BEFORE YOU BUY TILE
Tile can change the look of your home. Tile Pro has a huge selection of types and styles that include floor tile, wall tile, mosaics and decorative tiles. We have tile for any room of your home!
Not only do we have products for every budget that offer a variety colors, sizes, textures and finishes to fit your every need, we also offer the step-by-step help to install and care for tile yourself.
Consider the following:
- Identify the room
- Select the type
- Select the color
- Select the texture and size
- Design a layout or pattern
- Select the grout color and type
Many tiles are designed to resemble natural stone and are intentionally designed to show variations in color and texture. Since the composition of a tile’s glaze can vary, different styles will also have different gloss levels. Solid color tiles create a consistent look, but shade variation is inherent and certain tiles will show greater variation.
Color consistency or shade variation is typically listed on the back label of each ceramic tile sample with a low, moderate, high or random rating. What’s the difference?
- Low – Consistent shade and texture
- Moderate – Average shade and texture variation
- High – Extreme shade and texture variation
- Random – Severe shade and texture variation
In the same way that glaze can vary, different styles of tile have different gloss levels and surface textures. For example, in areas that get wet, like a shower or bathroom floor, the tile should have low moisture absorption and good slip resistance. By moisture absorption, we mean that as the density of a tile increases, the amount of moisture it can absorb becomes less. Similarly, by tile density, we mean that as the weight or the density of the tile increases, it becomes stronger.
- Non-Vitreous Tiles absorb 7% or more moisture. They are best for indoor use.
- Semi-Vitreous Tiles absorb from 3% to 7% moisture. They are best used indoors only.
- Vitreous Tiles absorb less than 3% moisture. They are referred to as frost resistant tiles but can’t be used in exterior areas where freeze-thaw conditions might cause tile cracking.
- Impervious Tiles have less than .5% moisture absorption. These tiles are frost proof and can be used outside or on building facades. If you have serious winter weather, these are the tiles for you.
Grout is usually mixed on site, but slight color variations can occur within different areas of the same installation. In fact, grout color can vary from the manufacturer’s sample that you saw in the store. This is due to temperature and humidity at the time of grouting. It’s also common to see grout variations when comparing the grout color in a tile floor with the same grout color on a tile countertop or wall. When choosing grout color, it’s a good idea to select a color that blends in with the overall color of the tile.
Exact layouts, types of grout and grout joint widths are determined by a tile setter at the time of installation. These decisions are governed by the actual size and shape of the tile you chose and the exact dimensions of the area to be covered.
Once your tile has been laid and grouted, it’s up to you to guard all caulked areas against water damage. Grout may darken over time in areas with heavy water use. Weather can also cause surfaces around the tile to expand and contract, causing the grout to crack and separate.
There is no such thing as a perfectly level subfloor. As a result, you may hear hollow sounds where your subfloor’s surface dips and ridges. This doesn’t affect the quality or installation of your ceramic tile. Hollow sounds are normal and aren’t a product or installation defect.
HOW TILE IS MADE
At the onset, tiles were made by hand. Wet clay was shaped, sometimes with a wooden mold, and then left to dry in the sun or fired in a small brick kiln. While a handful of artisans still craft tiles by hand, most ceramic tiles now go through a process called “dry pressing” or “dust pressing.” This requires far less labor and time.
Everything in the final product is a natural product. Clay is typically the main ingredient, along with things like sand, feldspar, quartz and water. The ingredients are mixed and ground up into a ball mill to create what’s known as the “body slip.” Body slip is used to differentiate the body of the tile from its glazed topping.
At this point, the body slip contains about 30% water. That moisture helps adhere the ingredients to each other, but as soon as its job is done, it’s gone. To accomplish this, the body slip is put into a dryer and heated; the moisture content is then reduced to about 6%. After drying out, the body slip basically becomes dust. The dust is placed into a large press. The press pushes the dust into a set size and shape with a force ranging from a few hundred pounds per square inch to 100,000 pounds per square inch.
The extreme pressure provides the finished tile with its tensile strength. While square or rectangular tiles are most common, presses may have shaped imprints to create unique shapes called a “bisque.” After it is formed, it’s dried out to remove all of the final traces of moisture.
Glaze is the shiny coating normally applied to one side of the tile. Glaze can be matte finished and high-gloss. To give the tile its color, pigments are mixed into the glaze.
All tile has to be baked. Before a tile goes in the kiln, it goes by another name: “green tile.” After the being glazed, the tiles are fired in the kiln. The maximum temperature in the kiln can get as high as 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371.1 degrees Celsius). The higher the temperature, the stronger the tile.
Tiles then go through a cooling period where they are still changing colors. This baking process has gone from hours to less than one hour over time, which allows the tile to be made at a reasonable price.
Colors & Patterns
Firing a tile just once makes it much stronger, but if the goal is a tile with many colors or elaborate patterns, then that tile will be baked multiple times. Before each firing, a different colored glaze is applied to the tile and the process is repeated until the chosen design is complete.
Depending on the finish, a wet tile will be slippery. Most manufacturers have a rating system that is based on or supported by the American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM). Many times you can find these ratings on the tile sample or in the product catalog. The most common system rates ceramic tile abrasion, resistance and the overall durability of the tile.
There are 5 classes in this rating system:
- Class 1: No Foot Traffic
These tiles are suggested only for interior wall applications — not for flooring.
- Class 2: Light Traffic
These tiles are suggested for interior wall applications and residential bathroom floors only.
- Class 3: Light to Moderate Traffic
These tiles can be used for residential floors and wall applications, including bathrooms, kitchens, foyers, dining rooms and family rooms.
- Class 4: Moderate to Heavy Traffic
These tiles are recommended for residential, medium commercial and light industrial floor and wall applications, including shopping malls, offices, restaurant dining rooms, showrooms and hallways.
- Class 5: Heavy/Extra Heavy Traffic
These tiles can be installed anywhere. They will work for both floor and wall applications in airports, supermarkets and subways.
The ceramic tile you choose may also carry a rating for Slip Resistance, which is measured by its Coefficient of Friction (COF). The higher the COF, the more slip resistant the tile is. Consider selecting a high COF tile for areas that get wet, such as your shower or bathroom floor.
Manufacturers may also include: scratch resistance, moisture absorption, chemical resistance and breaking strength.
WHY BUY LOCAL
When it’s time to buy your tile, you will likely comparison-shop and start your search for a floor online.
Visiting flooring manufacturers’ websites is a good place to start. Then you must decide if you’re going to buy at a local flooring store, a home center, or online flooring discounters.
Why Buy from Local Stores
- Flooring sales and discount offers
- Have an established presence in their communities
- Expert salespeople can answer your questions and help you find the right tile and installation options
- In-home measuring
- See and touch the tile through displays, videos, and samples
- Strong relationships with manufacturers
- If you have any issues after your floor is installed, you can go back to the flooring store and get your issues resolved.
Buying from Online Discounters
If low price is driving your decision, remember the old saying: “You get what you pay for.” A cheaper price may win today, but after your tile is installed and you discover the poor quality boards don’t fit together well, or the finish chips when you dust mop, or your vinyl floor rips when you wear sneakers, that cheap price will come back to haunt you.
What If There’s a Problem?
If you have problems with the floor you purchased from an online discounter after it’s been installed, you’ll need to contact the discounter to get them resolved. But you can’t simply walk into their store and talk to a manager or store owner face-to-face, so you’ll have to rely on phone calls or emails. Will the discounter stand behind their product? Will they be willing to replace or repair your floor – if it’s under warranty? Did they even offer a warranty? And if the discounter won’t satisfy you, what options do you have?
Avoid the potential pitfalls of dealing with online discounters and go directly to your local flooring store. Meet the friendly professionals who really want to help you find the perfect floor for your home.