How To – Choosing the right Tile Product

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    There are many different types of tile products and within each group there are different levels of quality.

    In this HowTo we will cover the wide range of tile and tile like products from high fired porcelain decorative tile to 4’x8′ sheet tile board.

    The first thing you have to do is define where the tile will be installed. Products that are made for walls are not usually durable enough for walking on or to be used on countertops and other high wear areas.

    When choosing floor tile there are 5 grades of durability with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. Manufacturers start of with a #2 grade which is rated for light duty residential use but a 3 or 4 grade is recommended. Grades 4 and 5 are Commercial quality and may not have the same visual appeal but can be used in residential settings where you know there will be high traffic or abuse.

    Tile Material Types


    Ceramic tile comes in 2 main grades:  • Low Fire Tile for walls which often has a larger selection of bright colors
    • High Fired Tiles that may be glazed or porcelain tiles that have color within the clay.

    Basically the higher the temperature used to fire the clay the stronger the tile will be.

    High Temperature Firing also makes the tile less permeable to water.

    Ceramic Tile is your best choice for Bathrooms and Kitchens where water and humidity are a problem.

    The life of ceramic tile can be the life of your home or your choice in styles.
    If you are remodeling an older home your choice to replace your tile will probably be based more on decorative then functional reasons.

    With that in mind you should always think twice before installing a mosaic of your family pet lizard on your kitchen floor because it will probably not be a selling point for future owners 15 years from now.

    Installing Ceramic tile requires specialized cutting tools which may be rented at your local tile supply house


    Vinyl Tile and Sheet Goods  Vinyl Tile has found its way into home and commercial settings because of its lower materials and labor costs. Vinyl provides good durability but can still be stained and damaged over time. Even with diligent care you can expect to replace this product about once every 5 to 7 years.

    Mostly used as a floor covering Vinyl can come in either single 1 foot square tiles with adhesive backing or as a sheet good where a large roll of product is cut to fit the shape of your room.

    Installing either of these products is usually only a half day project however manufacturers may suggest a full days drying time.

    A luan sub-floor material must be screwed to your floor before installing the vinyl and all debris and imperfections should be removed.

    There are a large range of colors and designs that you can choose from.

    Vinyl Tile is very easy to install with inexpensive tools like a utility knife and a small 1/8th inch metal trawl. A template making kit available at your supply house is also a good investment and may be supplied for free.


    Stone Tile Although Stone is probably not considered Tile there are many places in your home where stone can be used instead of tile.

    You have a few basic choices of Travertine, Marble, Granite, Soap Stone and Slate.

    Your bathroom sinks and vanities may include Cultured or Natural Stone and your transition threshold at your bathroom door will probably be stone if your floor is ceramic tile.

    Your choices for stone products are mostly limited to what can be found in nature but some companies are manufacturing countertops and tile products with a mixture of materials like stone dust, polymer resins and ceramic techniques that give a wider choice of products with better workability and at lower cost for the consumer.

    In Bathrooms and Kitchens Stone can be used with or as a replacement for ceramic tile.

    There are 3 drawbacks of stone: Product Cost, Continued Maintenance and the need for professional installs.

    Because of the weight and special tools for cutting and handling stone materials you are probably better off hiring a professional to do the install. If you are only installing a small amount of stone you may be able to get your pieces cut at your supply house.


    Cork Tile Cork as a floor tile product has been in use for many years but its acceptance has fallen now that there are many other preferable products available.

    Because cork is a natural product the supply is limited to its ability to be grown. Most cork today is used in wine making but the waste material from making stoppers for bottles can be ground up and turned into other products.

    Cork tile unlike linoleum is not recommended for most consumers because of its poor durability properties.

    If you find the product appealing you should find a qualified contractor to install it for you. Many problems can occur if your substrate is less then perfect. Installing over a concrete floor is not recommended because the moisture that will travel through the slab can quickly de-glue and ruin the tile.


    Commercial Grade Linoleum Linoleum is a very durable flooring product and today it is available in many different solid and textured colors. Linoleum is actually made of cork and linseed oil but unlike standard cork tile it is very durable and relatively easy to care for.

    Most commonly you will see Linoleum used in commercial settings like retail stores, restaurants, schools and public areas of industrial buildings.

    The color and styles available in Linoleum are not as stylish as Ceramic or Vinyl tiles but there are many methods that can be used for inlay and unique design.

    Maintenance is relatively easy. You should use a high quality floor polish and cleaner. If you find scratches and wear you can get a buffing machine or hire a contractor to restore your floor.

    Linoleum may not be available at all home centers. Proper preparation of the substraight is necessary along with sealing and initial buffing.


    Tile Board Tile board is a maisonette material that is produced in molds that give the look and feel of tile or vinyl tile products. Usually available in large 4’x8′ sheets at most lumber supply stores.

    The main benefit of Tile Board is the speed of installs.

    Tile Board can be used in areas that may have moderate moisture but it is not recommended as a water barrier such as back splashes or tub and shower walls.

    Unfortunately the quality of the product at this time leaves a lot to be wanted. In the same way that wood paneling and styrofoam fake brick walls were an eye soar of the 1970’s you can probably expect in 20 years Tile Board will join its ranks.

    Tile Board is very easy to install with construction adhesive and simple cutting tools like a jigsaw and circular saw.


    For the most part the materials above will be your selection for tile flooring, counter tops and wall coverings in wet areas. Other products are always being developed and innovative uses for old materials are finding their way into residential use. When making your selection you should evaluate the durability and visual appeal along with the cost for materials and labor. Although some products may cost less or suit your current tastes you should take into account the possibility of replacement costs in years to come.

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