Tile, whether made of natural stone, glass or ceramic, has been continuously transformed over recent decades. Once a material relegated to the kitchen or bathroom, the design potential for your entire house, indoor and out, has never been so great. Whether you are trying to evoke elegance and luxury, the rustic and natural, the contemporary and minimalist, or the eclectic and artistic, tile and stone has the capability to articulate your vision. The traditional constraints are a thing of the past: tile can be warm, it can look soft, it can be quieter, it can be safer to walk on, it’s eco-conscious, and can be more cost-effective than other floor coverings. With so many options, it is essential for homeowners to engage the expertise of a reputable tile showroom.Introduction
The beauty of natural stone is that no two pieces are ever the same. Each piece has natural characteristics such as color, veining and markings, as well as hardness and porosity. Variations in natural stone are to be expected and enjoyed. Natural stone is the best choice for the customer looking for the aesthetic authenticity that only stone can provide.
When choosing natural stone tile, please keep in mind the following:
- The samples you view at your retailer may have completely different veining patterns or color variations compared to the stone installed in your home. It is best give yourself enough time to allow the showroom to order a current sample.
- Be aware that irregular markings, lines, veins and crystallization are not cracks or imperfections, but rather a natural part of the stone’s beauty.
- Please remember that it is not possible for you to hand select your natural stone; variation should be expected. Many retailers offer premium stone lines, which will have been pre-sorted to ensure a consistent grade of quality and color. If this is important to you, you should expect to pay more.
- Natural stone varies in hardness, which is the scratch resistance of a mineral.
- Stone is extremely dense yet also porous; to prevent stains it must be sealed with a penetrating sealer. Regular maintenance and care are essential to the lifespan of your natural stone.
The most common natural stone tiles are:
- Marble: A crystallized limestone. Marble comes in many different color variations and usually displays a prominent veining pattern with luxurious swirls and patches of contrasting color. It is characteristically soft and easily scratched or etched by acids. It is most often used for fireplace surrounds, furniture surfaces, interior floors and walls and bathroom vanities. Finishes used on marble are polished, honed, brushed and tumbled. Penetrative sealing is recommended.
- Granite: The hardest of all natural stone, granite shows very little porosity and is practically impervious to scratches and burns. Popular for use as kitchen countertops and bathroom vanities, it can also be used for floors, tabletops and fireplace surrounds. Finishes used on granite include flamed, honed, polished, suede and sandblasted. Penetrative sealing in recommended.
- Limestone: Softer than granite, limestone’s most popular use is for flooring, both in residential and commercial application. Some of the harder limestones are suitable for countertops. It is most often beige or cream in color. Finishes used on limestone include honed, polished, flamed and tumbled. Limestone is sensitive to acidic attack. Penetrative sealing is recommended.
- Travertine: A beautiful variety of limestone, travertine most commonly has a creamy, golden or reddish color. It is formed through the accumulation of calcite from hot springs, and therefore contains holes that were formed from water flowing through the stone. Travertine is available with the holes filled (with synthetic resins or cements) or unfilled. Travertine is most commonly used for residential wall and flooring applications and as backsplash material. It is available in honed, polished, brushed, chiseled and tumbled finishes. Penetrative sealing is recommended.
- Quartzite: Quartzite is a very fine-grained, strong, dense type of sandstone. It has a rich, crystallized appearance. While most often white or light grey, it can be found in a variety of colors. Quartzite can be used for both interior and exterior flooring applications. Quartzite is available in natural (cleft) and honed finishes. Penetrative sealing is recommended.
- Slate: A metamorphic stone that has a sheet-like structure. It is composed of clay, quartz and shale, and comes in a multitude of colors including reds and greens. Slate has a low porosity and is therefore highly stain resistant. Slate can be used for paving stones, roofing, floors and countertops. It is available in natural (cleft), suede and honed finishes. Penetrative sealing is recommended.
The most common finishes for natural stone are:
- Honed: Provides a flat to low sheen gloss. This surface is very smooth, but often porous. This texture is common for high traffic area. Honed stone colors are not as vibrant as a polished stone.
- Polished: A glossy surface that wears away with time due to heavy foot traffic and using improper maintenance procedures. The reflectivity of polished crystals brings out the brilliant colors and grains of natural stone. The shine comes from the natural reflection of the stone's crystals, rather than from a coating.
- Flamed: A rough, very porous surface that is developed through intense heat. During fabrication, the stone is heated up and the crystals begin to pop, thus forming a rough surface.
- Tumbled: A slightly rough texture that is achieved by tumbling small pieces of marble, limestone, and sometimes granite to achieve an archaic or worn appearance.
- Brushed: Obtained by applying hard plastic or metal brushes to the stone surface, which removes the softer part of the stone and wears out the surface, giving it a look similar to that of antique finishing.
A ceramic tile is clay that's formed, glazed and baked. Remarkably, for ceramic tile's long, illustrious history, very little has changed. The same ingredients are still used, and the process is still basically the same, though it has been updated and mechanized to allow for faster production. A well-designed, well-installed tile job can increase the value of yo ur home, and will last the life of your home.
Advantages of Ceramic Tile:
- Ecologically Sound: The raw materials that ceramic tiles are made of come from the earth which, together with water and firing, produce a natural high quality product. Choosing tile in your home décor is a simple choice you can make that can have a global impact. Tile contains no polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is found in sheet vinyl and many carpets. Also, many manufacturers offer ceramic tile with recycled content.
- Extended Life Cycle: The extended life of tile products greatly increases their value. Though the cost of tile installation can be equal to or somewhat higher than that of comparable products, reduced maintenance and repair costs make tile a better choice. Tile installations retain their stylistic appeal and physical condition much longer than other products. Because of this, tile has a much lower cost per square foot over time versus that of any other product.
- Maintenance: The nature of a ceramic surface prevents anything from sticking, and grease can be eliminated easily. Their ability to act as electrical insulators, helps to make ceramic surfaces repel electrically active atmospheric dust, thus contributing towards our material ease.
- Hygienic and antiallergenic: Ceramic surfaces prevent humidity and the development of colonies of germs and fungi that are easily generated in surfaces with deficient permeability. The action of these organisms is progressive and may cause stains on the surfaces and deterioration on their inside. Ceramic tiles are the obvious choice for any area exposed to water.
- Durability: Ceramic surfaces do not require any maintenance after they have been laid except normal cleaning. Their resistance to abrupt temperature changes, chemical and biological agents, their hardness, resistance to friction, gives them durability. Their incombustibility also helps to prevent the spread of fires. Under almost all imaginable circumstances, tile will not burn, scratch, etch, melt or show wear patterns.
Key distinctions within Ceramic Tile:
Today there are literally thousands of pattern and color combinations available to choose from. Ceramic tile can be machine made or handmade. It can be made out of red clay, white clay or porcelain. Ceramic tile also offers a vast array of decorative tiles, from simple liners to the most ornate handmade pieces. Here are some distinctions that directly influence cost, quality and installation.
- Handmade Ceramic Tile: Historically all ceramic tiles were once made by hand. Today, many artisan tile makers still form ceramic tiles by hand, offering quality, craftsmanship and a flexible approach that only individual tile makers can provide. Handmade ceramic tiles are held in very high esteem particularly due to the very elaborate manufacturing process. Handmade tiles are imperfect items, but little dents and flaws are considered artistic, unique and pleasant to discerning eyes. They require an experienced installer, as your installer will have to integrate the irregular sizing into their installation. With a countless array of design and glaze options, you can create a unique installation that is both functional and a work of art.
- Porcelain Tile: Porcelain tiles are harder and denser than regular ceramic tiles. The clay used in making porcelain tiles is more refined and fired at a much higher temperature, allowing porcelain tiles to be made in very large formats that would be impossible to achieve in traditional ceramic tiles. Porcelain is also less prone to absorbing moisture, and is superior in performance with respect to stain resistance. Porcelain is up to six times more frost resistant, making it less likely to crack in cold weather, and therefore preferable in exterior applications. Porcelain also has superior chip resistance making it stronger and more durable in most cases than granite. Because of these advantages, porcelain tiles tend to be more expensive than regular ceramic tiles.
- Rectified Tile: Rectified tiles have all edges finished to exacting dimensions. Manufacturers take a large tile and cut it into smaller sizes, thereby ensuring a controlled tolerance. Stone, ceramic and porcelains can all have rectified edges. The advantage to rectified tile is a tighter grout joint, giving a more contemporary look. This also requires an experienced installer, as he/she will have to be very conscious of the flatness of each tile so as to avoid lippage.
Glass tiles have a unique appearance unachievable with conventional tiles. The vibrancy and depth of color combined with the reflective quality of glass results in a unique and dramatic effect. Although glass tile has a history almost as long as ceramic, a recent surge in popularity has caused imitations of poorer quality to be rapidly produced all over the world. The quality control, design aesthetics, and warranties of reputable glass tile manufacturers are arguably worth the price difference.
Advantages of glass tile:
- Durability: glass mosaic tiles are suitable for both internal and external applications, as they are impervious to frost, sunlight, and water.
- Maintenance: they are easy to clean, maintain, and they never discolor.
- Versatility: they can be used in a virtually unlimited range of applications: kitchen and bathroom backsplashes and walls, showers, borders, pools and spas, and even floors.
- Options: they range in size from tiny mosaics to large format field tiles, and can be assembled to create any composition from a simple blend to an elaborate tapestry.
- Ecologically Sound: They are often leaders in the green movement, containing higher post industrial and post consumer content quantities than their ceramic counterparts
Glass tile requires an installer specifically experienced with glass because:
- Glass is more rigid than ceramic or porcelain tile, so glass tiles break more readily under the duress of substrate shifts.
- Glass mosaics come assembled in a variety of ways, each requiring a different installation method.
- Specific setting materials are required for different products based on size, transparency, scratch resistance and grout size.
Purchasing the proper tile for your home does not ensure that you will obtain the desired look. Installation is paramount to the overall look of a product. Things to consider:
Only well-trained, experienced installers can produce the highest-quality installations. Many materials install differently, and often a “one size fits all” contractor might not be the best fit for your premium products.
Correct method and materials
Not all installation methods and materials are suitable for all applications. Make sure your contractor will use a TCA Handbook method rated for the intended application or a method that is fully specified and warranted by the manufacturer for the application. You can find suitability, recommendations, and warranty info for installation systems and materials on manufacturer web sites. Find the Product Data Sheet or other manufacturer recommendations for tile, backer boards, bonding materials, membranes, grouts, etc.
Use premium setting materials
Industry experts agree this one of the easiest "insurance" policies for preventing installation problems. All types of setting materials are available in various performance grades. Premium setting materials are designed to address the specific needs of the vast array of tile options today, and provide warranties to support their claims. Don’t let your contractor choose for you; ask your retailer to educate you about your options. Consider the following when talking with your contractor:
- Crack Suppression: cracked substrates can lead to cracked tile.
- Leveling: the first step to ensuring a proper installation.
- Waterproofing: make it premium now, you won’t have to repair it later.
- Sound Control: could this be helpful in your home?
- Floor Warming Systems: keep you comfortable while lowering energy bills.
- Thin Sets: created specifically for glass, large format tile, wet areas, etc., which ones is best for your products?
- Grout: premium grouts can inhibit the growth of mildew and resist stains.
Proper care and maintenance is essential to the life of your material. Make sure your contractor is using the right products at the right stage in your installation.
- Sealers: Stains on stone, tile or grout can be permanent. Protect your surface against both oil-based and water-based stains with the right sealer. Sealing also makes everyday clean-up easier.
- Cleaners: Cleaners that are acid-based may visibly damage or etch some types of tile and stone. Use everyday cleaners that are non-acidic and non-abrasive, or ones specially formulated for tile, grout and stone.