Floor tiles – your essential guide to choosing, fitting and cleaning
Tiles are no longer just good choices for kitchens and bathrooms, the latest textures and finishes will work well in your living room, dining room or even your bedroom.
Here’s everything you need to know…
Natural materials shouldn’t just be the choice for period homes, as slate, limestone and polished granite can work in contemporary interiors, too. They are the most expensive choice, but will last for years and grow more beautiful with age.
- The naturally pitted and weathered surface of travertine stone gives an attractive, worn-in look that’s perfect for a laid-back kitchen.
- In busy areas, choose dark slate tiles that won’t need cleaning so often.
- Glossy stone makes a great backdrop for designer pieces.
- Large-scale limestone tiles in rich tones complement wooden furniture.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are a good alternative to natural materials – they’re hard wearing, light and relatively easy to lay. They often cost less than natural materials, which makes them the ideal choice for larger areas or where you have a limited budget. The new styles of oversized tiles are very fashionable and can create a hotel-chic look.
- If you’d prefer your flooring to be subtle rather than bold, go for porcelain tiles with a minimal design, without any texture, in a cool colour.
- Choose neutral grey porcelain tiles with a textured finish for a super-chic room.
- For a spacious wet room, use matching ceramic floor and wall tiles.
Whether they’re reclaimed, recycled or a reproduction of an original tile, vintage floor tiles, with their classic designs and attractive finishes, are a great way of giving your floor character. Monochrome designs are a traditional choice and can work in both and new homes, while reclaimed bricks look great in country-style properties. Patterned Victorian tiles have beautiful designs and are most suited to properties of the same period.
- Add detail to your bathroom with black and white hexagonal mosaic tiles.
- Reclaimed clay bricks are ideal for a farmhouse-style kitchen.
- Lay a pattern diagonally to make a room appear wide.
Glass tiles are back in a big way! The latest trend is to use them on whole portions of wall. Some manufacturers are now also making tiles from recycled glass – an affordable and eco-friendly alternative.
Glass is more fragile than stone or porcelain, which makes it more difficult to cut. Glass tiles should be set with a special type of adhesive and white grout to ensure the colour is not altered. Versatile and easy to clean, glass tiles have become a firm favourite.
Good for: Walls, backsplash, shower stalls.
Pros: Durable and impervious to staining. Brilliant colors and finishes.
Cons: Requires special materials and techniques to install. Can be expensive. Not always suitable for floors (it can help if the tile surface is textured).
Tiles made of natural stone such as marble, granite and slate are an increasingly popular flooring choice, especially for living rooms and bedrooms. The fact that they must be cut with a wet saw makes them a little trickier to install.
Stone tiles are porous and therefore vulnerable to marks and stains; regular application of a sealer is recommended to protect the surface and prevent them from absorbing dirt. Nevertheless, they are highly durable and, if properly cared for, can last a lifetime.
Good for: Walls, backsplash, shower stalls, floors.
Pros: Natural patterns are aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes, there’s no grout needed for installation.
Cons: Some stone tiles must be regularly sealed or treated to prevent staining. Those left unsealed can stain.
Cement Bathroom Tile
Cement-bodied tile, a cured sand-and-mortar mix, is a nonvitreous tile with excellent durability. Some cement tiles look rough-hewn, while others sport smooth finishes. You can also find a large variety of colorful, graphic patterns that make a statement on floors and walls. When sealed, cement tiles can be cleaned with non-acidic cleaning products, such as those designed for natural stone.
Good for: Walls, backsplash, floors.
Pros: Attractive, durable, and affordable. There’s nothing more beautiful in that price range. Grout is not always needed for installation, depending on the function and area where it’s used. Can be refinished.
Cons: Depending on wear and tear, needs to be sealed and maintained.
Glazed vs. Unglazed Floor Tiles
The process of glazing tile involves baking an extra layer of enamel or liquid glass over it tile at a super-high temperature. When it cools, glaze provides a tile’s “finish”.
Is glazed tile better than unglazed tile?
Like all things flooring, the question of “which is better” depends on your taste and needs. Both ceramic and porcelain tiles come in glazed and unglazed versions, and each one boasts a distinctive look and feel.
What are the pros and cons of glazed tile?
But when you think of those hipster-fabulous tile patterns we talked about earlier, you’re probably picturing glazed tile. These are covered in a thin sheet of glaze (obviously), which is usually colored and/or patterned.
The glazing process gives tiles more resistance to stains and moisture, but it also lowers their COF (an issue if you’re thinking of using them in a bathroom, for instance). And because the glaze is only on the surface of the tile, any breaks or chips in it are going to stand out.
What are the pros and cons of unglazed tile?
Unglazed tiles can be a bit rougher, which means they’re more slip-resistant. Unglazed ceramic tile—or “quarry tile” as it’s sometimes called—usually boasts a COF of .70 and over. It’s a super-popular kitchen and bathroom floor for that exact reason.
Unglazed tile is also the same color all the way through, so any cracks or chips that develop over time aren’t as obvious. And as far as style is concerned, a lot of people love the rustic look unglazed tile.
But of course, it is rougher and unglazed ceramic is very porous—so you need to be careful when you’re choosing where to put it.
How to care for floor tiles
Tiles can look better with age – with the proper care. We’ve listed a top tips to keep your tiles in prime condition:
- Use the right cleaning products on your floor as they will have been formulated to clean the floor and help seal the stone. Ask the manufacturer for recommendations.
- Wipe up sills on unglazed floors immediately or they might cause a stain.
- Remove stubborn marks with white spirit, but always do a spot test first.