Planning and upgrading your bathroom or kitchen is not always an easy task. You are full of enthusiasm but are faced with lots of choices. The choice of ceramic tiles is bewildering. Usually colour, design and budget are the key factors affecting your choice. However I would add a further factor ‘technical performance’. Remember all tiles labeled as ‘ceramic’ are not the same. Indeed some natural mineral tiles such as slate or marble sometimes use the same terminology.
To most people tiles are tiles – aren’t they? Well no! You need to know there are at least 2 categories of ceramic tile; floor tiles and wall tiles. What makes them different is ‘technical performance’. They are both usually made of ceramic, they can both be glazed with a shiny surface and both can be highly coloured with designs. However they do not have the same technical performance in use!
Wall tiles are usually porous (on the back) and have a highly glossy glaze finish on the face. This allows them to be hygienic, cleanable, and not absorb moisture on the face when exposed to wet conditions in bathrooms and kitchens. However in manufacture they are normally fired in a fast fire kiln in less than one hour. This means they have limited strength, abrasion and slip resistance.
In contrast floor tiles are fired to a higher temperature usually with a special glaze coating. This gives a much increased strength, abrasion and slip resistance. Clearly this gives advantages when used under foot where stronger tiles are less likely to crack, scratch or wear out as well as resist slipping. Indeed a number of standards need to be met for tiles to be considered suitable for floor tile use. So choose wisely for your location. Floor tiles for floors, and wall tiles for walls!
Colour and finish
A second consideration is tile finish and colour. Although this is generally down to individual taste, for best slip performance floor tiles have a dull gloss or matt texture. Wall tiles can have a much wider range of textures and gloss but a smoother finish is usually more easily cleaned than a textured finish. Please be aware that although most tiles supplied in a box set are matching in design and colour they are not identical!
Probably the most important aspect of tiles is the quality of manufacture. This is not easy to assess. It means how strong are they? How long will they last? How flat are they (tiles warp during manufacture)? How easy are they to install?
Although most tiles supplied by reputable suppliers are manufactured to European standard BSEN14411 or American ASTM standard equivalents, it is not readily apparent by how much they exceed these standards. In Europe the CE Mark is a sign of quality adopted by tile manufacturers. Established brands like Marazzi or Porcelanosa are constantly pushing the boundaries to produce consistent products which exceed expectation in terms of quality, design and performance.
In summary, take a little time to choose the right type of tile for your job. Look for the CE marks or the BS standards on the packaging as a sign of meeting a quality standard. Use quality branded products if possible as often they give better performance in use and have been designed for ease of installation.