What's The Difference Between Different Types of Tile?
Easy Guide to Choosing Tile for your NC Custom Home
Tile can be found in many different areas of the home. Some custom homes have secondary bathrooms with tile floors and tile tub surrounds with a porcelein or steel tub. Tile floors can be found in kitchens, breakfast rooms, laundry rooms, even occasionally on patios or foyers. Fireplaces are another common place to find tile - a tile hearth and surround gives a polished feel to today's gas fireplaces.
What's the best kind of tile to choose? There are many different kinds of tile available today. Ceramic tile is most commonly used, but it's useful to know all the basic tile types.
Ceramic tile is known for its durability, resistance to dampness, affordability, and ease of cleaning. It's safe to walk on when wet. Sealant should be applied every 4 years or so, but when sealant is properly applied tile is very water tolerant - you could even hose it off! Made from slabs of clay, ceramic tile is fired for hardness. Check before using ceramic tile outside - it needs to be extra strong to tolerate expansion and contraction from temperature changes. Glazed or unglazed, smooth or textured, and available in a wide variety of colors and styles, ceramic tile is the builder's choice for most tile floors, walls, or accents.
Natural stone - quarried slate, limestone, flagstone, granite, or marble - can be cut into tiles, even though all of these are better known as full countertop materials. Each has it's own pros and cons - for instance, marble is known for its beauty, but it is expensive, requires a lot of maintenance, and can crack, stain, or mark easily. No wonder they don't let us touch the marble statues at the museum! Slate is noted for its beauty and long life, but it is soft and can split. Granite is durable, dense, and strong, but is mainly formed into basic tiles with few additional options. Natural stone is also one of the most expensive types of tiles, and some materials require more care and sealant due to natural permability. Because these stones are created in nature, no two rooms will ever look the same.
Cement tile is created by pouring cement into molds, then finished by firing or natural drying. Color may be added. A strong sealant must be applied in order for cement tile to resist stains. This type of tile is not as common.
Porcelain tile is made from material similar to that used for ceramic tile, but it is fired at a very high temperature, which makes it denser and more resistant to moisture. It is fine grained and smooth, and can be matte, unglazed, or highly polished. It is stronger and more durable than ceramic tile. As better processes for creating porcelain tile are found, it is becoming less expensive and more common.
Terrazzo - a cement or epoxy base is used, in which stone or marble chips are imbedded. The surface is then highly polished. Terrazzo is known for its unique beauty, style, and permanence, but it is expensive and can be somewhat slick to walk on.
Saltillo (Mexican tile) - these tiles are generally handmade and air dried, thus they are a little softer and less durable, but with a unique look from exposure to elements. When used indoors, the tiles must be sealed - some come sealed from the manufacturers.
Terra Cotta - think of "clay garden pots", and you'll have an idea of the natural rich reds and oranges from the clay base. These tiles are absorbent, and most often used on patios. They must be sealed for indoor use. Be careful, there are wide variations in quality.
Agglomerate - Another textured tile, created by mixing graded marble or granite chips with portlar cement, polyester resin or epoxy.
Glass mosaics - These are becoming very popular. In shades of blue, green, brown or even clear or translucent, glass mosaics provide a unique, if not natural, look. These tiles usually are ¾"x3/4", and come in sheets roughly 12"x12" for application. This look can be expensive, but glass tiles can also be coordinated as medallions or accents with full size ceramic or other tiles.
Choosing Types of Tile for your New Home
A luxurious tile floor, shower, or bathtub surround provides long lasting beauty and durability in any home. Visit tile showrooms for ideas if you're building from the ground up or remodeling, or ask your local builder if they will work with you to provide just what you're looking for.
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