Choosing Flooring: Tile

Tile continues to grow in popularity as a floor covering, with good reason.

  • Tile has a natural, handcrafted look that's durable and easy to care for.
  • Tile works well in areas with high foot traffic, and it's especially suited to entry areas where water and dirt enter the house.
  • Design patterns are limitless when using all of the possible combinations of size, texture and color.
  • You can further expand your creative toolbox with hand painted tiles and colored grouts.

By combining various geometric layout and numerous trim tiles your design options are practically limitless.

Selecting Tile

Finding a tile you like is easy. Just make sure it's the right one for your floor and choose a tile that's rated for the area you where you plan to install it. Entryways need a hard, abrasion-resistant, moisture-proof tile. Baths require a moisture-proof non-slip material. Slip-resistant tile is treated with an abrasive material to "rough up" the smooth surface for safety. Some tiles are rated for indoor or outdoor use only, others can be used in either application.

Floor tile is usually 1/2" to 3/4" thick, manufactured in squares measuring 4"x4" up to 24"x 24". Other shapes, such as octagonal and hexagonal are available. (Wall tile is thinner and comes in squares from 3"x 3" up to 6"x 6".)

Mosaic tiles are two inches square or smaller and can be installed individually. Mosaic tiles are also available in pre-mounted paper or fabric mesh sheets.

Tile Ratings

All tile feels hard, but some types of tile are actually harder than others. Tile is rated by a series of standardized tests. The tests evaluate a tile's relative hardness (the Moh scale), its ability to stand up to wear and the percentage of water absorbed.

The Porcelain Enamel Institute hardness ratings are:

  • Group I - Light Traffic: residential bathroom floors where bare or stocking feet are the norm.
  • Group II - Medium Traffic: home interiors where little abrasion occurs. Don't use in kitchens or entries.
  • Group III - Medium-Heavy Traffic: any home interior.
  • Group IV - Heavy Traffic: homes or light to medium commercial areas.
  • Group V- Extra Heavy Traffic: use it anywhere.

These ratings are important, but don't get too bogged down in analysis — they serve to help you find the right tile for your application.


Pay closer attention to the ratings test that measures the percentage of water absorbed, or porosity. A tile's porosity is critical especially when choosing tile for kitchens and baths, since these areas need moisture proof flooring. Porous tile should not be used outdoors where cold weather produces freeze/thaw cycles. The classifications for the porosity of tile are: Impervious (least absorbent), Vitreous, Semi-vitreous, and Non-vitreous (most absorbent).


The hardness of tile is affected by the firing process. Usually, the longer and hotter the firing, the harder the tile will be. The raw tile material, called bisque, is either single-fired or double-fired.

  • For single-fired tiles, the glaze is applied to the raw material and baked once in a kiln.
  • Double-fired tiles are thicker. Raw material is baked a second time after additional color or decoration is added.

Installing Tile

On the do-it-yourself project scale, installing tile ranges from easy to challenging. Tiles usually require some cutting to fit. They're applied with mortar or other adhesives, followed by a final application of grout.

As with all types of tile, areas that require precision cuts may be more difficult. Flooring presents its own set of concerns. Since tile is not a resilient material, it requires a very stable subsurface. Subfloors frequently have to be built up to the thickness required for tile flooring.

See the chart below for some common (and some less common) floor tile.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Tile Talk

An overview of the tile trends on show at Coverings 2009
May 19, 2009

Coverings 2009 proved, as it has for the past 20 years, that it is a vital compass in pointing the way to the latest trends in tile and stone. And there was no shortage of impressive and notable new products on exhibit at this year's show, held from April 21 to 24 at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago.

New technologies have yielded many of the most exciting introductions. There were plenty of oohs and ahhs along the aisles of the show floor, also in reaction to numerous new decorative styles and design concepts. With hundreds of exhibitors from more than 50 countries, Coverings is a place where retailers, distributors, installers, architects, designers and builders can see the latest products, applications and innovations.

American-based StonePeak came to Coverings with breaking news appropriate for a week that coincided with Earth Day: It has invented a photocatalytic tile that features a micrometric layer of titanium dioxide, a treatment resulting in a tile that helps reduce pollutants, is self-cleaning and also anti-microbial. The Tile Council of North America, through its laboratory testing, confirmed this patented technology and the photocatalytic properties. StonePeak executives said the product, which is suitable for both indoors and outdoors, will be available this fall.

Several companies have mastered the technology to create ultra-thin tile slabs—most either just 3 mm or 4 mm thick (1/8 and 1/6 in., respectively). What is astonishing about these porcelain additions are their laminate-like characteristics. They can simply be adhered over most existing surfaces (a cost savings) and offer a low-maintenance and high-performance cladding for exteriors, as well as a rejuvenating topping for counters, cabinetry facades and other interior furnishings. Among those pioneering this breakthrough is Inalco, a Tile of Spain manufacturer, who introduced SlimmKer. Showing similarly progressive products were Ceramic Tiles of Italy companies, including Florim, which came to Coverings with Slim/4, and from Cotto D’Este, there was the Kerlite series [1], which includes a new style called Buxy that is being offered by Boffi as a finish option for its kitchen components. At Gardenia Orchidea, the 1/8-in. profile was shown in decorative tiles available in 13-in. x 13-in. and 6 1/2-in. x 13-in. sizes. This Crystal Ker collection included styles with a faux leather finish plus ornate motifs, some with glittering details.

Another significant outcome of technology is digital inkjet printing of porcelain tiles to create less costly, more practical flooring rather than actual slate or exotic woods. Florida Tile, for instance, was showing Legend [2], which mimics slate, can go outdoors as well as in, and is available in large formats up to 24 in. x 24 in. Grespania also had a slate look-alike, Zumaia, while Tau took the faux wood look to a new level with Deco [3], imitative of zebrano. And, back at Gardenia Orchidea, a stunner was Onice [4], a series of both ceramic and porcelain tiles made to look like highly polished marble and marble mosaics.

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