If you’re considering tile for your next home improvement project, you have your pick of a wide range of materials and designs, from eye-catching glass backsplashes and patterned shower walls to marble flooring and granite tile countertops. However, it’s important to note that all types of tile aren’t intended for all spaces.
Follow along as we explore how to choose the right tile for any style and budget, along with tile trends and tips from industry experts.
With so many different types of tile available, it can be difficult to know where to begin when choosing the right one for your home. Before we dive into six of the most popular types of tile, it’s important to understand the most important characteristics to consider, including the durability, size, color, location and cost of each tile.
Tile hardness is classified by Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) ratings, from 1-5.
- Class I tile is best used in areas with no foot traffic, and recommended for wall use only.
- Class II tile is intended for areas with light traffic, such as walls and bathroom flooring.
- Class III tile should be used in light to moderate traffic areas, including countertops, walls and residential floors (not recommended for flooring in kitchens and entryways).
- Class IV tile, good for moderate to heavy traffic, can be installed in all areas of the home, including kitchens, halls and entryways.
- Class V tile is used for flooring in heavy to extra-heavy traffic areas, and typically only in commercial spaces.
In addition to hardness, a tile’s durability is determined by porosity, or how much moisture a type of tile absorbs. There are four ratings for a tile’s moisture absorption.
- Impervious tile (extremely high density) has a water absorption rate of 0.5% or less, and is recommended for use in kitchens and bathrooms, as well as outdoor areas.
- Vitreous tile (high density) has a water absorption rate of 0.5% – 3%, and can be used in bathrooms or outdoors.
- Semi-vitreous tile (medium density) has a water absorption rate between 3% – 7%, and is not suitable for use in bathrooms or outdoors.
- Non-vitreous tile (low density) has more than 7% water absorption, and is not recommended for floor use.
Each of the different types of tile has its own style, varying by color, shape, size and texture.
Choosing your tile color sets the stage for the whole feel of a room. Lighter colored tiles can make a room look larger, while darker tiles add warmth to a room. There are also a variety of shapes and patterns you can find in tile. Trending tile looks include subway, hexagon, herringbone and penny round, though these designs are best used for smaller areas such as a backsplash or shower wall. For most flooring areas, simpler rectangle or square shapes typically look best.
Beyond shape, size matters when choosing tile. When choosing flooring for instance, large tiles can make small areas feel larger, and small tiles can make a room feel more intimate. Size also impacts installation and upkeep, as small tiles have more grout lines and take more time and effort to install than larger ones.
Finally, the texture of a tile is important to consider based on its location. Smooth surfaces are easy to clean and great for walls and backsplashes, but can get slippery and aren’t an optimal choice for flooring in bathrooms and kitchens. Textured tiles can be tougher to clean, but are durable and scratch-resistant for flooring in high-traffic areas.
While durability and style are important factors when choosing tile, picking a material that aligns with your budget is equally important. The cost of tile is usually broken down by square foot, though they can be sold in cases as well. Tile installation cost is also broken down by square foot, and is in addition to the base cost.
HomeAdvisor reports that the labor costs for tile installation range from $4 – $32 per square foot on average, with flooring installation costing between $4 – $14 per square foot and countertop and backsplash installation costing between $25 to $32 per square foot.