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Ceramic Tile

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What is Ceramic Tile?

What to Ask When Shopping for Ceramic Tile

With its variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and textures, ceramic tile is a popular choice for many homeowners. Add in the fact that it’s durable and easy to clean, and you might realize it’s the ideal option for your home as well. When you start shopping for ceramic tile, you’ll see a lot goes into choosing the right type. Every box of tile specifies how the tile should be used, but, if you’re not familiar with these ratings, they might not make any sense. Discover what you need to know to choose the right tile for your house.

What Are The Different Types of Ceramic Tile?

When you start looking at ceramic tile, you’ll find several different types. Quarry tiles are made using a mixture of unglazed clays. Since the color in these tiles comes from the clay, you’ll often find them in earth tones, such as brown, red, and gray. Glazed tiles come in matte, high-gloss, and abrasive finishes. You can also find hand-painted glazed tiles with intricate patterns. Just keep in mind that the painting is only on the surface, so if it chips, you’ll see the color of the tile underneath.

Mosaic tiles have color pigments added to the clay so the color goes all the way through. You can find mosaic tiles in glazed and unglazed finishes. Finally, you’ll also see porcelain tiles, which are fired at very high temperatures to make them stronger and more durable than other ceramic tiles.

Where Can I Use Ceramic Tile?

Since ceramic tile is durable, beautiful, and easy to clean and maintain, it makes a great option for almost any room in your house. However, you’ll want to keep a few key pieces of information in mind to make sure you get a tile that suits your needs. High-gloss tiles can get very slippery when wet, so they’re not a good choice for rooms that deal with a lot of moisture, such as a bathroom or kitchen. Contrarily, since porcelain tiles absorb less water and are extremely wear-resistant, they’re an ideal option for these rooms.

What Is a Tile’s Grade?

Every tile has a grade from one to three. Grade one is the highest rating, and it denotes tile that’s high in quality and usually the most expensive. In terms of quality, grade two tile is just below grade one, which means it’s almost always less expensive. You can use grade one and grade two tiles on the floor or wall. Grade three tiles are the lowest rating, and they’re not strong enough to use on the floor. Instead, you can only use grade three tiles on the wall.

What Is Wear Rating?

The wear rating, which is typically called the PEI rating, ranks how well glazed tile can resist abrasion and hold up as a floor tile. Only glazed tiles get a PEI rating, so if you’re looking at unglazed tile, you won’t see this rating. Otherwise, keep these categories in mind to get a suitable tile.

  • Group 0: Can’t handle any foot traffic. Tiles are only good for use on walls.
  • PEI 1: Can handle very light foot traffic, but more suitable for walls.
  • PEI 2: Can handle normal foot traffic, but can’t handle heavy foot traffic.
  • PEI 3: Can handle heavy foot traffic in a home and light foot traffic in a commercial area.
  • PEI 4: Can handle heavy foot traffic in a home and light to moderate foot traffic in a commercial area.
  • PEI 5: Can handle heavy foot traffic in a home or commercial area.

What Is the Water Absorption Rate?

You’ll also want to consider a tile’s water absorption rate, sometimes shortened to its W.A. rating. A tile’s W.A. rating lets you know how well a tile can handle outdoor use and wet areas. You’ll see four categories of W.A. ratings.

  • Nonvitreous: Nonvitreous tile is the most absorbent. It takes in over seven percent of its weight in water. This makes it unsuitable for rooms that can get wet or for outdoor use.
  • Semivitreous: While semivitreous tile performs slightly better by absorbing between three percent and seven percent of its weight in water, it’s still only suitable for indoor use and dry areas.
  • Vitreous: Vitreous tile only absorbs between 0.5 and three percent of its weight in water. It’s good for outdoor use and in rooms that have a lot of moisture, such as laundry areas, bathrooms, and kitchens.
  • Impervious: Impervious tile absorbs less than 0.5 percent of its weight in water. This makes these tiles ideal for areas that see an extreme amount of moisture, such as an outdoor area or shower.

What Is a Tile’s Slip Resistance?

Another important rating to keep in mind is a tile’s slip resistance. This rating is usually called the coefficient of friction, or COF for short. The COF rates a tile’s natural resistance to slip. The lower the COF, the less friction the tile has and the more slippery it will be. The higher the COF, the less slippery the tile is. For regular residential use, manufacturers recommend a COF higher than .50. If you’re placing the tile in a bathroom or other room that deals with a lot of water, you’ll want a COF that’s even higher than that.

What Is Frost Rating?

A tile’s frost rating is a simple notation that lets you know whether or not the tile can withstand the freeze and thaw cycle. If you’re only using your tile indoors or you live in an area that doesn’t get freezing weather, this rating isn’t important.

What Is a Tile’s Shade Variation?

The final rating to consider when you’re shopping for tile is its shade variation. A tile’s shade variation refers to the intentional difference in color from tile to tile that’s included to make it look more natural. Shade variation has four categories.

  • V1 – uniform appearance
  • V2 – slight variation
  • V3 – moderate variation
  • V4 – substantial variation

If you’re interested in getting ceramic tile, make sure you know the answers to these questions to get the right tile for your home.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to Install Ceramic Tile

Installing ceramic tile flooring can be difficult for beginners and DIY'ers. That said, successful tiling jobs are a direct result of good planning and a careful approach. Make sure you take the time to prepare before you begin the installation, and follow the manufacturer-specific instructions! Here are some basic guidelines to follow when installing either ceramic or porcelain tiles.

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Porcelain vs. Ceramic Tile: What’s the Difference?

If you haven't purchased porcelain or ceramic tiles in the past, differentiating between these two materials can be tricky. To make matters even more confusing, porcelain is technically a type of ceramic. The differences aren’t substantial, but they’re important enough to determine which material you should use in which part of your home. Make sure you understand the following factors before choosing ceramic or porcelain for your next project!

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