The floor is the first layer of design, but it’s often given the last consideration. Today, however, with so many types of floor tiles available, floors are finally being given the attention they deserve and are stepping up to the design forefront. The type of tile you choose will depend upon your décor, your budget and where you want to use it.
Ceramic tiles are mixtures of clay composites mined from the earth and fired in a kiln. They come in different grades that are specified for durability and practicality; some are glazed and slippery, not suitable for wet areas such as kitchens and baths, yet others are unglazed and porous, thus better for wet areas.
Porcelain is a variation of ceramic tile, but much harder because it’s made of porcelain clay instead of composite clays. It’s fired at higher temperatures than ceramic and has a hard-finish density that isn’t susceptible to stains or moisture. Porcelain works well in high-traffic and wet areas and is suitable for both outdoor and indoor use.
Saltillo tile, often referred to as Mexican tile, is monochromatic in color–usually a muted orange or light coral–and when left unsealed, it crumbles easily. However, when it’s installed, sealed and polished, it hardens to a durable finish that stands up well to most any home application.
Other common hard-surface tiles include terra-cotta, cement, terrazzo and brick.
Vinyl tiles are a synthetic product made from petroleum and sealed with a urethane coating. They are cost efficient, easy to install (they can be cut with a utility knife) and durable. There are no grout lines to trap dirt, therefore, no extra sealing is required. Vinyl tiles come with or without adhesive backing.
Linoleum is a natural product, similar in looks and durability to vinyl, but unlike vinyl, the color and pattern are ingrained in the structure of the tile and not stamped or printed. Linoleum doesn’t have the urethane sealant. Therefore, it will fade more quickly than vinyl and may not repel moisture as well.
Carpet tiles have gained in popularity as affordable flooring that’s practical and durable. Damaged or dirty tiles are easily replaced, making them perfect for high-traffic areas; however, there is an environmental consideration; carpet fibers trap dust and can aggravate allergies.
One of the hardest stones is granite, made up of solidified volcanic lava, which is mined from the earth’s core. Although it’s costly, it yields a high dollar in return value. One advantage to granite tiles is the ability to repair them; cracks can be sanded and buffed out.
Marble is sediment stone that’s mined from the seabed. It is categorized by grades, which refers to the veining and the thickness of the stone, and it is used primarily in upscale commercial buildings, home entryways and foyers, and in bathrooms. Because it stains easily, it’s not a good choice for kitchens.
Travertine, a cousin of the marble family, has soft, muted colors and is most often polished to a matte finish. It’s installed without grout lines, which makes it a popular choice, but it’s not suitable for kitchen areas because of an intolerance for acidic liquids; spills, such as orange juice and tomato juice, can damage the surface.
Other types of stone floor tiles include flagstone, slate and sandstone.
Wood & Grass Tiles
Cork and bamboo tiles are considered environmentally friendly because of cork wood and bamboo’s rapid regeneration. Cork wood is recycled with adhesives mixed in with the wood to give it a harder surface, and bamboo is a naturally hard grass that rivals the durability of oak. Both can be purchased as interlocking tiles or installed using adhesive.
Solid-wood parquet tiles are made from various woods glued together in small strips to form a square, then sealed with a urethane sealer. Solid-wood parquet can be sanded and refinished, however parquet veneer, a cheaper alternative, is made from very thin strips of wood glued onto particleboard.
Always check with the manufacturer before installing any floor tile, and use only the suggested materials for installation and upkeep.