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Before You Buy - Ceramic & Porcelain

Ceramic tile is everywhere. We see it in beautiful residences and decorative commercial applications. For centuries it has been, and still is, one of the most intriguing and practical choices. Due to its endless design options, durability and easy maintenance, ceramic tile is often a popular choice for many households.

Since ceramic tile is man-made it is available in a wide selection of sizes, colors, patterns and finishes. Finishes range from matte to high gloss with some finishes being more suitable for specific areas in the home. For example, scratches are more noticeable on a high gloss tile making them more suitable for bathrooms, surrounds or back splashes rather than a kitchen countertop. Tiles are either decorated and glazed or are left unglazed. Your Design Consultant will be happy to answer any questions you have on choosing the type tile that's right for you.

Many tile patterns today emulate the look of natural stone while staying within a ceramic tile budget. These tiles are intended to show variations just like stone. Solid color tiles provide a consistent look, however shade variation is inherent in all fired ceramic products and certain tiles will show greater variation within their dyelots. Color variations will also be present between the samples in the design center and throughout your countertop, wall tile or ceramic flooring.

Trim pieces complete the edges or corners of your countertop. These pieces are manufactured separately from the field tile, due to their shape, and may have slight variation in color and dyelot. In some applications, when the field tile differs in size and shape from the trim pieces, grout joints will not align.

The beauty of ceramic tile is the flexibility you have with design options, especially with the use of liners and decorative tiles. Liners, sometimes called feature strips or decos, can greatly enhance the look of your kitchen or bathroom. They do however sometimes vary in thickness, width, color or dyelot and in some cases, matching trim pieces may not be available. Liners, like trim pieces, with their varying shapes and sizes, will not align perfectly with the field tile, particularly if there are other items to tile around, such as an electrical outlet.

Once you have decided upon a tile you will then need to select a grout color. Grout can sometimes display uneven color or inconsistencies within the different areas of the same installation with the same grout color, or vary from the sample in the design center. This can be attributed to variations in temperature and humidity at the time of grouting. It is common to see slight differences in grout color when comparing the grout color in tile floor and the same color on the tile countertop or wall. Exact layouts, type of grout and grout joint widths are determined by the tile setter at the time of installation and are governed by the actual size and shape of the tile and the exact dimensions of the areas to be covered.

Often times the grout is joining two different surfaces together, for example, where wall tile meets with a wood cabinet. Changes of season can cause the other surface to expand and contract causing the grout to crack and separate. Grout can also darken overtime in areas with heavy water usage. Ask your Design Consultant for recommendations on how to protect your grout and tile and remember it is the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain all caulked areas to guard against water damage.

Keep in mind that ceramic tile is very durable, but not indestructible. Do not use a ceramic countertop to sit or stand on, or as a cutting board. Ceramic tile or grout can crack or chip under extreme force.

Product Information - Ceramic & Porcelain

The versatility of ceramic tile allows you to be creative and customize almost any area in your home with the abundance of options. When considering ceramic tile, determine what your needs are for the area to be tiled, as well as the room’s style, layout and overall character.

Tile Types

  • Glazed Ceramic Tile: These tiles are coated with glass-forming minerals and ceramic stains. Typically they have a matte, semi-gloss or high gloss finish. They offer better stain and moisture resistance than unglazed tile.
    • High gloss finishes can be more slippery and scratches can become more visible
    • Matte or textured finishes help with traction and scratches and dirt are less visible

  • Unglazed Ceramic Tile: These tiles are very hard and dense. They come in various surface treatments and textures. Typically these are installed outside as they do not offer much protection against stains compared to Glazed Ceramic Tile. Unglazed tiles do have good slip resistance, however they do require sealing to prevent staining.

  • Porcelain Tile: Porcelain is the hardest and densest tile you can buy. They can withstand temperature extremes. The color in a porcelain tile goes all the way through. These tiles are non-porous and resist scratching.

Tile Sizes and Shapes

  • There are a vast amount of tile sizes ranging from 1”x1” to 18”x18”. With such variety, the design opportunities are endless.
  • Tiles 2”x2” and smaller are usually referred to as mosaics and are often used with different colors to create a pattern or decorative inset.
    • Some of these smaller tiles also come different shapes, such as hexagon, for more design options.
  • Pattern borders in different size tiles or different colors can create beautiful looks. When creating a pattern with different tile, the more prominent tile that is throughout the largest areas is called the “field tile.”

Tile Ratings

There are many industry ratings that can help you determine which tile will perform best in different areas of your home. Ask your design consultant to review the ratings with you.

Decorative Accents

  • Also available are multitudes of accent pieces sometimes called “decos” or “feature strips”. These can really personalize and enhance the look of a room.
  • Decos or feature strips are beautiful additions to backsplashes, in shower stalls or as chair rails.

Trim Pieces

  • Trim tile finishes off and completes the look of your installation. These pieces handle the corners and edges of countertops. They are also the pieces that help make a clean transition from wall to floor tile.
  • Trim pieces may vary in color from the field tile

What About Color Consistency?

  • Solid Color Tiles: Solid color tiles provide a consistent look, however, shade variation is inherent in all fired ceramic products. Certain tiles will show greater variation within their dyelots. Many manufacturers will list what the shade variation is with a low, medium or high rating.
  • Natural Stone looking Ceramic: Some ceramic tile is made to emulate the look of natural stone. These tiles will intentionally show a variation in color and pattern.

Choosing Grout

  • Choose a lighter or darker shade of grout based on the usage that will take place in the tiled area. Being a porous product, grout will darken over time especially in areas of high water use, so ask your design consultant about sealing your grout.
  • Design Options-grout can match, contrast or coordinate with your tile.
  • A contrasting grout will create a picture frame around each tile making the grout more visible.
  • Remember that grout colors can change from the sample in the design center to the grout installed in your home based on the temperature and humidity at the time the tile is installed.

The Value of Upgrading

  • Wider selection of size, color, textures and finishes.
  • More design options available, such as liners, patterns, mosaic insets, decos.
  • Higher performance rated tiles.

Maintenance - Ceramic & Porcelain

Maintaining ceramic tile is minimal if done on a regular basis. It is truly a low-maintenance material.

For daily cleaning, sponge down your ceramic tile countertop or wall tile with the manufacturer's recommended tile and grout cleaners or with a non-abrasive household cleaner. Be sure to clean spills as quickly as possible so that the grout or tile does not become stained.

For heavier cleaning, there are cleaning products, sold in your local grocery store, that can be used to remove soap scum, hard water deposits, and mildew stains. You'll want to consult the cleaner's manufacturer instructions to make sure the product is compatible with your type of tile. After cleaning, rinse well and wipe dry for more shine. Textured tiles may require mild scrubbing with a soft brush or electric polisher/scrubber.

To avoid scratching the surface of the tile, never use abrasive cleaners or steel wool. Do not use bleach or ammonia, on a regular basis; these products can discolor your grout.

Depending on your lifestyle, sealing of the grout joints on your countertop or wall tile may be an option. After the installation process is complete and your grout has had ample time to cure, sealing the grout can provide protection from dirt and spills, by slowing down the staining process. Ask your Design Consultant for more information about sealing.

Keep in mind that ceramic tile is very durable, but not indestructible. Do not use a ceramic countertop to sit or stand on, or as a cutting board. Ceramic tile or grout can crack or chip under extreme force.

Also, please remember, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain all caulked areas.