The Ground Beneath Your Feet
Tiles are practical, stylish and extremely hard-wearing, but which tile should you use in what rooms? House and Home’s Eimear Nic an Bhaird discusses the options…
Glass is a very robust and extremely hard-wearing floor covering and should last a lifetime.
- Need to know: Glass is hygienic and doesn’t require much maintenance. Its light reflective qualities also make it a particularly sought after floor material.
- Usage: Glass mosaic tiles are slip resistant, making them ideal for bathrooms and kitchens. However because glass is a lot colder underfoot than other materials, it’s not recommended for living areas such as bedrooms or high user areas like hallways.
- How to: Glass tiles can scratch and chip if laid incorrectly or if the wrong size thickness and size of glass is used, so it’s always advisable to hire a professional. The tiles must be laid on a smooth bed of adhesive which should be applied with a smooth trowel rather than a notched one, as the lines will show through the glass. It is also vital to ensure that the adhesive has a high polymer content in order for the tiles to stick, since glass is non-porous and the adhesive will not attach to the tiles as easily. Once laid, glass tiles do not require further treatment and can be cleaned easily.
- Cost: Glass tiles can be costly and handmade tiles are even more expensive because of the time and craftsmanship involved. Expect to pay anything from E300 per square metre for clear, sandblasted glass.
PorcelainPorcelain tiles, like ceramic tiles, are man-made but more hard-wearing because they are fired at a higher temperature. They are available glazed or unglazed; glazed tiles have filled in microscopic holes that could be present in the unglazed tile.
- Need to know: Because of the firing process involved, the body of porcelain tiles are vitrified which makes them suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Also, as the body of the tile is made of the same material throughout, any scratches to the surface will not be as noticeable as on a ceramic tile. As with all tiles, it’s recommended that you use a product with a low PH value to clean them. Some cleaning products are very acidic and burn the surface of the tiles, as well as causing the glaze to become dull.
- Usage: Porcelain tiles are suitable for use in all areas of the home and because they’re so dense they can be bought in a variety of tile formats, which can give your rooms a new dimension. If you’re using them outdoors though, make sure that they are slip resistant.
- How to: Porcelain tiles are more difficult to cut than ceramic tiles and specialised cutting equipment is required, including an angle grinder and wet saw. Porcelain tiles are laid in the same way as ceramic tiles, but polished porcelain and light-coloured tiles will need to be sealed in order to protect against dirt and ensure that the polish on the tiles doesn’t dull. They require very little maintenance other than a light mop or clean with a damp cloth.
- Cost: Porcelain tiles can be more expensive than ceramic and the cost to lay them will depend on whether they require sealing or not. It is also possible to buy porcelain imitations of natural stone tiles, which can look very realistic and cost half the price of real stone tiles.
Ceramic floor tiles are made from a dust-pressed clay that is fired at high temperatures with an applied surface finish; can be glazed unglazed and available in matt, satin or gloss finishes.
- Need to know: Fully vitrified ceramic tiles are the most waterproof of all tiles, making them suitable for the wettest areas in the home. When ordering your tile amount make sure to order a sufficient amount of tiles in the first instance, as tiles are made in batches, using the same clay, fired in the same oven and tiles ordered from a different batch can vary in colour.
- Usage: The suitability of the tile depends on how hardwearing it is. Tiles that are suitable for a bathroom may not be suitable for a kitchen or a hallway, since they will not be sufficiently durable. Similarly, any ceramic tile that can be used on a floor can also be used on a wall, but wall tiles cannot be used on floors. Floor tiles will have two to three coats of glaze applied in order to prevent scratching and wearing. Glazed floor tiles can be quite slippy and tend to mark more easily. The toughness and durability of a manmade tile is gauged on a five-point scale according to its PEI rating, with one being the weakest and five being the hardest. Tiles of a one or two PEI rating are suitable for low traffic areas, such as bathrooms, while three and four are best for kitchens, conservatories and hallways. Tiles with a PEI rating of five are suitable for outdoor use.
- How to: If you want to have a go at laying tiles yourself, ceramic tiles are the best option. They are easy to cut and don’t require any special treatment and the calibration of the tiles is always exact, i.e. all tiles in the box will be the same size. The tiles are applied with ceramic floor adhesive to a sound floor. In newly built homes make sure the concrete has been allowed to cure before laying your tiles, otherwise the tiles may crack. If you’re considering underfloor heating with ceramic tiles make sure to use heat-proof adhesive. A timber floor will need to be sheeted out with plywood before tiles can be laid.
- Cost: Ceramic tiles are the least expensive of all tiles, though cost will increase depending on the colour, size and complexity of design.
Mosaic is made up of tiny tiles and mounted on a wax, mesh or paper backing in order to facilitate laying.
- Need to know: Mosaic tiles are generally the most expensive type of tile, as there is a lot of waste involved in production. Tilers will also charge more to lay the tiles because of the additional work involved.
- Usage: Mosaic is relatively expensive and therefore generally used in small spaces or as a feature decoration among larger tiles. Because the tiles are small they are popular for using on uneven or rounded surfaces, since the backing can bend to fit. Mosaics are suitable for indoor and outdoor use and are good anti-slip tiles.
- How to: Mosaic tiles are laid in large tiles sets with a mesh backing that facilitates a speedier tiling process. They must be installed over a flat, smooth surface as any unevenness will be easily spotted. If you are laying mosaics that have a paper backing make sure to lay them with the paper facing outwards. Once laid, the paper can be peeled easily from the surface of the tiles.
- Cost: The cost of the tiles will vary according to the type of material that they are made from.
Travertine is a very dense form of Calcium Carbonate. It is naturally pitted as the result of the presence of iron compounds or other organic impurities, and has a banded appearance from hot spring water penetrating through the limestone. The holes in the surface (which can range from pinholes to quite large irregular holes) can be filled with grout when laying or filled in at the factory when the tile is being machined. Colours vary from pale to dark cream and finishes include honed or brushed.
- Need to know: Travertine tiles are graded into quality groups, such as select choice. As with all natural stone tiles, you need to be careful about correctly measuring the area that is to be tiled. If you run out of tiles when laying and order additional batches the colour may differ to the original batch.
- Usage: Travertine is a warm looking stone and in recent years has gained increasing popularity as the flooring of choice in living areas. Travertine is also popular in open plan areas and is good for linking different areas in a house.
- How to: As with all natural stone, it’s recommended that you call in a professional tiler to lay a travertine floor. Your retailer will generally supply everything required for the job, including adhesive, grout and treatment. Travertine must be applied to a flat, solid surface; it can be installed over concrete, plywood or marine plywood, but not over a timber floor. Laying travertine tiles is very time consuming, since the tiles need specialist cutting equipment, such as an angle grinder or a wet saw; the tiles must also be grouted and treated.
- Cost: Factory filled and honed tiles are more expensive than unfilled tiles and are generally of a higher quality. The upkeep can be easier than tiles filled by grouting. As a general rule, the less filling required and the more consistent the material, the more expensive it becomes. It is vital that the tiles are treated once laid, which will further add to the cost.
Unglazed and softer than other types of tile, terracotta is made from extruded or hand-formed red clay. It is available in a number of shapes and sizes, from small hexagons to large squares. Colours range from dusky ochres to oranges and pinks through to cream.
Need to know: Many terracotta tiles are only suitable for indoor use as they absorb water. If used outside, the water may freeze and cause the tile to crack.
- Usage: Terracotta tiles are most popular in country homes because of their rustic, continental appearance. They are mainly used in kitchens and conservatories.
- How to: Terracotta tiles require a thick bed of adhesive when installing, particularly if they are handmade as the tiles in the batch may vary in thickness. Terracotta tiles are very porous and must be finished with linseed oil and waxed for protection before grouting. Oil should be applied to a dust-free surface and the floor should be waxed once a week in the first month to build up a smooth and hard-wearing surface.
- Cost: Man-made terracotta tiles are less expensive than natural terracotta tiles. Man-made tiles also come pre-sealed and are therefore less expensive to lay.