Ceramic tile has been used for centuries and offers consumers more options in color, texture, pattern and overall beauty than most other floor covering materials. With new manufacturing techniques today's ceramic tile designs are virtually indistinguishable from natural marbles, travertines, slates and other stone products. Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles are great choices for bathrooms, kitchens, foyers, sun rooms and great rooms.
Ceramic wall tiles are normally less durable than tile designed specifically for flooring. Most wall tile is glazed with a semi-gloss or matte surface. The glazed surface has a very low slip resistance and becomes slippery when wet. Therefore, glazed wall tile is much more suited for wall or countertop applications rather than floors.
Glazed Ceramic Tile
Glazed is the most common and is comprised of two basic elements, clay and water. Various clays are mined, ground and blended to a fine powder, and pressed together to form the body of the tile. The pressed clay body is dried to reduce moisture content and then coated with a colored glaze. The glaze is permanently fused to the surface of the tile by firing it in kilns at approximately 2000° Fahrenheit, to form the finished product. The benefits of glazed stone include stain resistance, scratch resistant, fire resistant, fade resistant, slip resistant and the best feature - ease of cleaning!
Porcelain tile is made from a very fine mixture of clays and minerals. These clays allow porcelain tile to be fired at even hotter temperatures than ceramic tiles, typically near 2400 degrees (F). The higher the temperature, the denser the tile will become and the less moisture it will attract. The molecular makeup of porcelain is similar to fine china and high end dinnerware. The benefits of Porcelain are like those of ceramic, they are denser and harder than most other tiles, they are highly stain and moisture resistant, and they have an easy to clean surface.
What to Consider when Choosing YOUR Perfect Tile or Stone
Most tiles are rated for hardness or scratch resistance using the MOHS Test and rating system. The MOHS test rates tile from 1 (softest) to 10 (hardest). Ceramic tile with a value of 5 or more is suitable for most residential floor tile applications. Tile with a value of 7 or higher is normally acceptable for most commercial applications or heavy traffic areas.
To help select suitable tiles for specific applications tiles are rated the P.E.I. (Porcelain Enamel Institute) scale. The tiles are evaluated for wear resistance on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest).
- PEI 1: Light Traffic - recommended for residential bathrooms or other areas with light traffic and where shoes are not frequently used.
- PEI 2: Medium Traffic - recommended for residential interiors, except entryways, kitchens, stairs or any area where tiles may be exposed to gravel or sand.
- PEI 3: Medium-heavy Traffic - recommended for all residential interiors and light commercial applications. Not recommended for commercial entryway.
- PEI 4: Heavy Traffic - suitable for all residential interiors and most commercial applications, including shopping malls and public areas.
- PEI 5: Heavy-plus Traffic - all residential and commercial areas where heavy-duty wearability is needed.
Ceramic tiles are also classified by their water absorption rate which reflects the density of the body of the tile. There is a direct relationship to the water absorption rate and the suitability of the various types of tile for interior or exterior applications. Tiles suitable for exterior applications must have a very low water absorption rate, especially in climates subject to freezing and thawing cycles. These are typically porcelain body tiles which have a moisture absorption rating of less than .5 %.
Like the natural products themselves tiles will vary in shading. This adds to the beauty and design of the products. When choosing a tile, it's best to view 2-3 tiles together to visually determine the overall appearance of the tile.