Select the Best Tile for the Job

Selecting Tiles Selecting Tiles

There are so many tiles, it can be hard to figure out where to start.

There are many questions to ask yourself, and we go over most of them here. Some are technical, some design related, and some things are all about your own personal tastes!

Where are the Tiles Being Installed?

The first thing to ask yourself is, where will the tiles be going? If it's on a wall, nearly any tile will do. If it's on a residential floor, you will want a PEI rating of 3 or higher. Wall tiles can have any rating. The PEI rating is a rating system of 1 to 5, and something often overlooked by many salespeople. If it is in a wet area, it needs a Static Coeffecient of Friction rating of 6.0 or higher. This is for shower floors, bathrooms, kitchens, and entranceways. A summary of what you need for different areas, and a clearer description of the ratings, are below.

Quality of tiles

Group 0: Tiles Not usable on floors. These are generally used as wall tile.

Group 1 or PEI 1: Tiles Suitable only for locations where soft footwear is worn or where shoes are not frequently used, for e.g., residential bathroom or other areas with light traffic. Also for interior commercial and residential walls. I would recommend to only use these on walls as well.

Group 2 or PEI II: Tiles Suited for general residential traffic. For areas that are walked on by soft soled or normal footwear with very small amounts of scratching dirt. Not for kitchen, entrance halls, stairs and other areas subjected to heavy traffic. This is the starting point for floor tiles, but still not the best, especially wtih kids, pets, or renters.

Group 3 or PEI 3: Tiles Suited for all residential and light commercial areas such as offices, reception areas, boutiques, interior walls, countertops and residential bathroom floors. Not recommended for commercial entryway. These tiles or better are what you want in your home. They will last as long as you take care of them.

Group 4 or PEI 4: Tiles Suited for regular traffic. Recommended for medium commercial and light institutional use, such as restaurants, hotels, hospital lobbies and corridors. These also work great if you have renters, or are a bit rougher on your floor.

Group 5 or PEI 5: Tiles Suitable for areas with heavy traffic, abrasive dirt and moisture, and where safety and maximum performance are required. Examples are shopping malls, public buildings, building entrances, swimming pools, or shopping centers. These are not needed in any residential setting, although can certainly be used.

Also note the Static Coefficient of Friction for tiles going in wet areas. This governs how slippery the tile surface is, particularly relevent when wet. It is important in shower floors, and to a slightly lesser extent, bathroom floors, entranceways, and kitchens. Many tile manfacturers no longer list the Static Coefficient of Friction on their packaging because standards for floor tiles have changed, and they should meet the minimum of 0.60 for wet areas. However, anything less then 0.60 should be avoided for these areas. At 0.50 to 0.60 it is considered only conditionally slip resistant, and anything under 0.50 is very questionable. Tiles sold as wall tiles will almost always be under 0.60, another reason to never use them on a floor.

Size of Tiles

Once you know where the tiles are going, and you know what PEI rating you need, often the next step is the size of the tile you want. If it's on a floor, the most pleasing sized tiles are often one foot by one foot, one and a half by one and a half, or one foot by 2 feet. If you go smaller, the floor often looks very busy, if it's larger it generally only works in very large rooms. There are some exceptions, like very small tiles in residential bathroom floors. The same rules apply to showers, tubs, and fireplaces.

On walls such as feature walls and backsplashes, there is no limit to the sizes, from 1 inch by 1 inch mosaics to 2 feet by 2 feet tiles that match your floor. The most common style of the past few years has been the longer tiles (four inches by 16 inches) with a mosaic accent, which you can see many examples of in our galleries. Another option for walls is ledgestone, which looks great on bars, reception desks, and columns, as well as around fireplaces.
Another guideline for tile size is, go with the size appropriate to the room. Larger tiles look better in larger rooms, smaller tiles better in smaller rooms. You can also mix and match, putting borders or features of smaller tiles in with larger tiles, which looks particularly good on walls, showers, and backsplashes.

Keep in mind, these are not hard rules like the PEI ratings, but more guidelines to get you started. Whatever sized tiles you think would look best, will look best, because this is where you get to start making your home a bit more personalized.

Natural or Man Made Tiles

This is a decision often based on two things: budget and preference.

Man made tiles are by far the most popular choice at the moment. They last a very long time, are cost effective, and look amazing as our manufacturing capabilites improve, allowing more designs to be created. Man made tiles often only have the pattern and color on the surface, and care needs to be taken not to chip or scratch it. Man made tiles include:
Ceramic, the most common tile. They are made in a kiln, and the color and pattern on the surface is the result of a glaze. They are less durable then many tiles, but will last a very long time if installed and cared for correctly.

Porcelain, similar to ceramic, but much harder and wear and chip resistant. They are finished in the same way as ceramic, with a color and pattern glaze. Slightly more difficult to work with, they can stand up to more wear and tear.

Quarry, fired from clay, was far more popular in the 30's era. It is most often used now to achieve a 'retro' look, or to repair an older floor.

Mosaics, small tiles affixed to mesh backings, can actually be man made, natural stone, or even a mix of the two. They are most often used on walls, or as accents.

Glass, hardened and heat treated. They are normally small pieces, often sold as mosaics.

Natural stones are often higher priced, but can add warmth and elegance to a home. No two tiles are ever the exact same, letting you create a surface that is truly unique. Natural tiles include:

Limestone, a very popular natural stone tile, often light in colour and comparatively soft, it is formed by layers of marine life, deposited on the ocean floor millions of years ago and compressed over that period to form a stone. Fossils can often be seen in it. This type of stone requires periodic sealing.

Travertine, formed when water has travelled through limestone, emerged at hotsprings, then cooled rapidly, is often softer and porous. Travertine quality varies greatly, and we reccomend only buying higher quality travertine. When cut, it is often full of voids, which are filled and polished. Lower quality travertine will have much more voids, and much less actual stone. This type of stone requires periodic sealing.

Marble, which actually starts life as limestone but has massive pressure and heat applied to it, has amazing colors that make it a popular choice for high end homes. It can be highly polished, creating the illusion of depth. This type of stone requires periodic sealing.

Slate and Quartzite, which are very closely related, produce an amazing and distinctive tiled floor. They are fine grained rocks formed from layers of shale and clay deposits. Quartzite is harder as it is formed at higher temperatures and often has a mild crystal effect. All types can be sealed to produce either a satin or a gloss finish.

Basalt, a dense volcanic rock formed from lava. It is extremely hard wearing. It's texture varies from granular to glass like, and the colours are rich, dark and earthy.

Sandstone, formed from coarse sand quartz and cementing materials such as clay. It is rising in popularity, and is still a unique and uncommon site in homes. It does require perioidic sealing and care.

Granite, second only to diamonds in hardness, is one of the longest lasting floors you can get. It can give a wide range of colors, veining, and crystallization. It does require periodic sealing.

Designs and Color of the Tiles

This is where your personal touch really comes to the forefront. As manafacturing capabilities have increased, man made tiles have exploded in popularity. The designs and colors you see now are beyond what could have been made even 10 years ago. Tiles in every color and pattern, ones that look like wood or bamboo, whatever you can imagine most likely exists and can be brought in.

And then there are the natural stones. You can search for a long ime to find the perfect man made stones, as the colors, and patterns, vary from every single batch, and even within the same batch.

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing colors and patterns. If this is a home you plan on retiring in, it should be entirely about what you want. If it is an invesment home, one you plan on renting or selling in the near future, a more conservative look that appeals to a broad audience is best. Particulalry bold ones that you love might not be as popular when you sell your home, or might become dated 10 years from now. Matching flooring to colors and patterns in your house is a great idea, if you know what to match it to. Matching it to your countertops and cupboards works great, as you'll probably be keeping those for a long time. Matching it to your paint isn't as great. Paint is easier to change, and it's better to match it to the tiles then the other way around.

We hope you found the information here useful. We understand this your flooring is a large and important purchase, and understand the need to get it just perfect. If you have any questions please contact Good Morning Flooring at your convenience.

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