Different types of tile

Different types of tile and where to use them

Different types of tile
Here is a porcelain tile. Durable and dense, it is a great type of tile to use for flooring but is versatile enough to use anywhere.

As a Kitchen and Bathroom Remodeling Contractor specializing in tile installation, we have had the pleasure of working with tiles in all shapes, sizes and types. This gives us a particularly insightful edge when it comes to recommending tile to our customers.

When consulting with customers, one of the most common questions we get is “What type of tile should we use?”.

With so many different tile options out there, it can be overwhelming. You find yourself in the Home Depot aisle gazing at all of the different options and are not sure which direction to go.

Porcelain or Ceramic? What is a mosaic? Why is this tile so cheap and the other so expensive? Should I go with natural quarry tiles? Will this tile last?
These are all great questions. I hope to be able to answer some of them in this post and leave you feeling empowered with the knowledge you need  to make your next tile purchase.

List of different tile types

First, lets list the main categories of different types of tile.

Porcelain Tile

Carerra Marble Design Porcelain Tile
Carerra Marble Design Porcelain Tile. Porcelain is available in all types of different patterns and sizes

Porcelain tile is among the most popular tile types. It really is no wonder as it is the strongest and most resilient tile type.

While it is very similar in nature to ceramic tile, it’s main difference is that porcelain tile is made of a more refined material which makes it much more dense and strong.

Many of the larger format tiles will be porcelain due to its strength. A large porcelain tile can be incredibly durable. Whereas a ceramic tile in a large format will easily break

Porcelain tiles can be used anywhere. You can use them indoors or outdoors which is incredibly important to note. Porcelain tiles are great for outdoor use due to their low absorption ate. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has developed a system of classifying tiles based on their absorption rate and Porcelain maintains the lowest absorption rating which is called “impervious”. To classify as impervious, it must have an absorption rate of less than 0.05%.

Lithium Silver Porcelain Tile Available at The Tile and Stone warehouse
Lithium Silver Porcelain Tile Available at The Tile and Stone warehouse
When considering a tile for outdoors, this absorption rate is important particualarly in areas subject to extreme weather swings like we have here in Fort Collins Colorado. With snow falling one day, melting the next and then freezing that evening, a tile used outdoors must have a low absorption rate or the water that becomes trapped in the tile will freeze and expand causing the tile to break and crumble.

While Porcelain Tiles are the best for outdoor use, they also are great for indoor use. Especially in high traffic areas or an area that is subject to having things dropped on it like in the kitchen. If you were to drop a glass or plate on a porcelain tile, chances are that if the tile is properly embedded in the mortar that it would survive the crash and not break or chip.Of course, it depends on how it is dropped and how heavy it is. But I have personally dropped all types of thing, from hammers to pliers to other pieces of tile on to porcelain tiles and seen first hand how resilient it can be. I mean, lets face it, stuff happens. And if it does happen, rest assured that porcelain is your best bet to have a “that was a close one” rather than an “aw snap, look what I have done”..

Porcelain tiles can be used on the walls also. Or for that matter, they can be used anywhere. In your Walk-in shower or around your free-standing bath tub.

There really are no drawbacks to using porcelain tiles for your next remodeling project. It is a bit harder to cut and requires better blades. It is also very hard to drill. But that is the installers problem.

Ceramic Tile

3in x 12in Ceramic Subway tile by Daltile
3in x 12in Ceramic Subway tile by Daltile

Like we previously stated, ceramic tile is very similar to porcelain tiles. The materials used to make them are very similar except that the material is much less refined which makes for a less dense tile. This can result in the tile being brittle or easily broken.

Ceramic tiles typically come in smaller formats like subway tiles or mosaics. But you may also find them in larger formats.

60's Bathroom with mosaic pattern ceramic floor tile
60’s Bathroom with mosaic pattern ceramic floor tile
Ceramic tiles are great for walls such as in your shower or at your back-splash. And they are commonly used on bathroom floors in mosaic patterns. I am sure you can remember back to the flair of the 60’s where every home built either had a pink or pale green bathroom with the small 1 inch by 1 inch square tile patterns running across the floor. Often when these ceramic tiles are used in small formats on the floor like this, they tend to be be harder to break or chip because they are so small. But the larger they are, the easier they break. I have experienced some ceramic mosaics that were just horrendous bout chipping. Even the slightest contact with another hard surface will send a sliver flying off the face of it.

I personally have made the mistake of using a ceramic tile on a shower floor and was replacing it soon after it began to chip. While it looked great, it was short lived. So while there are some great uses for ceramic tile, shower floors or kitchen and bathroom floors are not it.

Another place you do not want to use ceramic tiles is out doors. They are typically classified as vitreous or semi-vitreous in the aforementioned ANSI category meaning they absorb water more readily and retain that water. If used in an area that typically freezes or can experience heavy rains and hot sun, they may have a tendency to break, chip or become displaced. So it is strongly advised to not use them in an outdoor application in unpredictable climates.

Quarry Tile

Quarry Tile in Commercial Kitchen
Quarry tile is among the most desired in high traffic areas

Quarry Tile is a hard impervious tile made in a similar way to clay bricks. The difference is in the minerals used to make the tile. Ultra refined minerals are combined and fired to create a dense material that is suitable for indoor or outdoor applications.

Contrary to what the name suggest, Quarry tile is not mined from a quarry. To be honest, I have no idea why it is referred to as a “quarry” material.

Quarry tiles are especially great to use for entryways or sidewalks as they maintain their color throughout the entirety of the tile meaning that as they wear the color will not change. They are also incredibly slip resistant

quarry tiles are available in many different patterns and styles
Quarry tile is available in many different patterns and styles

Many times, you will see this tile used in restaurants as it is incredibly durable and slip resistant. And over time it can develop a patina to give it a warm earthy feel.

Quarry tile is mainly seen in the red color spectrum but can also be found in greys, tans and browns as well as other earthen colors.

For your home, a great place to use quarry tiles would be on patios, walk-ways, entryways and pathways.

Although quarry tile is classed as vitreous, meaning it has a low water absorption rate, it still will stain quite easily. To avoid staining it is recommended to seal it with a water based sealer that can penetrate deep into the pores of the surface.

Mosaic Tile

Mosaic tiles come in all types of patterns, colors and materials
Mosaic tiles come in all types of patterns, colors and materials

Now here is where it gets fun. Mosaic tiles add character to any tile setting. Whether used as accent strips or as field tile. Mosaic are a way to add your own personal style to your tiling project.

Mosaic tiles are typically defined as a 12 inch by 12 inch pattern of small tile layed out on some sort of mesh backing. These tiles are usually layed out in a way that each of the tile mosaic sheets can interlock on all sides to make for a seamless installation when using them over large areas.

accent strip made from mosaic tiles
An accent strip made by cutting mosaic tiles in half and joining them end to end
Mosaic tiles can also be sliced in half to use for accent strips of 4 to 6 inch widths. They will typically have a row or line in the sheet where if cut, the two halves will join end to end to make a strip. They come in many different mixes of material as well which can help to bring the right style for your senses.

Herringbone Tile Shower Wall Niche Fort Collins Bathroom Remodeling
Herringbone Tile Mosaic in a Shower Wall Niche
Another great way to use mosaic tiles is to accent the back wall of your shower wall niche with them. This draws your attention to the custom look of the niche and can create a great focal point.

Mosaic tiles can come in a mix of porcelain and ceramic as well as several different materials in one mosaic such as metal, glass, marble and natural stone. This mix can help you to create any desired look you want to achieve.

Mosaic tiles are optimal for use in traditional shower pans due to their flexibility
Mosaic tiles are optimal for use in traditional shower pans due to their flexibility
Where you can really make a statement with mosaic tile is in your traditional Dry-Pack PVC lined shower pan. The flexibility of a mosaic tile allows you to follow the contour of the pan that is required to allow the water to drain. With larger format tiles, this can not be accomplished due to the rigidity of the tile.

Where to find tile in Fort Collins, Co

We are a tile supplier and installer in Fort Collins CO and would enjoy helping you decide what to use in your next tile project. Contact us today for your no obligation quote and consultation and let us help you pick the perfect tile to suit your needs.