Your Ultimate Guide to Household Tile
Whether you're embarking on a home renovation project or have a board dedicated to your dream kitchen or bathroom on Pinterest, you've likely seen quite a few different tile styles. While you may be familiar with each look, the material that each tile is made from will determine whether or not they'll work for your space. After all, a tile that's a good fit for a shower wall may not be durable enough for a high-traffic kitchen floor. The trick to picking the perfect tile for your project is to know which materials are suited for floor use versus wall use, as well as indoor use versus outdoor use—especially since tile is often found in multiple rooms in the house. "Beyond the traditionally tiled areas of the home such as kitchen and bath, we're seeing a tile being used throughout the home, including dining and living room floors and even fireplaces," says Pace Tropper, vice president of marketing at TileBar.
Once you determine the right material for your space, it's time for the fun part: picking the design. Are you going for a clean, modern look, or do you love surrounding yourself with color and pattern? Is a classic aesthetic more your style, or do you gravitate towards something more contemporary? "The most popular tile is definitely subway tile," informs Tropper. "This is a traditional, rectangular-shaped tile can be used in myriad ways."
To help you brush up on all things tile and pick the right option for your upcoming project, we chatted with Tropper and father-son duo Craig and Jared Knoll of Knoll Construction. Ahead you'll discover the different types of tile on the market, as well as how to best utilize them in your home.
Popular Materials for Tiles
Before you start your home renovation project, know which tile material is best for your space. To help, we're outlining the popular tile materials on the market.
Porcelain tile, made from dense clay, is a durable material that works well in high-moisture spaces like bathrooms. "Porcelain continues to surge in popularity, thanks to its durability, stain-resistance, and endless design options," says Tropper. However, because this heavy tile is resilient, it's also harder to cut for installation says Craig. "It can be used throughout the home, but it's primarily seen in bathrooms, laundry rooms, and mud rooms as flooring," he says. If you're wondering about the main difference between porcelain and ceramic tile, it's that porcelain is stronger and more water resistant.
The other most common type of tiles for walls is ceramic. Like porcelain, ceramic tiles are made from clay and baked at high temperatures. However they are less dense than porcelain, making them more affordable and easier to work with. "It's an easier material to cut and install," Jared explains. Ceramic tiles aren't recommended for outdoor use and are best used for shower walls.
This natural stone is incredibly popular right now given its chic, luxurious look. There is a downside to marble, though, and that's the fact that the material is very costly and is porous, which means it's challenging to use in wet areas. With that being said, marble is a good fit for kitchen backsplashes or countertops. For a budget-savvy renovation, install a smaller slab on projects such as fireplace.
Each piece of this durable, natural stone is one of a kind, making it a unique option for countertops and, in some cases, showers. It's worth noting, however, that it's one of the more expensive options on the market.
"The major pro of this natural stone material is its uniformity," Craig points out. "It will be very close to the same color and design from piece to piece." The downside is that, given its soft nature, it's not always suitable for flooring. Instead, keep this tile in mind for backsplashes.
If you want to offset all the wood in your home, or just want to add some shine, try metal tiles. The modern material offers an extremely unique look, but it can also give a space a colder look given its metallic finish.
Material: Faux Wood
If you crave the cozy appeal of classic wood floors but like the easy upkeep that comes with traditional tile, it's time to get familiar with faux wood tile. Typically made of porcelain, these wood-inspired tiles are becoming very popular in home design. The only disadvantage is that they're often colder than real wood floors would be.
The best part about these natural stone tiles is that they require little to no maintenance. They can be used both indoors and outdoors and are a popular choice for mud rooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and garden walkways. The only pitfalls are that the material is expensive compared to other tile options, and it can be harsh on the feet thanks to its cold, hard form.
These tiny tiles are usually made of natural stone and come on a sheet. They result in an earthy look, but since they're often porous, they can be tough to keep clean. "We have used these primarily in shower floors," Jared notes. "We seal these floors with multiple coats of a stone sealer before use so that water will not absorb into the material, which makes them more low maintenance."
Looking to create a quiet, eco-friendly space? Cork tile flooring is a sustainable choice. Another advantage to the material? Cork tiles are soft and easy on the feet making them a great choice for rooms you stand in for long periods of time such as kitchens. The material also provides a certain amount of cushioning and is therefore a popular choice for kids rooms.
As you can imagine, glass tiles create a sleek, clean appearance that's nearly unmatched. But, since they're made of glass, they're quite fragile to work with. As such, they're not recommended for flooring, but work beautifully for backsplashes and shower wall designs.
Popular Styles of Tiles
Once you decide which material is right for your project and space, it's time for the fun stuff: selecting a design. Ahead, we outline the most popular styles of tile on the market.
You can't go wrong with subway tiles. These classic rectangular tiles are beloved for their timeless look and easy installation. "With subway tiles, there's an aesthetic that fits everyone's design palette, and they come in different sizes so the area use is virtually limitless," says Tropper. They're most often used in kitchen backsplashes and shower walls. If you're worried the style is too generic for your taste, "adding different grout colors can give it a unique look," says Craig.
Mosaic tiles often come on a sheet and contain a mix of different shapes and colors, which allows for a wide variety of backsplash and accent shower design options. However, given all the bits and pieces, it can be very labor intensive to install, making it an option best brought to life by professionals.
These confetti-like chips of marble, glass, granite, or quartz, which are embedded in cement, come in a variety of color combinations and create a playful textured look that instantly adds whimsy to any countertop, floor, or backsplash.
Thanks to the cool, geometric shape which instantly give a room a modern feel, these tiles are becoming increasingly more popular for backsplashes and bathroom floors.
These simple square tiles are renowned for their universal installation—you can use them anywhere and everywhere. Since they're not as unique as other styles, feel free to play with pattern (think: stacked, diagonal, or offset) to add more design features.