Using Ceramic Tile
When it comes to choosing tiles for a particular room or setting, there is perhaps only one rigid rule -- you can use many floor tiles on walls and countertops, but you can almost never set wall tiles on such horizontal surfaces. Your choice needs to account for durability, maintenance requirements, and safety. Many manufacturers will specify how their tile can be used.
Floor tiles are generally 3/8 to 3/4 inch thick (although pavers are thicker). In general, porcelain, quarry, and terra-cotta tiles, both glazed and unglazed, and cement-bodied tiles are suitable for floors. However, even within these categories, tile quality varies. Check the tile's rating to make sure it will stand up to the requirements of your room. Terra-cotta floor tile, for example, is not as durable as porcelain, so it's not the best candidate for use in an entryway. Choose glazed tiles that are slip-resistant. Seal soft-bodied tile against moisture and stains.
Most wall tiles are made from a white-bodied clay in thicknesses not much more than 1/4 inch. Their thin profile keeps them light enough for wall structures to support them. Since wall tiles are not subject to the abuse of floor tiles, your main considerations will be color and style. In shower enclosures and tub surrounds, however, choose a vitreous wall tile that will not absorb water. Avoid porous tile such as brick veneer -- even dense varieties. Porous tile attracts bacteria and is difficult to clean. If using a heavy floor tile, make sure the structure and setting materials are strong enough to support it.
Install vitreous or impervious tile on your countertop, preferably glazed for easy cleanup. Scratch a sample with a kitchen knife to make sure the glaze will stand up to countertop use.
Informal family rooms receive constant wear and tear. Choose a high-quality, dense floor tile, such as this large porcelain tile, that can take the abuse. Irregularly shaped tiles add a touch of informality.Countertops
Countertops take a beating from chopping, mixing, dropping utensils, spills, and frequent cleanup. Some vitreous floor tiles, such as this porcelain marble look-alike, make excellent countertops. So do stone and glazed tiles, if the glaze is impervious. Hard, dense tiles make cleanup easy.Wall Tile
Wall tiles play a decorative role in most rooms since they don't have to stand up to the wear and tear that floor tiles do. Let design guide your choices and use borders to vary the pattern. Pregrouted tile panels install easily and require less maintenance than grouted tile.Kitchen Floors
Kitchen floors benefit from the traditional choice of tile because tile cleans easily. Choose vitreous tile and seal the grout. Use throw rugs to soften the floor's hard surface and install in-floor radiant heating or an electric heat mesh to warm it in colder climates.Bathrooms
Sheet-mounted ceramic mosaics, which are vitreous and highly resistant to water, are perfect for bathrooms. On walls that won't get wet, use standard wall tile with a soft glaze. For floors, shower enclosures, and tub surrounds, use a vitreous tile.Foyers
Foyers endure heavy use in all kinds of weather. Foot traffic brings in moisture and grit that will quickly wear away a soft tile surface. Take durability and maintenance into consideration when choosing entryway tile. Consider hard, vitreous, glazed tile with a nonslip surface.
Foyers offer the perfect place to make a style statement -- that important first impression. They are well-suited to formal designs. To enhance a formal tiled entryway, consider a geometric mosaic border or an arrangement that features angular elements laid out symmetrically.Tile Grading
Manufacturing associations grade ceramic and stone tile according to its wearability.
- Ceramic tile grading:
- Group 1: Suitable for walls only
- Group 2: Suitable for residential floor use but not in heavy traffic areas, such as kitchens or entries
- Group 3: Suitable for all residential areas
- Group 4 and 5: Suitable for commercial applications
- Dimensioned stone grading:
- Group A: Uniform and consistent; not subject to breakage
- Group B: Similar to Group A but more subject to breakage and surface damage
- Group C: Natural variations may increase risk of breakage
- Group D: Often the most beautiful but the most subject to damage and repair
Tiling an outside patio will provide you with a durable and easy-to-maintain surface that's ideal for relaxation and for entertaining family and friends.
Since patios are subject to outdoor weather conditions, choose tile that will withstand the climate in your area. Porous, nonvitreous tile will absorb moisture and may be fine for warm, dry climates, but it will likely crack in cold, freezing weather.
Patio tile requires a concrete slab as a base. If one doesn't already exist, the job will require excavation and pouring concrete. With the slab in place, tiling proceeds as it would indoors. Use a mortar mix that will withstand the outdoor elements.
Patio tile often continues from outdoor to inside the entryway floor. Make sure your selection meets the needs of both installations.
- Tile Design Principles & Ideas: Color, Patterns & Texture
- Planning Your Tile Installation
- Preparing Surfaces for Tiling
- Mastering Tile Installation Techniques
- Tiling Floors, Walls & Countertops
- Tiling Special Spaces
- Tiling Decorative Accents
- Tiling Bathrooms: How to Tile Bathroom Features
- Tiling Outdoor Projects
- Installing Resilient & Parquet Tile
- Installing Laminate, Cork & Carpet Tiles
- Tile Repair & Maintenance