Consumer GuidesFlooring

Ceramic Tile

The most durable of all tiling materials are ceramic tile and stone materials that, when properly installed, last the lifetime of a house. This toughness, combined with the natural beauty of stone and the incredible array of tile types, colors, patterns, and textures makes tile and stone the materials of choice where quality and character are important.

Ceramic tile and stone are fundamentally different. Stone is just what its name implies: quarried slate, limestone, flagstone, granite, or marble. Ceramic tile is made from slabs of clay that are fired for hardness.

Ceramic tile may be either glazed or unglazed. Glazed tiles have very hard, smooth surfaces that reject water and stains. The tiles come in many colors, four finishes and two surfaces that may be smooth or textured.

Unglazed tile is unfinished, so it’s usually the color of the fired clay or an added pigment. It doesn’t scratch as easily as glazed tile, but because it doesn’t have the hard surface finish it is more likely to stain. It’s generally treated with a sealer or wax for protection.

Ceramic tile is made in many different sizes, from 12-inch by 12-inch pavers to tiny mosaic tiles that are sold prearranged on a webbed backing. Because tile and stone floors are heavy and unforgiving of movement, they are applied over a strong, unyielding base; otherwise, they will crack.

Vinyl flooring is laid as either tiles or sheets. It is one of the most practical flooring materials and easy to clean. It’s also relatively inexpensive and readily available in a vast array of patterns and colors. Vinyl tiles are typically available in 12-inch squares; some of which are adhesive backed for easier installation.

Glazing: Glazing is a thin, highly reflective ceramic coat on the tile, sometimes called “topping.”

Tile types: Pre-grouted tile consists of factory pre-assembled sheets of tiles designed for quick and easy installation.

Quarry tile is a thicker, tougher, water-resistant tile best suited for surfaces that receive heavy traffic.

Satillio is a hard, decorative floor tile with Spanish origins.

Slate is a brittle material usually found in various shades of gray with tints ranging from blue to dark purple to black or multi-colors-reds or purple. (Warning: dark colored slate will fade when constantly exposed to sunlight.)

Subsurfaces: The subsurface dramatically affects the longevity of your tile. The best subsurface will resist water and shifting.

Here are some common subsurfaces:

Drywall is not a preferred subsurface because it’s not waterproof or solid. Should replace with cement board.

Plaster is also not a preferred subsurface. Consider cutting it away to get to the studs and replacing with cement board.

Cement board is a product that literally revolutionized the tiling industry. It’s literally a board of concrete (usually in 4- x 5-foot sizes) and ranges anywhere from a half inch thick for walls to 1/4 inch thick for floors. You can lay it right on top of an existing subsurface to essentially make it concrete. Resists shifting and impervious to water.

Plywood is only good on floors and countertops where there are no sinks or water sources. It’s an acceptable subsurface for entry ways.

Concrete is the best possible subsurface.

Gypcrete is a lightweight, self-leveling, concrete-like surface made of fine sand, gypsum and bonding agents commonly used in radiant floors. This is another excellent subsurface for tile floors.

Removing tile: Removing tile can be a challenging and time-consuming task. Most industrial tile applicators are designed to keep the tile in place. And improper tile removal can often damage the subsurface underneath.

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