About Tile

Ceramic tile can easily be made into a variety of sizes and specifications because it is formed by a human process. It begins as clay (usually comprised of shale, gypsum, and sand) and is forged into a material known as bisque. Bisque is then shaped into tiles and fired, usually in a kiln. Typically, the higher the temperature the tile is fired in, the stronger the tile will be. Ceramics can be glazed, unglazed, basic, or decorated and are used in a variety of applications, though most commonly for walls and floors. Being naturally porous, most ceramics are typically glazed (either before or after being fired).

The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) has a ceramic tile rating system that gauges abrasion levels and rates tiles for wear-resistance of a scale of 5 categories: Class 1 – 5+, with Class 1 being rated for “no foot traffic” recommended and Class 5+ being suitable for “extra heavy traffic.” (For example, an entryway should have a tile that’s rated for high foot traffic, is easy to clean, and resists moisture).

Porcelain tiles are essentially ceramic tiles, but with a notably lower absorbency (less than 0.5%). They are known for their long lasting durability and are often used on walls and floors. Porcelain tile is most often made from silica, feldspar, kaolin clays, and coloring oxides, and fired (usually in a kiln) at approximately 1200 degrees centigrade. Like ceramic tile, porcelain resists moisture, is easy to clean and care for, can endure a high amount of foot traffic and kitchen-related wear, and comes in a wide variety of stylish options that can fit any budget.

       Why Use Porcelain?

Porcelain tile’s body color is usually similar to the color of its surface, making chips and wear less noticeable. Due to its density, porcelain can withstand more stress than traditional ceramic tile. The low absorption rate makes porcelain frost proof (ideal for outdoor application), and is resistant to mold and mildew formation since there are no pores for the mold to take hold.

There are many different kinds of porcelain, all of which meet the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) standard, but each having its own unique characteristics. See our full website to learn more about specific porcelain tiles.

Marble is a recognizable natural stone known for its distinctive veins and depth of color. It starts life as limestone but is then subjected to heat and pressure deep underground, where it re-crystallizes into a dense stone. Because it is a natural stone, holes can occur in marble, but they are filled in at the factory with an epoxy-filler of similar color to the stone.

       When to Use

Marble can be used in residential and light commercial interior applications, but is typically not recommended in high traffic areas due to its wear. Be careful when using polished stone, as it is very slippery when wet.

       What to Watch For

Like all stone, marble has significant shade variation due to being quarried from the earth. One of the biggest benefits of natural stone is its inherently natural beauty and design. When making final selections of your marble, keep in mind that variation is normal, and not all pieces will be similar to samples viewed in the showroom.

Travertine is a favored all-purpose natural stone for residential floors, walls, countertops, backsplashes, and more. It is created from mineral-rich water that evaporates over many years and is deposited into layers. Travertine naturally has many voids and holes, but is available in a variety of finishes (unfilled, filled, honed, and polished). Travertine can be used in light commercial areas but should not be installed in high traffic commercial areas, as the stone is soft and can wear over time. A sealer is typically recommended to protect the stone.

Natural slate is known for its unique color variety, natural size, and surface thickness variation. It is a quarried, metamorphic rock that is split along its natural cleavage planes, leaving natural, smooth-surfaced layers (they are not gauged to an even thickness like travertine and limestone). When selecting slate, keep in mind the random color and thickness variation.

Natural Stone products, such as granite, marble, limestone, slate, and travertine, are tiles quarried from the earth. Depending on the stone, they range from moderately soft to extremely hard. Natural stone can come in a variety of finishes: filled, unfilled, honed, polished, semi-polished, etc. To keep the stone protected, some natural stones require sealing. Because it is not made from a human process, one of the benefits of natural stone is its inherently natural beauty and design within every piece. Below are a few examples of natural stones:

       Limestone

Like travertine, it is formed when minerals are deposited, except it occurs underwater for limestone. The minerals found in the stone are often mixed with shells of sea creatures, so most limestone contains a fossil record of the sea floor from millions of years ago. Limestone has smaller holes than travertine, but typically has higher porosity or microscopic holes. Larger holes in limestone floor tiles are fitted with a resin-filler of similar color to the stone.

       Granite

Granite is a preferred choice for residential and commercial walls, countertops, and floors. It is a very hard rock that has mineral inclusions that add to its color and depth. Once quarried, granite tiles are cut, rectified, and polished. Although granite has less variation than other natural stones, there is still range within each product. Care should be taken when using granite in a flooring application, as polished granite can be very slippery when wet.

No more complicated than it sounds, glass tiles are made from a variety of glasses. Because they are made in countless shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and finishes, glass tile can fit a wide range of uses and applications. Ideal for most any room in a house, glass also makes a perfect addition to any outdoor application such as fountains, pools, outdoor sinks, and gardens. Part of the beauty of glass tiles is the way they diffuse light differently in every application.

Mosaic tiles are a mixture of smaller tiles (typically 2” or less) that are mounted on sheets of netting or backing paper. These sheets make mosaic installation much easier and more efficient than being laid individually. Mosaics can be made up of any type of tile, including glass, natural stone, porcelain, metal, etc. They can be made up of all the same material and color or a combination. Mosaics are often used in kitchen backsplashes, bathrooms, and shower floors. Their small size makes for an easy application in a variety of areas.

Metal tiles are commonly available in brass, copper, pewter, chrome, steel, and satin nickel, to name a few. Aside from the unique and attractive material, a variety of metal treatment methods allow for further customization of the metal (including stamping, hammering, molding, pressing, burning, etc). The combination of material and treatment produces a wide variety of textures and colors, even amongst tiles of the same metal.