Choosing the Right Tiles - An Article by Milena

Bathrooms require more durable materials than the rest of the house as they are constantly under strain from water. So far, the most popular materials for these rooms are stone, ceramic, porcelain, and glass. All of these materials are beautiful, strong, and come in a variety of shapes and colors.

To narrow down in size and material you need to know exactly where the tile will be placed. Most commonly, stone, ceramic, and porcelain are used for counters and floors. Glass is mostly used for walls and backsplashes.

Ceramic tile are tiles made from thin slabs of clay or other inorganic materials, hardened by oven firing and usually coated in a glaze. They are a good fit in bathrooms or other moisture-rich environments, as well as in kitchens as they do not harbour bacteria. They are easy to clean and install, waterproof, sturdy and great value for the price.

Porcelain tile is actually a subtype of ceramic tile and now a very a popular choice for bathroom floors. Porcelain is a denser, more porous, and harder option that offers greater stain and water resistance than ceramic tile. The manufacturing process of porcelain provides many more design possibilities than ceramic tiles. As a harder tile, it is also harder to wear down.

Ceramic tile vs. Porcelain tiles
These two types of tiles might often look the same but below the surface lies a world of differences. The main difference is hardness rating and porosity. Ceramic tiles are made from natural compounds and therefore, are softer and easier to cut than porcelain. Porcelain tiles are much harder to cut and due to their low porosity, they require a special compound for setting. Although porcelain bears the perception of high quality, it is not always the best choice for a residential application and tends to work better in commercial settings, as its toughness is unnecessary for domestic kitchens and bathrooms.

Glass tiles are a common choice for bathrooms today because they are easily recycled and come in a wide variety of colors and finishes. Mosaic tiles are usually shaped in rectangles, squares, or "pennies". However, in terms of installation costs, they are more expensive to fit and also harder to maintain as there is a lot of grout, which means a lot of area that can get cracked or stained.

Natural stone wins in durability and its natural beauty, and since no two stones are exactly alike, a natural pattern will emerge on tiled floors or walls. Natural stone requires more maintenance than ceramic, porcelain or glass. A smooth stone works better in kitchens, where surfaces will need regular wiping, but a textured stone floor will help prevent slips on a bathroom floor. Attention must be paid to the cleaning products used on natural stone as some chemicals will stain or bleach tiles, but natural stone requires regular, careful cleaning to prevent limescale and other residue build-up.

How much do they cost?
Tiles vary wildly in price range, from £10-£15 per square metre for very basic tiles, up to 100's of pounds per square meter at the luxury ceramic and porcelain tile end. For a good mid-range tile, you should look at spending anywhere between £35-£50 per square metre.

How to find a good tiler?
A bathroom fitting company who are providing a tiling service within a full bathroom refurbishment is likely to charge you much more for installation than a sole trader / independent tiler. However, whether you will get the same guarantees from a sole trader is debatable. A good tiler will give you a written quote detailing all the specifications. It also mentions the time required to finish the job, number of tiles needed, additional materials required, and so on. The best is to compare the quotes offered by the three to five recommended tilers in the area and choose the one that suits you best. If you are working with an interior designer, your designer will take care of finding the best tiler based on their experience. 

 Limestone tiles laid in a herringbone pattern

Natural blue slate tiles

Ceramic tiles 'folded' from Italian supplier Mutina

Ceramic tiles printed with patterns to imitate
encaustic concrete tiles

Glass tiles as a kitchen backsplash

Porcelain tiles from Mandarin Stone