difference and you’re good to go.
Glazed ceramic tiles are coated with glass-forming minerals and ceramic stains. Usually, they come in a matte, semi-gloss or high-gloss finish. Glazed tile offers better stain and moisture resistance than unglazed tile. Glazed tile can also come in a variety of finishes. High gloss finishes can be slippery and scratch easily, while matte or textured finishes help with traction and scratches — and dirt is less visible.
Unglazed ceramic tiles are hard and dense. They come in a variety of surface treatments and textures. More often than not, this style of ceramic tile is installed outside of your home, as they don’t offer a whole lot of protection against stains compared to glazed ceramic tile. Unglazed tiles do have good slip resistance, however they require sealing to resist staining.
Porcelain tile is comprised of 50% feldspar and is fired at a much higher temperature than traditional ceramic tile. This makes porcelain tile even harder and more dense than other tile products. Because of its high durability, porcelain is more resistant to scratches and can withstand extreme temperatures.
Because porcelain is non-porous, it’s naturally stain resistant and has low water absorption ratings (less than 0.5%). As a result, porcelain tile can be used for both interior and exterior applications, as well as heavy-use and commercial areas. And because a porcelain tile’s color permeates the entire tile, small scratches or chips are far less noticeable.
When you consider what size tile would be best for your room, consider the size of the room first — not the size of the tile.
Some people believe that small rooms call for small tile. Not always true. In fact, using a larger size tile in a smaller room will visually increase the size of the space. And fewer grout lines will create a cleaner surface appearance.
Conversely, using a tile size that’s too small and requires more grout joints may make the floor look too busy.
The point is that scale plays an important role in giving a space an overall balance. Choose wisely!
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Friend or Faux?
Natural stone tiles are very popular but many consumers prefer ceramic over stone because of their lower price and easier maintenance. So in response to consumer demand, ceramic and porcelain tile manufacturers have begun producing tiles that offer textures and patterns almost indistinguishable from natural stone products.
Travertine and marble are two of the most popular styles. Tile can also be made with such characteristics as heavy textures, chiseled and hammered edges, and even the look and feel of tumbled stone.
Ceramic tile is a very versatile product with styles that are perfect for today’s popular outdoor living areas. Outdoor tile typically comes with non-skid finishes designed for safety when wet or covered in frost. Ceramic tile manufactured for outdoor use has very low water absorption, minimizing the cracking, chipping and other effects of weather.
In addition to styles, ceramic tile manufacturers also sell decorative inserts, medallions and mosaics that can be used to create intricate patterns and borders. Tile sized 2”x2” and smaller are typically referred to as mosaics and can be used with different colors to create a pattern or decorative inset.
Smaller tiles also come in different shapes, like hexagons, allowing endless design possibilities.
Patterned borders comprised of different size tiles or different colors can create timeless looks. Simple variations in color, shape or size can be patterned within the same room, or across several adjoining rooms. The tile that is most prominent throughout the largest areas is called the “field tile.”
Combining styles and patterns of ceramic tile flooring with countertop and wall products can give a room a unique and aesthetic balance. Floor and wall tiles may be designed to look similar, but floor tiles are almost always thicker and textured for safety.
Wall tile styles usually come in smaller sizes and with a higher gloss. Large floor tiles are not designed to adhere to walls.
Grout is a type of cement used to fill the space between and provide support to ceramic tiles. There are two types of grout commonly used for home installations: “Portland cement-based” and “epoxy-based.” Both of these grout compounds may have sand as an ingredient to provide additional strength to the tile joint. Sanded grout is recommended for tile joints 1/8th of an inch or larger. Un-sanded grout is typically used in joints that are smaller than 1/8th of an inch.
Grout color can dramatically change the appearance of a ceramic tile floor and the entire room it’s in. Grout can be pigmented onsite to create an endless array of hues, shades and color.
Using a white or a light colored grout brings out the color of the tile. Choosing a dark grout with a light tile, or light grout with a dark tile, however, highlights the grout, itself, and therefore emphasizes the geometric pattern of the design.