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Tile has been a staple in bathrooms and kitchens for ages. The sleek, classic look of a tiled design is hard to beat. Here, we’ll explore this versatile, low-maintenance, water-resistant flooring option.

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What is tile flooring?

Tiling is a catch-all term used to describe any hard-wearing floor covering made up of tiles, where the spaces between the tiles have been filled with grout. Often tiled floors are made of ceramic, a clay-based material. You will usually hear these tiles referred to as porcelain or non-porcelain (which is also known as “ceramic”), which refers to differences in composition.

In general, porcelain tiles are more durable and dense than non-porcelain. Ceramic tiles come in several varieties depending on the production process. Natural stone tiles are the other well-known type of tiled flooring. Types of quarried stone include, but are not limited to, granite, marble, and slate, each with its own characteristics and appearance. Natural stone tiles are much more expensive than ceramic tiles.

Advantages

Durable and long lasting: When tile is installed correctly, high quality tiles can give a timeless look to a home. With proper maintenance, tiles are decently resistant to permanent damage and can easily last for over 20 years. A rating system, from Class I to Class V, is used to help determine which tile is best for your home. Class V is the most durable type of tile, but for a home with average foot traffic, Class III or IV should be more than adequate.

Waterproof: Tile is an excellent choice for bathrooms, kitchens and mudrooms because sealed tiles are water resistant. Tiles are categorized by the amount of water they absorb, so look for tiles categorized as semi-vitreous and vitreous. Keep in mind that tile and grout are not waterproof. Your tiles will need to be maintained for optimal water resistance.

Low maintenance: Tile flooring is very easy to maintain on a daily basis, with only light cleaning required.

The inconvenients

Expensive: Compared to other types of flooring like laminate, tile, especially natural stone or high-quality tile, is expensive to purchase and install.

Grout Problems: The grout between tiles should be actively maintained, especially in high traffic areas. Grout is cement-based, which means it is also porous and can be soaked up with moisture and dirt. Stains, crumbling and mildew are all issues to watch out for. These can affect the appearance and integrity of a floor, but regular grout cleaning and sealing will prevent major problems.

May be uncomfortable underfoot: The tiled floors are notorious for getting cooler in the winter months, so be prepared to get cold feet once the weather starts to cool down. Installing underfloor heating (also known as radiant heating) is a game-changer if you want to keep your tiled floors toasty warm and don’t like the feeling of frozen toes. This can be an expensive addition, so have your checkbook ready.

Cost

For materials only, porcelain and non-porcelain tiles will cost you approximately $0.50 to $10 per square foot. Natural stone tiles, such as slate, will cost more – approximately $5 to $15. High-quality designer or custom tiles will cost more than non-porcelain ceramic, which is the cheapest type of tile available.

Depending on the complexity of the flooring project and the material you use, expect installation and labor costs to add up anywhere between $4 and $35 per square foot (or more if you are working with stone tiles).

Maintenance and care

As long as tile floors are installed correctly and properly sealed, cleaning and maintenance remains easy. Use a damp cloth and a soft broom to clean up immediate spills and dirt, then follow up weekly with a vacuum or mop. Schedule a deep cleaning every two to three months and be sure to clean the grout between the tiles. Tile, and any sealer or finish used, can be damaged by abrasive or chemical cleaners like bleach and ammonia. Avoid using these products as much as possible.

If you see grout crumbling or spot a broken or warped tile, repair or replace the area immediately. Grout and tiles that have been damaged can, if left unchecked, end up affecting the entire floor. It is essential to reseal your grout regularly if you want to prevent the majority of problems in a preventive way. For high-traffic or high-use areas like showers or locker rooms, aim to re-seal the grout at least once a year. This means that you will only have to replace the grout entirely every 15 years or so.

For longevity, follow normal floor care procedures: lay rugs and carpets in high-traffic areas, use furniture pads, and trim your pet’s nails or claws regularly.

Design Options

Tiles come in a wide variety of styles and designs. As well as a range of colors and styles available, the tiles can be installed in various patterns including herringbone, staggered, stacked, mosaic or even a random or custom pattern, anything you can imagine can be achieved.

Don’t overlook non-square shapes either: tiles can take the form of diamonds, rectangles and hexagons. No matter how your room looks, there will be a tile option to match your interior design preferences.

Installation

Tiles can take time to install. Unlike other types of flooring, tile requires precision and flawed installation can cause many problems down the road. Although DIY is cheaper than hiring a professional (about $9 to $55 vs. $13 to $85 per square footincluding materials), we strongly recommend a contractor unless you have previous experience installing tile.

Lifetime

A well-maintained tiled floor can easily last 20 years or more. In fact, unless the tiles are damaged beyond repair in some way, a tiled floor can last over 50 years. Some old stone tile floors still exist today, although they are protected from further use for preservation reasons.

Grout issues and any problems with the subfloor (water damage, etc.) are often the biggest threats to the longevity of your floor, as the tiles themselves are very durable. Take steps to maintain the grout and replace it if necessary. Always buy extra tiles so that you can easily replace broken or warped tiles if needed.

Top Brands

There are many tile brands, each with different qualities and selling points. Popular manufacturers include Armstrong, Mohawk, Shaw Floors, Daltile, Bedrosians Tile & Stone, and Merola Tile. For a more unique craft experience, look to smaller but reputable manufacturers like Ann Sacks, Susan Jablon, Arizona Tile, and Clayhaus Ceramics.

Don’t be afraid to shop around: the perfect tile is worth the time and effort it takes to find.

Conclusion

For a timeless, classic look for your home with great design versatility and an easy-to-maintain aesthetic, tile flooring is probably the right choice. Tile brings class without any of the headaches of wood flooring or the unauthenticity of synthetic flooring and remains one of the best options for high traffic areas.

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