If you’re about to undergo a home renovation or new home construction, you’ve undoubtedly been faced with the daunting task of choosing tile. Whether it’s for a floor, backsplash, wall, countertop, or just a decorative accent, the variety of tile available today is staggering.
Considering that decorative tiles were originally used as long ago as 4,000 BC, it’s astounding to see how prevalent they are in modern times.
“Ever since ceramic tile with ready-mix glaze was introduced in the 1900s, [it] was available to homeowners of all sorts,” says Robin Burrill, RID, ASID, NCIDQ, CAPS, IDS, CEO, and principal designer at Signature Home Services, a Texas-based remodeling firm.
Whether you’re constructing a new home or renovating a space in an existing one, having a thorough understanding of tile options is important. It will ensure that you choose the right tile for the space and project and save time and money. Here’s an overview of the most common types of tile used in home projects.
Porcelain tile is extremely popular. This is due in large part to it being more economical than many other types of tile. Though the tile and its installation may be more expensive initially, porcelain is built to last: Porcelain tiles can last more than 25 years, even with daily use and water exposure. Though not immune to scratches and staining, porcelain won't freeze, fade, or crack, so you can use it inside or out. While it has the advantage of coming in a range of sizes, colors, and finishes, its installation requires the use of adhesive, and can be difficult.
Pros: Durable; long-lasting; water- and stain-resistant; available in many colors and styles
Cons: Heavy; higher maintenance; harder to install
Cost: Including installation, $9-$40 per square foot
Probably the most widely used tile in home design, ceramic tile is timeless, durable, and versatile. It's easy to work with and install, lightweight, and works well in kitchens, bathrooms, mudrooms, and for outdoor projects. (If using on a floor, make sure to check a tile's COF rating, which denotes how slip-resistant it is.) Ceramic tile is available either glazed or unglazed. The former offers a layer of protection for longevity, while the latter serves up a rustic, matte look.
Pros: Strength and durability; affordable; easy installation
Cons: Higher maintenance; susceptible to water infiltration; can be cold and hard underfoot; susceptible to cracking
Cost: Including installation, $15-$20 per square foot
Composed of quartz, silica, feldspar, and clay, these tiles are converted to glass or a glasslike substance via exposure to heat (vitrified) by a hydraulic press and are stronger than ceramic and porcelain tiles. Because of the glass-like element in the tiles, they retain their sheen even after years of use, which makes them a great option for high-traffic areas like front entrances and kitchen and bath flooring, and a more affordable alternative to marble or granite. (Vitrified tile typically costs more than ceramic.)
Pros: Extremely durable for flooring; scratch-, stain-, and water-resistant
Cons: More expensive than porcelain and ceramic; difficult to install/can chip or crack easily during cutting
Cost: Including installation, $14-$32 per square foot
If you have a rustic, Japandi, farmhouse, or Scandinavian-style home, cement tiles will work well in your space. Cement tiles typically feature bold patterns and colors, but they can also be found in beautiful muted hues. While they tend to be inexpensive and eco-friendly, they're extremely difficult to install due to their heaviness and inconsistent sizing. Additionally, the top layer of color is only 1/8" thick, so the tiles are easily stained. Maintaining them requires monthly resealing. These tiles are best used in low-traffic, low-mess areas, and in small quantities.
Pros: Inexpensive: bold patterns; eco-friendly
Cons: Heavy; susceptible to water damage and stains; joints must be sealed; inconsistent in size; monthly maintenance required
Cost: Including installation, $7-$14 per square foot
Marble tiles offer an elegant, sophisticated look and can be used for modern and contemporary backdrops. Like natural stone tile, marble tile is porous. This means you'll probably need to reseal it every 18-24 months to prevent discoloration, depending on traffic. Marble tile is also expensive: “The smaller the individual tile or the more intricate the installation pattern, the more labor hours to install, which leads to a higher cost for the customer,” says Jennifer Fiorenza, AKBD, selections coordinator at The English Contractor, a bespoke remodeling firm in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Pros: Classic, timeless look; durable; variety of colors including unusual choices like black and brown
Cons: More expensive to install; requires more aftercare; stains can become permanent if not sealed immediately and regularly; marble can bruise when marred leaving permanent white marks
Cost: Including installation, $10-$25 per square foot
Glass tile has become increasingly popular as a decorative accent or backsplash. It is best suited to kitchens and bathrooms. There is a wide variety of colors, patterns, and types, making it a unique choice, but glass tiles can be expensive. They’re also difficult to install and typically require an expert familiar with its installation. “Natural stones like marble, or even glass tiles, should be used in those special areas where you’re committed to a certain look or feel," says Burrill.
Pros: Easy to maintain; highly resistant to staining,
Cons: Expensive; chips easily
Cost: Including installation, $7-$30 per square foot
Stone tile can include granite, marble, travertine, sandstone, and quartzite. Each material has its own attributes that can make it better or worse for specific areas. “Most natural stone needs to be sealed to prevent staining. This should be done regularly, and the stone should be washed with a PH neutral cleanser to avoid etching or removing of the surface particles of the stone,” says kitchen and bath designer Sarabeth Asaff South. Stone tile is excellent for flooring and outdoor areas, and offers a natural, upscale look for projects like fireplaces, outdoor kitchens, and patios.
Pros: Durable for heavy foot traffic; natural look
Cons: Must be sealed; can chip and scratch easily; expensive to install
Cost: Including installation, $7-$14 per square foot
Slate + Limestone
Popular in rustic settings and for outdoor projects, slate tiles can be gauged (all the same size and thickness) or ungauged. “Generally, ungauged is less expensive and gives a more rustic appearance, but it’s very hard to install and requires back buttering on every piece,” says Asaff South. All slates will spall, meaning break or chip, especially during the first several months after installation. This is normal and to be expected. Limestone is one of the softest stones and can contain small fossils. It’s very likely to stain and etch, but remains popular for its appearance, especially in outdoor patios and kitchens. French limestone such as Beaumanerie tends to be the strongest and the most durable.
In most kitchens, the sink and faucet are used dozens of times throughout the day. The right faucet will not only elevate your kitchen’s design: It will also meet your needs as a tool for prep and cleaning.