Tiles are an excellent solution for flooring and as backsplashes in a kitchen or bathroom. Not only do tiles add aesthetics to a room, but they are also functional. Made from a variety of materials, most of them durable and water-resistant, tiles are versatile and can last for years with minimal maintenance.
Whether you’re trying to decide what type of floor tiles would work best in your home or you want some tips on how to install them on your own, we have all the information you need about tiles.
A Brief History Of Tiles
Similar to other types of building materials, such as bricks, the history of tiles dates back to ancient times. Some experts believe that the earliest use of tile began around 3300 BCE in Babylon and Egypt. Tiles during this period were frequently used as embellishments and were a sign of wealth.
During the Shang Dynasty in China, roof tiles were made to keep water from pooling on roofs, and in Arabic countries, tiles had a close tie to religion and art. By the time that tiles were used in Europe, tiles were used for a variety of purposes from decoration to function; borrowing practices from China and other countries.
As sanitation and public health became significant issues, ceramic tile was used in hospitals, kitchens, and bathrooms because it was easier to clean and it played a significant role in reducing the spread of germs and infections.
Today, tile is so prevalent that we probably don’t even think twice when we walk on it in a shopping center or when we splash water on it while we shower.
Different Types Of Tile
While the earliest tiles were terra cotta or ceramic, today there are a few more options; all you need to do is stop by one of your local tile stores, and you’ll see the seemingly endless possibilities. Each one has a unique look and is best suited for specific purposes. We’ll take a closer look at each type of this material.
Ceramic tile is one of the most popular and commonly used types. The tiles are made from clay that is formed into a mold. There are three methods for forming a ceramic tile: dry press, extruded, and slush mold. A dry press is much like the name suggests and consists of dry material that is molded with extreme pressure.
If a tile is extruded, the material is just a little bit wet before it’s placed in a mold and slush mold consists of wet clay materials formed in a mold and then baked in a kiln.
Many people don’t realize that porcelain tiles are a type of ceramic tile, but porcelain and ceramic are not interchangeable. A non-porcelain ceramic tile is created from brown, red, or white clay and additional materials.
Porcelain tiles are made with the same materials, but the mixture that creates the tiles also consists of feldspar, which is crystal-like sand found in rocks. When placed in a kiln, the feldspar and clay mix form a glass-like bond.
Both ceramic and porcelain tiles may be glazed or unglazed, but the glaze is often a preferred choice for homes as it helps keep the tile non-porous and is also less likely to stain, absorb water, or scratch.
Natural Stone Tile
Natural stone tiles are made from natural materials but rather than mixed up and molded; they are cut into various shapes and sizes. Some of the most common types of tile that fit into the “natural stone” category include granite, marble, limestone, and slate.
Due to the naturally occurring properties, many stone tiles have a unique look, and it’s rare to find two that are the same (depending on the shape, size, or cut).
While you might assume that stone tile is best suited for the outdoors, it holds up well indoors. Granite is dense and hard; once it’s polished, it becomes scratch resistant and is an excellent choice for kitchens or other high-traffic areas in the home.
Marble is another versatile rock, and while it’s durable, it is more porous than granite. It may be ideal for bathroom or kitchen counters, but not the best choice for floors. Another sturdy yet porous rock is limestone. Many people use limestone tiles as accents or in areas where it will be protected from stains and high-traffic areas.
If you’re looking for a naturally dark tile that is durable and holds up well in high-traffic spaces in the home, slate is a great material to consider.
Glass tiles provide another unique look and the processes of making glass tile are completely different from ceramic and porcelain. Glass tile is an ideal choice for mosaics, backsplashes, and other tiling projects that require some artistic flair.
Before you settle on a tile type, ask a professional for some feedback. Even though some of the tile options we mentioned may be ideal for high-traffic areas, they may not be the best choice for your home. It’s best to make sure you have a tile that will hold up for years and make you happy before you commit to a specific type.
The Cost Of Tiles
If you think you know what kind of tile you want in your home, it’s always a good idea to the estimated cost before moving ahead with your project.
Like all home improvement projects, the cost of tiling can vary greatly depending on the size of a room, the quality of tile, and whether or not you hire someone or do it yourself.
When you browse your local big box hardware or home improvement store, you might find ceramic tiles that are less than 50 cents per square foot; while the price may be right, the quality may not.
The average price of a ceramic tile is $3 per square foot. Porcelain tiles may average anywhere between $3 and $10 per square foot, and natural stone tiles may average between $5 and $0 per square foot.
Installation costs for tile may range between $5 and $7, but keep in mind that it may cost more if there are a lot of angles to work with or if old flooring needs to be torn out. You are likely to pay much more if you want special designs or accents rather than a standard pattern.
Can You Install Tile On Your Own?
Installing tile on your own is definitely a possibility and may even save you a little bit of money, but it can be a long and arduous project that requires patience and a good pair of knee pads (if you’re tiling a floor). Before you decide to jump in and try a DIY tiling project think about the time you have to do the project. Depending on the project, will you need to stay out of the room for an extended period? Do you have someone who can help you?
Tiling a floor is a big undertaking, so if you want to start out small, consider creating a mosaic on your patio or a backsplash in your kitchen. These small, but creative projects can give you a good idea if you want to move on to something on a larger scale.
Whether you’re tiling a small section of floor or a backsplash, here are some tips to consider:
- Watch online tutorials before you start
- Measure more than once
- Always use tile spacers when necessary
- Ask for help
- Take your time
- Pay attention to detail
- Plan out the design before you tile
- Buy more tile than you need
Caring For Your Tile
Assuming that you chose the right type of tile for your home, taking time to care for your tile will keep it looking new and less prone to damage. Before you clean your tiles for the first time, ask the salesperson or tile installer the best way to clean the tile.
If you have tiles that are designed for bathrooms, kitchens, and other high-traffic areas, you can begin by sweeping or vacuuming the tile; doing this on a regular basis will help keep them looking new.
Need to clean your tile? Use mild detergent and water and wash with a rag or soft cloth. Sponge mops will move water around, which can also affect the cleanliness of the grout.
Grout, the areas between the tile, is porous and can get dirty quickly if it’s not sealed. A simple paste of baking soda and water can clean up the grout; another option is getting grout that isn’t white or a light shade. After you have cleaned your grout, you can use a silicone-based sealant to help protect the grout and keep it looking clean.