Choosing Ceramic Tile Flooring

Tile continues to develop in reputation as a floor covering, with good cause.

  1. Tile has an expected handcrafted look that's robust and easy to care for.
  2. Patterns are limitless when using all of the possible combinations of size, texture and color.
  3. Tile does a fantastic job in high foot traffic areas, and it's especially suited to entry areas where dirt and water can enter a home or business.
  4. Hand painted tiles and colored grout extends your possibilities even further.
  5. Various geometric layouts and numerous trim tiles combinations can make your design options practically limitless.

Finding a tile you like is easy. Just make sure it's the right one for your floor and choose a tile that's rated for the area you plan to install it. Baths require a moisture proof non-slip textile. Slip resistant tile is treated with a harsh material to rough up the smooth surface for safety. Entryways need a hard, abrasion-resistant, moisture proof tile. Some tiles are rated for indoor or outdoor use only, others can be used in either purpose.

Floor tile is usually ½ " to ¾ " thick, manufactured in squares measuring from 4 " x 4 " up to 24 " x 24 ". Other shapes are available. (Wall tile is thinner and comes in squares from 3 " x 3 " up to 6 " x 6 ".)

Mosaic tiles are 2 " square or smaller and can be installed individually. Mosaic tiles are also available in premounted paper or fabric mesh sheets.


All tiles feel hard, but some types of tile are actually harder than others. Tile is rated by a series of standardized test. The tests evaluated a tile's relative hardness (The Moh Scale), its ability to stand up to wear and tear and the percentage of water absorbed.

The Porcelain Enamel Institute hardness ratings are:

These ratings are important, but don't get too weighted down in study, they serve to help you find the right tile for your purpose.

Give closer concentration to the ratings test that measures the percentage of water absorbed, or porosity. A tile's porosity is critical especially when choosing tile for kitchens and baths, since these areas need moisture proof flooring. The classifications for the porosity of tile are: Impervious (least absorbent), Vitreous, Semi-vitreous, and non-vitreous (most absorbent). Porous tile should not be used outdoors where cold weather produces freeze/thaw cycles.

The firing process affects the hardness of a tile. Usually, the longer and hotter the firing, the harder the tile will be. The raw tile material, called bisque, is either single fired or double fired.


Existing in several earth tone colors, brick tiles should be treated with a stain resistant sealer. Floor brick is normally used in outdoor settings and can be arranged in appealing geometric patterns. Brick tiles are a fine floor choice for informal or rustic decor.


Cement tiles are poured into molds, then fired or dried naturally. Color may be added. Sealing is required after installation for moisture and stain resistance.


Ceramic tile is made from clay or other minerals. The extruded material is shaped and fired in a kiln. Information on installing ceramic tile & choosing ceramic tile. Clay tiles are the further treated in one of two ways:


Porcelain or ceramic mosaic tile are 2 x 2 or smaller. They can be individually installed or can be found premounted on mesh or paper sheets. Mosaics may be glazed or unglazed.


Pavers resemble brick, but are thinner. Like quarry tile, pavers need sealing for moisture and stain proofing. Shale based pavers are used for patios as well as interior floors.


The material is fired at very high temperature, making a hard surface. Their smooth surface can be slippery, especially when a glossy glaze is used. That's why porcelain tile is found more often on walls than floors.


Quarry tile is unglazed and requires sealing in wet areas. Clay based quarry tile is used broadly in commercial settings. Because it's a durable and relatively inexpensive material, it's becoming more acceptable in homes. The predominant colors are earth shades of red and orange.


Saltillo or Mexican tile is air dried rather than kiln dried. Drying outdoors in the sun makes this tile a little softer and less durable. The exposure to the elements also gives the tile a look that is unique. When used indoors a sealer is required. Read more about saltillo facts or about Mexican saltillo tiles.

Terra cotta

Terra cotta is the same material in construction and appearance as clay garden pots. Tiles are spongy and need to be treated for indoor use.


Implanted stone or marble chips in cement make up a terrazzo floor. The polished surface makes a strong floor material.

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