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How To Choose And Maintain Tile

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Find the right flooring material for your entryway, kitchen, bathroom and more, including ceramic, slate, mosiac and stone tile options.

Find the right flooring material for your entryway, kitchen, bathroom and more, including ceramic, slate, mosiac and stone tile options.

In this article:
Stone
Slate
Marble
Ceramic tile
Glazed tile
Unglazed tile
Quarry tile
Mosaic tile

Stone

Description

  • most commonly used stones for flooring include slate, marble, granite, sandstone and bluestone
  • available in geometric or irregular shapes
  • an expensive flooring material with a hard and noisy character
  • solid and earthy in appearance but can be cold underfoot if the floor below is unheated
  • installation must be in a cement bed or on to a concrete subfloor

Uses

  • because of its expense and weight, stone is used mainly in smaller areas of the home such as entrance ways, halls, around fireplaces and in kitchens
  • when considering stone as a possible flooring material, the floor on which it will rest must be able to adequately support the load or overstressing of structural frame may result

Maintenance

  • requires little maintenance, minimal sweeping and mopping
  • very durable, although any cracks or chips may be difficult to repair

Slate

Description

  • dense, fine-grained stone with a slightly rippled surface
  • colours: dark grey (most common), purple, green, green-purple, black, blue-black
  • surface finishes: clear stock (solid colour throughout), ribbon stock (darker bands are predominant)
  • moderately expensive

Uses

  • most appropriate in main living areas or as an accent
  • take caution, is slippery when wet
  • not advised for bathrooms

Maintenance

  • highly durable and stain resistant
  • regular sweeping and occasional wet-mopping, joints may require scouring
  • can scuff in high traffic areas

Marble

Description

  • smooth and opulent stone that is usually veined
  • certain marble veining allows for creation of specific patterns (slide slip, end slip, book match, quarter match or diamond match)
  • available in slabs (up to 40” square) or tiles (1/2” thick and between 8” to 12” square)
  • available in almost any colour, most common: black, brown, grey, rose, blue, white
  • most common types with own specific markings: dolomite, travertine, onyx, serpentine, calcite
  • surface finishes: polished (glossy, high gloss) and honed (satin, smooth with little or no gloss)
  • most expensive of all floor coverings

Uses

  • anywhere a formal or elegant character is desired: principal bathrooms, dining rooms, entrance hallways
  • can be used as an accent with other flooring
  • only a contractor should install large slabs; tiles can be laid easily, although the tiles themselves are difficult to cut
  • take caution: slippery when wet

Maintenance

  • regular cleaning and polishing
  • moderately durable but varies depending on type
  • frequent resealing required to prevent staining and scratching

Ceramic tile

Description

  • once relegated exclusively to bathroom use, ceramic tiles are now welcome in all areas of the home
  • versatile and available in a huge array of colours which makes them appealing for use in kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, utility rooms and entrances
  • water- and stain-resistant
  • bring relief from hot weather in the summer
  • cold to the touch and potentially a source of discomfort in the winter
  • high gloss and glazed tiles are especially slippery when wet
  • prices are moderate to expensive with the most costly being those with multi-colour glazes and textured surfaces

Uses

  • because of their slippery nature, unglazed or non-gloss ceramic tiles with roughened surfaces should be used in high-moisture areas

Maintenance
(see types of ceramic tiles below)

Glazed tile

Description

  • high-fired, dust-pressed clay available in square, rectangular and hexagonal shapes
  • most common sizes are 6” by 6” to 10” by 10”
  • floor tiles are thicker than ceramic wall tiles because they must withstand harder wear
  • surface can be glazed (colour derived from glaze), semi-glazed or matte
  • tiles with dull or matte finish are most appropriate for floors as they are less slippery when wet than tiles with glossy finishes
  • available in a wide variety of colours and patterns
  • are cool to the touch can be uncomfortable in colder climates unless floor below is heated
  • reinforcement to carry weight of tiles may be required when installing on wooden floors
  • backs of tiles will be brownish owing to extra firing
  • moderately expensive

Uses

  • in wet areas where sanitation is important, around showers or bathtubs
  • choose a product that ensures adequate traction for use in wet areas
  • used in entrances, kitchens, bathrooms, around fireplaces and as an accent
  • should not be used in bedrooms

Maintenance

  • sweeping and occasional wet-mopping
  • resistant to water, heat and most household chemicals
  • hard wearing and difficult to stain
  • glazed tiles are water resistant, but grout is not and should be sealed

Unglazed tile

Description

  • colour is mixed into clay to give tile its surface colour
  • shapes and sizes like glazed tile
  • finishes are usually dull

Uses

  • any living area is appropriate
  • unglazed tiles not appropriate for areas that will get wet, especially for areas leading to the outdoors

Maintenance

  • regular damp-mop and occasional scrubbing of grout
  • more durable than glazed tiles, maintains colour longer
  • unglazed are water permeable and should be sealed to prevent water absorption
  • stain easily and should be sealed

Quarry tile

Description

  • are unglazed, unpatterned tiles made from natural clay available in earth tones of brown, red or yellow
  • are hard and dense in duller colours than other ceramic tiles
  • most economical of all ceramics
  • usually square or rectangular, but also irregular shapes
  • usually larger sizes of 6” and 8” squares
  • noisy and cold

Uses

  • used mainly in country interiors
  • kitchens, bathrooms, halls anywhere that will receive hard wear
  • excellent in leading from indoors to outdoors
  • appropriate for patios

Maintenance

  • most durable of ceramic tiles
  • easy to clean, mainly sweeping
  • resistant to dirt, moisture, stains, freezing and abrasion
  • are very porous and may require a stain-resistant sealer

Mosaic tile

Description

  • small tiles measuring between 1” to 2” for squares and 1” by 2” for rectangles
  • also available in hexagons
  • available in glazed or unglazed finishes
  • available in 12” by 12” sheets for ease of installation

Uses

  • most commonly used in bathrooms
  • also in entrances and kitchens

Maintenance

  • very durable
  • damp-mopping and scrubbing of grout in sufficient
Photographer: 

Michael Graydon

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