A Complete Guide To Tiles
Tiles are a fantastic way of updating the spaces throughout your home. They’re long lasting, stylish, easy to install and easy to clean! Here’s a complete guide, with everything you could ever need to know…
We sometimes forget that everyone who comes into our showroom isn’t a tile expert. With that in mind, we thought it would be useful to give a quick guide to the main types of tiles we sell. Hopefully you’ll have all the tile knowledge you’ll need once you’ve read this and will be able to start thinking about what colours, patterns and textures you might like:
You’ll see some of these on the wall behind our counter – patterned in a decorative period style. Using either concrete or pressed clay, the pattern is inlaid in the tile, rather than being painted on. These are extremely popular at the moment. Due to the technology going into them, they tend to be a little pricey. However, the good news is that a little of these tiles can go a long way – they work well as a feature paired with a more affordable plainer tile. Let us demonstrate in store.
These are generally the most budget-type of tile and there are endless options available. Due to their durability they are best suited to walls. For floors we typically recommend…
With a lot more strength than ceramic, these are extremely durable when used as flooring. Porcelain is very versatile and we even have ranges that look like wood and marble. Porcelain tiles can go on walls, but due to their nature, they are harder to cut and drill. We can match up complementary floor and wall options for you if you’d like to mix and match between porcelain and ceramic – often these are available within the same manufacturer range for a seamless look.
Bringing the outside in is a definite trend and one way to do this is using stone tiles which are literally pieces of rock cut to size. The main types we sell are travertine, granite, slate, and marble. They do require sealing which needs to be repeated periodically. However, despite the maintenance, their natural beauty makes them an ever popular option.
Some consider these an ecological choice since glass is a truly sustainable material and some of our ranges are made of recycled glass – just ask if you would like to find out more. Glass tiles are very resistant to stains – making them great for splash-backs. They can get scratched so it’s best to keep these off the floor. These come in a great range of colours, textures and patterns some of which are very eye-catching .
These can be any combination of materials such as glass, ceramic, porcelain or stone which are set in a small format and set on a mesh sheet for easy installation. Mosaics are available in an a huge range of shapes, sizes, textures and colours making them perfect for a statement feature.
How to tile a floor
For this project you will need all of the above materials, excepting perhaps the level. Substitute a tape measure instead.
The first part of tiling is spending some time planning your layout. Place as many tiles down on the floor where you want them so you can see how many cuts you will need to make, and if any of the cuts will be problematic. Planning allows you to see problems before you start putting mortar down and it’s too late to turn back. Are there places that will be too difficult to cut – where pieces will be too small or the pattern will look funny? How does the tile line up with objects in the room, or with flooring in the next room where it will meet up in the entry?
Laying out the pattern also allows you to plan for out of square areas. For example, we discovered that one wall dived in about ¾” over an 8’ span, and were able to arrange the pattern so that the tiles that would have to be cut to fit were in an out of sight area.
Cutting the Tile
Tile can be cut using a wet saw or a manual tile cutter (that scores and snaps the tile). I recommend a tile saw. We have used this little Ryobi for I think six years now, and through I believe 6 bathrooms, 4 kitchens, and 1 fireplace. It’s an inexpensive little saw that has paid for itself many times over.
Wet Saw Operation
Wet saws resemble table saws in design, but utilize a diamond blade and have a reservoir of water that the blade runs through to keep it cool while cutting. Set the cutting distance on the fence (using a tape measure for accuracy). Any lines you draw on the tile will likely be washed away during the cut, so I find it best not to rely on those.
Move the tile slowly through the cut, being especially slow and careful at the end of the cut so as not to chip the tile. Unlike a table saw, you can and will need to get your fingers a little closer to the blade.
Mixing the Mortar
Mortar can come either premixed or in powder form. The pre-mix is nice for when you want to do a little work at a time and not worry about the mix drying out quickly. However, it doesn’t always set up so fast or so well, and in some applications is not recommended at all. We used pre-mix to tile our wall, but in the shower we only used the stuff we mixed ourselves.
You will need to closely follow the instructions for whatever mortar that you go with. Your mix should be thick but not runny. It needs to be able to hold the grooves that you will create using a notched trowel. If that’s confusing, read on to the next step…
Setting the tile
Start by setting your full size pieces, and then move to the cut pieces. To set a piece of tile you will butter the back with the mortar. Yeah, “butter.” That’s the term, I didn’t make it up. Just don’t take it to literally – it refers to the action, not the amount or consumption.
To butter the tile you’ll use a notched trowel – we used a ¼ x ¼ trowel for both the 4×12 subway tiles and the 8×8 floor tile in our bathroom. Spread the mortar across the back of the tile, then hold the trowel at an angle (around 45 degrees or so) and run notches through the tile in a left to right direction, as opposed to an up and down direction.
Measuring for tiles
The most common way to buy tiles is by working out total required coverage in square metres (m²).
To find out what coverage you need, start by measuring the floors and walls you wish to tile. If you’re tiling the floor, start by measuring the length and width of the total area, then multiply the 2 measurements together. If you have an irregular shaped room (for example, an L shape or T shape), it’s easier to split it up into rectangles and measure each one separately.
Measuring walls is relatively straightforward. Simply work out how wide your wall is and how far up the wall you wish to tile. Multiply these 2 measurements to get the total square metre coverage for your wall. Do the same for any other walls and add these totals together.
The areas around your windows and doors can prove difficult, so it’s always best to allow an extra 10% on top of what you’ve measured.
What’s the difference between ceramic and porcelain?
The two most common tile materials are ceramic and porcelain. But what’s the difference between them?
Well, they’re both made from clay and are fired in a kiln. However, the clay used to make porcelain is more purified and refined, and it’s fired with higher pressure at a greater temperature, which results in a much denser and hardier material than ceramic.
Porcelain is frost proof, whereas ceramic isn’t – so if you’re tiling an outdoor space in the UK, where we often get frosts throughout the winter, it’s definitely advisable to use porcelain over ceramic.
Most wall options are made from ceramic, such as classic metro designs. Lately, though, more durable ceramic floor options are being released.
It’s a very popular material among tile manufacturers, and it’s used in thousands of designs; from bricks and traditional squares on walls, through to stone effects, patterns and wood effects for floors. In domestic settings, it’s pretty much okay for use throughout the house.
Generally regarded as the hardiest material in the tiling world, and frost proof (which makes it ideal for use outdoors in the UK), porcelain is the main material used for manufacturing floor tiles.
It’s scratch resistant, long lasting, and comes in an incredible multitude of styles; from hexagons and wood look planks, through to marble effects and mosaics.
Where should I use porcelain tiles?
Porcelain tiles come in such an array of shapes, sizes, styles and colours that you can use them wherever you like throughout the home and garden. However, due to some of the qualities outlined above (high durability, frost proof, water resistant), they’re a pretty good candidate for floor spaces with high footfall, wet rooms, bathrooms, and gardens! Hallways tend to receive a lot of foot traffic, since it’s the space that family and friends shuffle through first, so that’s an area that would certainly benefit from some sturdy porcelain tiles.