Tile has been used for thousands of years as a durable and attractive building material throughout the world. Ceramic and porcelain tiles have become one of the most popular finishing materials for floors, walls and countertops in today's building market. Designers, architects, and homeowners are learning that tile is a beautiful, reasonably priced and easily maintained product in both home and commercial applications. Recent innovations have made tile an excellent selection in many areas once thought inappropriate or not possible.
Ceramic tile is the product most people are familiar with when they think of tile. Tiles made with the ceramic method have a bisque, or body, composed primarily of either white (talc) clay, brown clay or red clay. White body tiles are generally suitable only for wall applications. The clays are pressed into a mold or extruded through a die to form the tile shape. A ceramic glaze is applied to the bisque by either a spraying or silk screening method. The tile is then fired at a temperature between 1200 and 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. The resulting product has an impenetrable glazed surface that is highly resistant to staining.
Large format porcelain tile is the newest technology in tile manufacturing. Porcelain has three main ingredients: feldspar, quartz, and clay. Contrary to common thought, porcelain tiles are exceptionally hard and very durable. They also have an absorption rate 100 times less than most ceramic tiles. Due to the low absorption rate, most porcelains are frost resistant and can be used in outdoor installations. Porcelain tiles are formed in the same manner as ceramic tiles, most often pressed into molds. While some porcelain tiles are glazed before firing like ceramic tiles, many are fired immediately following pressing. These are called unglazed or through-body porcelains. Porcelain tiles are fired at a temperature between 2200 to 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher firing temperatures and the combination of ingredients produce an extremely dense, hard-wearing, stain resistant tile. Using a process similar to polishing stone, through-body porcelains can be polished to a high gloss finish.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are classified for usage on a scale from 1 to 5. This scale measures the durability of the surface of the tile, whether glazed or unglazed. It is a good measure of how the surface will stand up to scratching. The scale is as follows:
- Wall tile only - Usually applies to high gloss glazed ceramics and white body tiles. Any tile can be used on a wall.
- Wall tile and light duty countertops
- Residential floor or countertop tile
- Heavy residential or light commercial floor tile
- Heavy commercial floor tile
An asterisk (*) next to this number signifies a tile is frost resistant and suitable for outdoor use. A good rule of thumb to remember when choosing your tile is "you can use floor tile on a wall but you can't use wall tile on a floor."
One of the most popular recent trends in tile manufacturing is a large range of variation in color and shading within one tile line. This trend made it essential to develop a rating system for shade variation in tile. The scale is as follows:
- uniform appearance from tile to tile
- slight variation from tile to tile
- moderate variation from tile to tile
- random variation from tile to tile
These variation ratings will help to give you an idea of the variation in a particular product. There is no substitute, however, for seeing the variation of a tile in person. Make sure to look at the range of the tile you are selecting before you purchase.
SELECTING YOUR TILE
Selecting your tile may seem rather overwhelming at first but there are some good rules of thumb that will help you in your decision. First, try not to limit your tile size based on the size of your room. Larger tiles can work well in smaller spaces and actually make smaller rooms feel more spacious. Make sure you are choosing tiles with adequate usage ratings for your application. Remember, any tile can be used on a wall, but only floor rated tiles can be used on a floor. Check out samples of the possible choices for your application and look at them in the lighting they will be installed in if at all possible. Different types of lighting can change the look of a tile dramatically. Finally, visit the CAPCO showroom near you. Our showrooms have a multitude of installations and vignettes to help you visualize tiles "out of the box". In addition, CAPCO has tile professionals available to answer your questions and help to guide you in your tile decision.