Placement, type, durability, glaze and edge. These are just some of the factors to consider when planning your flooring options for tile during a home renovation or addition. Most people overlook the complications of flooring when they are budgeting for a home renovation as it is an area of décor that seems simpler than it really is. Many homeowners are surprised to learn than even the pattern of placement for flooring tiles can increase the cost of a basement renovation. Let’s dig into this topic in order to reveal just how many factors go into choosing tile as a flooring option.
Porcelain vs Ceramic
Shopping for tile can be confusing because of the many different explanations you may hear about the differences between porcelain and ceramic. To make matters more confusing, you should know that both porcelain and ceramic tile are commonly called ceramic tile as they are both made of fired clay.
While there is a lot of marketing involved with regards to classifying tile as either porcelain or ceramic, the truth is that both can be installed on floors and walls, both can be installed indoors or outdoors and both are great options for tiling in general. So while porcelain is generally considered more durable and is also usually more expensive, ceramic tile can handle most of the very same jobs.
So how do we choose which tile is best for our purposes? Aside from obvious indicators of durability, such as thickness, what should we look for? When shopping for tile the best approach is to put less focus on porcelain or ceramic and focus instead on the following functional indicators that can usually be found directly on the box: PEI wear rating, water absorption and slip resistance.
PEI Wear Rating
Residential tiling is given a PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) wear-rating in a system from 1 to 5 in terms of surface durability and resistance to abrasion, with 1 being the lowest quality and useful for wall tiling only, level 2 of better quality and useful for light traffic flooring and level 3 being durable and the most common in residential applications. Levels 4 and 5 are very durable options and are suited for residential use but also public or commercial spaces.
This rating can get complicated, but the key factor to keep in mind is that you want a tile with a vitreous (low absorption) or impervious (very low absorption) rating if you are installing in areas with moisture (outdoors, bathrooms, kitchens). These ratings ensure low water absorption rates, with vitreous usually being enough for any indoor application.
This is another rating that can get complicated as it involves coefficients of friction (COF). The key factor to keep in mind is that lower COF numbers provide less traction and should not be used in areas where the floor will often be wet. For bathrooms, kitchens and high traffic door entryways, get a tile with a higher COF number.
What About Glaze?
One separate factor to keep in mind with porcelain and ceramic tile is whether to get glazed or unglazed tiles.
Glazed tiles offer more color and style variety as they have a finish applied to their surface which allows for many patterns and ornamentation. They are also more durable and stain resistant due to the special coating. However, they are less slip resistant due to the texture of the coating and also show scratches on the glaze more easily.
Unglazed tiles have a consistent color throughout the tile without any additional coating to change their look. They are more slip resistant since they have no special glossy coating and are therefore great for areas where water will be found, such as kitchens or bathrooms. They do, however, offer less stain resistance than the specially coated glazed tiles.
Rectified vs. Non-Rectified Edges
Regardless of whether you choose porcelain or ceramic tile, another necessary decision that must be made regarding their appearance is the type of edging: rectified or non- rectified.
Rectified tiles have machined edges that give them an exact and clean look, with an overall appearance of seamlessness on the floor. In order to achieve this, however, the edges must be very sharp and thin grout lines and exact placement are important. Due to the specific nature of this exact edging, rectified tiles are more expensive for installation as it involves an exact levelling system to ensure uniformity.
Non-rectified tiles have natural edges that have not been specially machined for a uniform look. While this provides a more natural look, the tiles are usually of different sizes and require larger grout lines during installation in order to conceal the differences and imperfections.
The decision between rectified or non-rectified tiles comes down to personal preference in regards to the visual appeal of the grout lines and edges of each option.
After choosing your tile, the next step is to choose your placement pattern. Keep in mind that each placement pattern comes with its own costs and time requirements, so budget accordingly.
This is the easiest pattern, with tiles forming a simple grid and lined up straight.
This is another popular pattern, with tiles placed as they would be in a brick wall, overlapping with options such as a 1/2 tile width or 1/3 tile width.
For a more visually striking pattern, triangular placement often alternates two colors.
Other Tile Flooring Options
A natural stone tile that is sourced from quarries, travertine has a great natural look but comes with many drawbacks. Since it is natural stone, it is very heavy and tough but prone to chipping and scratching. It is also very expensive and should be considered a high-end flooring choice. It is also very hard to maintain – adding a polish will make it too slippery, and leaving it unpolished results in eventual staining, chipping and trapped dirt.
Since marble is also a natural material, each tile has its own unique look. This is great for visual appeal, however it makes it difficult to match the tiles to each other. When choosing marble, it is best to ensure all of the tiles came from the same original batch and that you are on site to approve their final placement since so much of the visual appeal is subjective.
Marble also comes with regular maintenance requirements since it is natural stone. You must seal it and clean it regularly in order to avoid staining or permanent marking into the porous marble surface. Don’t even think about leaving a cold or hot beverage on a marble surface without a coaster!
As you can see, flooring tile options are varied and somewhat complicated. Since flooring takes up so much of the visual space in your home, it is best to consult your contractor about the available options for your home renovations or additions and also to get a good visual sense of what the final product will look like.