tile_leather tile wall tile_ogeetile2By Randi Wilson | Tile has always been a popular material for walls and flooring because it is durable, easy to clean and moisture resistant, but it’s also versatile, beautiful and offers infinite design possibilities.  As with any material, there are pluses and minuses to installing tile. When used on floors, tile can feel cold and become slippery underfoot.  The thought of scrubbing grout can also be a deterrent. These issues can be easily resolved by using tiles with a textured surface and sealing grout for ease of cleaning.  Radiant heat can be installed beneath floor tile to keep feet warm in the winter.

The four most commonly used types of tile are ceramic, porcelain, glass and stone.  Ceramic tile is generally the most affordable tile material.  It is made from natural clay that’s been baked at a high temperature and usually coated with some kind of glaze.  Ceramic tile is rated for hardness, based a scale of 0 to 5.  Tile rated 0 to 2 is suitable for use on walls. Tile rated 3 can be used in almost any residential application, and tile rated 4 to 5 is durable enough for commercial use.  While subway and square tile are classic, stylish shapes, mosaics and geometric forms (chevrons, ogees and hexagons) are becoming increasingly popular.

Porcelain tiles are baked at higher temperatures than ceramic tiles, so they are harder and have a lower water absorption rate than ceramic.  Another benefit to using porcelain is that the color is evenly distributed throughout the tile, so a chip is less noticeable.  All of the color in ceramic tile is contained in the top layer.  While these properties are great, they do cause porcelain tile to be priced higher than ceramic tile. One note to the D.I.Y. enthusiast, because porcelain has a low porosity level, it requires a different compound for setting than ceramic tile.

There are a lot of exciting trends happening right now in porcelain tile. Tiles are being designed to mimic natural materials, like grasscloth, wood and leather, that wouldn’t normally be used in moist areas like bathrooms.  These tiles are embossed with texture and virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.  Looking for both the texture and soft feeling of leather?  Tiles made from recycled rubber come in a variety of colors and textures, including faux ostrich and crocodile.

Glass tile is primarily used in kitchen backsplashes and on shower walls.  The options are endless, from clear styles, to frosted, colored or textured glass. They also add depth, sparkle and luminescence when mixed with ceramic tile or stone.  Glass tiles can be made from up to 85% recycled content, making them an eco-friendly option as well.  Glass manufacturers have come up with some interesting new innovations over the last few years.  Molded relief patterns can now be pressed into glass using specialized equipment.  Metallic glass tiles are another new development.  They are made by coating the back of glass tiles with metallic paint, to create a three-dimensional effect.

Natural stone is a great choice if you’re looking to impart natural, organic beauty in a space.  Although stone is very durable, it is susceptible to stains. To protect your investment it must be sealed and properly maintained.  Many different types of stone are available, but the most popular types are marble, granite, slate, soapstone, sandstone and limestone.  Each of these stones has their own unique characteristics and some are more expensive than others.  Marble and granite are high-end options that give a bathroom or kitchen an instant air of elegance.  Due to their color and texture, slate, soapstone, sandstone and limestone lend themselves to more informal interiors.

The type of tile you choose for a space will be influenced by several factors; design, durability, ease of installation and maintenance, and cost.  Whatever material you pick, tile is great way to add color, texture and pattern to any space.

Randi Wilson is a Certified Interior Decorator and owner of Wilson Interiors, LLC.  She can be reached by phone at (707) 616-4687, or by email at wilsoninteriorsllc@yahoo.com.  Photos of her projects can be viewed at  www.facebook.com/RandiWilsonInteriors.