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Choosing A Ceramic Tile - Walls & Floors

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Ceramic Tile Selection

Selecting the proper type of ceramic tile for your project is probably the most important installation decision you will make. Here are some tips to help you in your purchase:

  • Ask for consistently sized tiles. Ceramic tile is fired in a kiln and then cooled at varying degrees of temperature and humidity. This expansion and contraction can cause the tiles to vary in size, sometimes by a 1/4" or more. Most ceramic tiles on the market will have some variation in size but accept nothing more than an 1/8" margin of difference.
  • Make sure the ceramic tile you purchase are of the same "Lot#" and "Shade#". This will ensure that your flooring was made in the same batch.
  • Unless you plan to purchase a high quality wet saw we recommend you refrain from using fully vitrified porcelain tiles for interior installations. Fully vitrified porcelain tiles are difficult to cut with accuracy with a straight tile cutter and this means every cut you make may be on a ceramic tile saw.
  • Select a ceramic tile that is relatively smooth and has straight, flush edges. This will make your grouting job a whole lot easier.
  • Use 8" x 8" or smaller sized tiles on walls and countertops. For floors use 14" x 14" or smaller tiles.
  • Ceramic tiles with bright reflective surfaces (bright glaze finish) are not recommended for floors as they can pose a slip hazard and have poor abrasive resistance.

PEI Ratings

Although there are no industry standards, most ceramic tile is rated for use by the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) abrasion test and is recommended by the American Society Testing Materials (ASTM). PEI ratings measure the wear resistance of the tile surface.

  • Class 1 - No Foot Traffic:
    Ceramic tile suggested for interior residential and commercial wall applications only.
  • Class 2 - Light Traffic:
    Ceramic tile suggested for interior residential and commercial wall applications and for residential bathroom floor applications only.
  • Class 3 - Light to Moderate Traffic:
    Ceramic tile suggested for residential floor, countertop, and wall applications.
  • Class 4 - Moderate to Heavy Traffic:
    Ceramic tile suggested for residential, medium commercial and light institutional floor and wall applications.
  • Class 5+ - Heavy to Extra Heavy Traffic:
    Ceramic tile suggested for residential, commercial and institutional floor and wall applications subjected to heavy to extra heavy traffic.

Acceptable Outdoor Tile Types

Ceramic tile installed in exterior locations must be able to withstand freeze/thaw conditions meaning they should have an absorption rating of 3% or less. These types of tiles are usually very dense, have greater impact resistance, and increased breaking strength. Install them using a premium quality, latex modified thinset mortar.

  • Vitrified, ceramic tiles having an absorption rating between 0.5 - 3%.
  • Impervious (Porcelain), ceramic tiles having an absorption rating between 0.0 - 0.5%.

If price is a factor in your decision to purchase ceramic tile, contact your local tile wholeseller/distributor. Nearly all will have deals on discontinued and overstocked ceramic tiles and unlike your local home improvement store they can answer detailed questions regarding your tile project.