Tile flooring is one of the earliest man-made building materials, dating back centuries, and has maintained an enduring and elegant appearance throughout time. Tile offers you unlimited decorating possibilities while providing durability, ease of care, resistance to fire and water, and environmental friendliness for you and your family for many years. Tiles can range from 4 to 24 inches in size and are available in many types, each having their own qualities and uses.
Ceramic tile - This is a natural product made of clay, minerals and water and is baked in a kiln. These tiles come either glazed or unglazed. An unglazed tile, such as quarry or terracotta, gives a more earthy and natural look. If you are using a glazed tile, it has a ceramic coating applied to the tile body which provides its color and finish as well as increases its resistance to water and stains.
Porcelain tile - This tile is made from fine white clay and is fired at an extremely high temperature, making a much harder tile which is quite resistant to staining. This also creates a denser and stronger tile making them ideal for entryways, hallways and other high traffic areas in your home. True porcelain tiles have a very low water absorption rate making them freeze-thaw stable which allows them to be used outdoors and well as indoors.
Natural Stone - Each natural stone tile has a unique visual appearance making for a distinct and beautiful floor in your home. These tiles are made from several types of natural stone and are not glazed for color, but rather the color is throughout the tile. Because they are a natural product, no two tiles of the same type will be alike.
Marble tile - Marble tiles have been used for centuries, with a look and luster that improves with age. Each veined tile is unique which creates a distinctive floor for your home. Polishing these tiles adds a beautiful patina to an already wonderful tile.
Granite tile - This product is one of the hardest and most durable of the stone tiles available. The speckled colorations give it its pattern and color, and polishing can give it a visible sheen and depth.
Slate tile - Slate tiles come from a fine grained rock with traces of metal. They have natural shade variations and add a rustic charm to your interior design.
Travertine tile - This stone dates back to the Roman Empire and has retained its beauty over the years. The tiles are a beautiful beige with crystallized minerals and limestone creating a mottled and veined appearance. These tiles can also be polished to give them greater sheen and depth.
When looking at tiles, there are some different classifications of tiles developed by the Porcelain Enamel Institute that you should be familiar with. These classifications take into account the relative hardness of the tile, its ability to stand up to wear and the percentage of water absorbed.
Group I: Tiles that are suitable for residential bathrooms with light foot traffic. Generally wall tile products fall into this group. Some wall tiles can be used on the floor. Consult the manufacturer of the tile for their recommended areas of application.
Group II: Tiles that can be used in residential areas, but not areas with high foot traffic, such as in kitchens, foyers, laundry rooms, etc.
Group III: Tiles that are recommended for all residential installations with normal foot traffic.
Group IV: Tiles that are suited for light to medium commercial applications, such as offices and sales rooms.
Group V: Tiles used in heavy commercial traffic areas and are suited for exterior areas, shopping centers, airports, hotel lobbies, and public walkways.
There are some additional terms you will encounter when shopping for tiles. Knowledge of these terms will help you pick the right tile for the right location in your home.
Tile Density - As the density increases, it becomes a stronger tile.
Moisture Absorption - Again, as the density increases the amount of moisture that a tile can absorb becomes less.
Tile density and moisture absorption have an indirect relationship to each other. As the density of the tile increases, the moisture absorption rate becomes less. Tile density and moisture absorption are important to understand when selecting the tiles for different applications.
Non-Vitreous Tiles - Tiles with a water absorption of 7 percent or greater (wall tile). These are suited for indoor wall use only.
Semi-Vitreous Tiles - Tiles with a water absorption greater than 3 percent, but less than 7 percent. These tiles are suited for indoor use only.
Vitreous Tiles - Tiles with a water absorption less that 3 percent moisture, but more than 0.5 percent. These are referred to as frost resistant tiles, but can not be used in exterior areas where freeze-thaw conditions could cause tile cracking.
Impervious Tiles - Tiles that have less than 0.5 percent moisture absorption (Porcelain tile). These tiles are frost proof and can be used in exterior areas, or on the outside of building facades.
Once you have selected your tile, there are some factors you need to take into consideration when it comes to installing a tile floor. Tile flooring adds a beautiful element to your home and its design. To ensure it maintains that beauty, it is essential to have it properly engineered and installed. Tile flooring is heavy and can be brittle, resulting in cracks unless properly supported. To prevent this, it must be laid on a rigid, sturdy base which is very strong, flat and inflexible. When adding these tiles to your existing home or including them in the design of your new home, it is vital to ensure the floor joists can support the load of the base and the tile. This base is referred to as a substrate, and is made of either concrete or sturdy plywood covered by cement backerboard. The tiles are then placed in a thinset mortar.For natural stone tiles, once they are set, an acrylic sealer should be applied prior to grouting. For ceramic and porcelain tiles, the sealant is applied after the floor is grouted. Tile flooring continues to grow in popularity due to its natural, handcrafted look, durability and ease of care. This type of flooring can add a dramatic and unique appearance to your home's interior design.