Choosing the Right Tile for the Room

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Sep 15, 2011 | Kevin Stevens

Custom Surface Design, Inc. via Hometalk.comTile work is one of my mainstays. I have installed thousands and thousands of square feet on or in just about every room of a home except the garage. So when a customer asks, “What kind of tile should I get?” the answer can be a bit complex. Tile types vary widely. There are hundreds of natural stone products to choose from like marble, granite and slate. These can be had in many shapes and sizes as well. There are also the hundreds of ceramic and porcelain varieties. Add in mosaics in glass, metal, etc., and you can quickly see that this is going to take some thought.

Where is this being installed?

The first consideration for choosing tile should be based on where this tile is going to be used. Some tiles are far better in terms of durability than others. The other big variation is how easy it is to keep clean. A couple of poor choices would be to use slate or Saltillo for a kitchen counter.  Slate, with all of its nooks and crannies, would be an ideal breeding ground for all of the nasty things people don’t want in a food preparation area. Saltillo by comparison would be a little easier to keep clean but traditionally is used exclusively for tile floors. So it would be perceived as a “wrong” install. Glazed tiles (ceramic and porcelain) are great choices for wet areas; they also are quite durable from a wear standpoint. Most granites also fall into the highly durable group and can be made “cleanable” and water and stain resistant with proper sealing.

Cost and scale

Tile prices vary widely by material and availability. I have seen many types of ceramics and porcelain tiles selling for a few bucks to as little as 60 cents a square foot. I have also installed exotic marble and granites that were well over $20 a sq foot. If you want stone tile but don't want to pay for marble or granite, consider travertine, which can be less expensive. "Travertine can transform any bathroom or kitchen backsplash into something amazing and with its neutral colors, there are dozens of color schemes you can pull off -- even dark colors like oil rubbed bronze fixtures with dark brown walls," said Majestic Home Improvement (a Virginia Beach, VA contractor) on, a social network dedicated to home improvement.

Designer mosaics in hand-made glass and metal can approach $50 a sq foot. If your plan is to tile the 1000’s of sq feet of a large home, then these considerations need to be addressed.  Fancy or pricey tiles can be used as accents or borders. This allows a little flair with out breaking the bank or making it look too busy. If your budget is fatter than most, then this may not be an issue. Anecdotally, I stayed in a 5 star resort once where the bath was as large as my kitchen and was covered floor to ceiling in exquisite marble -- it was very memorable, and if you can afford to pull it off, enjoy!

Thermal mass

One complaint people have with tile is that it can be cold underfoot. This can be good or bad and is not always the case. In the heat of the summer our Husky mix loves to sleep on the cool granite tile of my home office floor. By comparison our Dachshund will seek out the sun-warmed black granite tile along the border of our living room or the radiantly heated Travertine in the master bath. Because tile and natural stone is dense it can retain its thermal energy longer than a hardwood floor. When installed with radiant heating or with proper under slab insulation tile can provide for some temperature buffering due to its thermal mass.  Tile used as a hearth and for fireplace surrounds provide the needed combustion clearances, but can also add heat storage. I have done a number of these with very pleasing results.

Kevin Stevens is a Networx - - writer. Read more articles like this one - - on

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