In many homes today, the kitchen is designed to have spatial and visible connection to the social activities of the household. This increased accessibility means it attracts more foot traffic than almost any other area of the house. Tiles are a natural choice for a floor that must support daily wear and tear and look good in the bargain. If you’re considering tiles, weigh up what’s on offer and how they’ll suit your lifestyle.
The case for tiles
Tiles deliver many of the things a hard-working floor needs. In general, they repel water, shrug off most stains, clean up well, resist fading and scratching and are hygienic. The right choice will ensure your kitchen floor enhances and protects the heart of your home for years to come. Properties differ between the main tile types, so get ready to put them through their paces.
1. Ceramic (non-porcelain)
Ceramic tiles are classified as non-porcelain and porcelain. For the average tile shopper, ‘ceramic’ usually refers to non-porcelain ceramic.
° The range of colours, finishes, textures, sizes and shapes is enormous.
° Cutting and laying can be done by a competent DIYer.
° Ceramic is zero VOC (but VOCs may be present in grout, adhesives and sealants).
° Price range is generally lower than porcelain.
° They feel cool in hot climates and underfloor heating creates a heat bank in cold conditions.
What to consider
° All tiles have the potential to cause foot fatigue with long periods of standing. This can be reduced by anti-fatigue floor mats and supportive footwear.
° Ceramic adapts to room temperature, so if unheated, can be chilly underfoot in cool climates.
° Sound reflective properties contribute to noise in an open-pla area.
° There is potential for chipping, which is hard to repair without replacement.
° Dropped items almost certainly break.
° Grout may become stained and dingy and require maintenance.
Porcelain is a high-quality clay-based ceramic that has been subjected to extremely high heat and compression. Porcelain tiles have slightly different clay and mineral composition than non-porcelain ceramic tiles.
° They are harder and denser than non-porcelain ceramic, and virtually non-porous.
° VOC emissions are zero.
° No sealing is required to water-proof them.
° Glazing and polishing create attractive shine and textures for modern interiors.
° Interior porcelain tiling flows seamlessly to outdoor areas as porcelain is highly weather-resistant.
° Engineering techniques can mimic natural stone and timber, with virtually undetectable differences.
What to consider
° Average prices are higher for porcelain than non-porcelain ceramic.
° High density makes tiles harder to cut and requires professional laying, increasing the overall cost. Extreme hardness means precision cutting around architectural features or creating non-standard shapes can be problematic.
° Heaviness makes porcelain unsuitable for certain layouts, for example, brick patterns. ‘Lipping’, or subsidence of a sub-surface under increased weight, can result in an uneven surface.
° Its weight requires a stable and strong substrate capable of supporting it. This restricts its use in upper storeys of buildings.
Another form of ceramic, terracotta’s recent popularity follows hot on the heels of the 2017 ‘tribal’ trend towards earthy colours and raw textures.
° It’s unbeaten for its fabulous foot-friendly feel.
° Tonal variations add warmth and interest, softening the look of a sleek kitchen with a cool pale palette.
° Its character mellows with age.
° Although it’s porous, if well-sealed and maintained, it’s extremely durable and stain-resistant.
° It suits both both modern and traditional decor.
What to consider
° Sealing is essential and a professional job adds to the cost. Resealing is needed every few years.
° It may be difficult to find a matching tonal palette if a damaged tile needs replacing.
Our current love affair with the warmth and beauty that organic materials bring to our homes has shone a light on natural stone.
° Stone is rugged and adds character and natural beauty to floors, indoors and out.
° Every natural stone floor is unique.
° It’s an investment in the value of your home.
What to consider
° Expect to spend. Factor in the cost of engaging a professional familiar with stone laying.
° As no two quarries are alike, grading natural stone tiles is somewhat imprecise.To guarantee your investment, source tiles from stone specialists.
° As with all natural stone tiles, be prepared to do some regular maintenance.
Granite has the advantage over some other stone products in that it is non-porous. It is on average harder and more stain-resistant than other stones but like all stone, should be sealed in moisture-prone areas.
Travertine has survived in Rome’s Trevi Fountain for almost 300 years. It is a porous stone, but when filled, honed and sealed, is a durable material. However, it may scratch. It can be sanded to a smooth matt finish that creates a good non-slip surface.
Limestone is considered more durable than travertine. Its palette, from pale silvery white to on-trend greys with delicate flecking, is a natural fit for modern decors.
Slate has regained its mojo lately. It offers more grip than many other stones, an attractive hewn look, low maintenance and a ruggedness that suits rigorous activity. A unique earthy palette, from charcoal, pewter and olive to rust-kissed blue-greys, adds to its appeal.
Modern treatments hone slate to a smooth satin or matt finish, and engineer slabs to enable narrow grouting, which cuts down on maintenance.
Here are some common terms you’ll see when tile shopping.
The composition of a full-body tile is uniform throughout the depth of the tile and will wear consistently. Surface scratches and chips are less noticeable in full-body tiles. Polished unglazed porcelain tiles are full-body tiles. Glazed tiles with pigment mixed throughout the tile may be called ‘through-colour’.
All ceramic tiles are vitrified to an extent, but a fully vitrified tile has quartz and feldspar added before firing. This creates a glass-like element within the tile and a very low absorption rate of less than 0.5 per cent, compared to 3 to 5 per cent in a standard glazed ceramic tile.
Tiles can have a glass-like surface coating that adds to their durability and low porosity. All non-porcelain ceramic tiles are glazed, porcelain tiles may also be glazed. Glazes are applied to digitally printed tiles, for example, those with a timber or stone print. They protect printed details, but potentially show wear.
Polishing is a mechanical process. Polishing porcelain results in a smooth reflective easy-clean surface. It is popular nowadays for a silky sophisticated result.
When ceramic or porcelain tiles are fired, it causes slight irregularities in shape. Rectification creates near-perfect straight edges in ceramic and porcelain tiles after firing, reducing the need for wide grout to allow for slight edge differences. The result is a smooth, almost seamless, look with narrow grouting.
What tiles do you have on your kitchen floor? How are they performing? Tell us in the Comments.
Credit: Janet Dunn 10 May 2017
Houzz Australia Contributor. Former NZ House&Garden writer and stylist, and avid interior design enthusiast. Ex-restaurateur and caterer, with a Professional Certificate in Gastronomy, University of Adelaide.
Nerang Tiles is a multi award winning tile store with thousands of quality floor tiles and wall tiles on display at its Gold Coast Tile Showroom. Visit Nerang Tiles to see the full range of porcelain tiles and ceramic tiles suitable as kitchen tiles, bathroom tiles, feature tiles, outdoor tiles, floor tiles, wall tiles and much more.