Choosing the Right Tiling Materials

Woman & Man Selecting Tile Styles

Ceramic, vinyl, or parquet? Cork or carpet? What substrate? Which adhesive? The more you know about the various kinds of tile, the easier it will be for you to answer these questions and design and install a practical and durable surface.

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How to shop for tile
In this section, you'll find information about different kinds of tile and learn which material works best in different settings. You'll read about membranes, mortars, and mastics, which, along with substrates, provide the foundation for the tile.

When you begin to look for tile, don't start with a list of materials. First, ask yourself, 'How do I want to use this space?' The answer to that question will help determine what kind of tile and other materials to use.

Make a list of the characteristics needed for the area. Does it have to be waterproof? Will it need to stand up to a lot of heavy traffic? Do you want it to feel comfortable and cozy?

Then consider your budget. High-traffic areas, such as a foyer, call for the durability of ceramic tile. But if your bank account won't accommodate a ceramic floor, solid vinyl tile is a tough and affordable alternative. In the kids' room, carpet tile can help quiet the noise of children's play, and stained or damaged sections can be easily replaced.

After considering the uses of a room, make some general decisions about how you want the space to look. Then go shopping at several suppliers. Compare prices and take samples home. Fit them in a trial layout; if they don't work, go back and borrow other samples.

Ask plenty of questions and choose a supplier who can provide answers about the permeability, durability, and maintenance of any tile you choose.

Look for an outlet that will lend or rent tools. A store that offers how-to seminars will likely provide good service after a sale. Purchase all the tiles and materials you need from the same supplier. That way you will be assured of consistent information and compatibility among the products you choose.

Tile terms
The terminology used to describe tiles and materials may vary among suppliers and from region to region. Porcelain tile, for example, may mean large, modern floor tile to one supplier and small, hexagonal mosaics to another. What one dealer calls an "isolation membrane" may be a "slip sheet" to another. Clarify specifics as you go, so you know what you're buying.

Many tile sizes are listed as nominal, not actual measurements. The actual size of a 6x6 tile, for example, may be 5 7/8 x 5 7/8 inches, which allows for the width of the grout joint.

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