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Tile Flooring Buying Guide Basics

About Tile

Although tile has been used as a common flooring material for centuries, it has evolved from a simple, earth made material to a versatile, customizable, and decorative flooring type. From the kitchen to the outdoor patio, tile floors are a popular choice for many spaces throughout your home. Before you continue to read our Tile Buying Guide, we want to make sure that we introduce you to some terms that you may come across while you research and plan your tiling project.

  • Firing –A process where clay is baked at a high temperature to produce tiles.
  • Permeability – the ability of the tile material to absorb moisture. If a tile has higher permeability, it will absorb more moisture.
  • Impervious – the least absorbent (less than .5%)
  • Vitreous – minimally absorbs water (.5% – 3%)
  • Moh Scale – measures the scratch resistance of minerals. The Moh Scale ranks minerals from 1 to 10, 1 being the softest (talc) and 10 being the hardest (Diamond). Each mineral can scratch those ranked below it, but not those above it. A higher rating equals higher durability.
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Your Environment

Before choosing a type of tile for your home, it's important to consider things such as foot traffic, where in the home tile will be installed and how climate can affect tile in outdoor installation.

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Foot Traffic

The amount of wear and tear your tile floors can withstand while maintaining their appearance depends greatly on the material the tile is made from. Be sure to consider the amount of traffic in areas of your home, especially busy areas like kitchens or entryways, and research your tile material options. For ceramic tile, refer to the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating system which classifies types of tile based on their area of use and expected traffic. From Class 1 (very light traffic) up through Class 5 (very heavy traffic), manufacturers assign a class to their tile for recommended application.

Recommendation: As you plan which areas in your home will be tiled, take into account the foot traffic of each room and choose a tile that will stand up to general residential use. For ceramic tiling, Class 4 is generally recommended for kitchens and entryways.

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Room Use

It is important to select tile which will pair well will with the function of the room. For instance, choosing a tile which doesn't become slippery when wet would be the right choice for a bathroom. Be sure to discuss all the areas where you plan to install tile with a flooring professional.

Recommendation: To protect from possible slipping, choose a tile material or glaze finish with texture for extra traction.

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Outdoor Use

When choosing tile for outdoor use, use your local weather as part of the criteria for making a selection. Temperature and humidity will impact which tile will best perform outdoors in the elements.

Recommendation: If you are considering tile flooring for an outdoor space, use porcelain as it is frost proof, and minimally porous.

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Room–by–Room Practicality

It is true that tile flooring can be used in almost any room of your home. In this section we provide tips and suggestions to consider when planning for tile flooring in specific rooms.

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Commonly Tiled Rooms


Tile floors are ideal for kitchens, where they are generally favored for their elegance and utility. Before selecting a type of tile for your kitchen, consider who uses the kitchen and how often. While some people spend a large amount of time in the kitchen preparing meals for the family, others rarely use the kitchen. Recommendation: If you choose a glazed tile for its stain resistance, choose one with a textured glaze or matte finish to lower the risk of slipping. For any tiled floor, the use of floor mats can provide additional slip and accident protection. Because tile is so hard, using mats will also help provide a cushion for those working in the kitchen for long periods of time.


Tile flooring is a great choice for bathrooms which is why you'll see tile in so many public restrooms. Impervious tile is usually chosen for this area due to its moisture resistance.

Recommendation: Bathrooms are usually more prone to water contributing to a slip and fall. Consider a tile with a rough texture. Bath mats are also recommended for extra slip protection and comfort over bathroom tile floors.

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Other Rooms for Tile

Dining Room/ Living Room/ Bedroom/ Den

Because tile is such versatile flooring, many people choose to put tile throughout their home. With so many colors, patterns and sizes available, tile offers something for every décor. While many choose to enjoy the look of tile on its own, others choose to place area rugs on top of the tile to give the flooring some added dimension and color.

Recommendation: For those using tile in multiple rooms, adding a rug or two can create a distinction between rooms even though the flooring is the same from one room to the next.

Lifestyle Elements

Tile of almost any material type or finishing glaze is incredibly durable. Here are a few things to consider about tile.


Tile floors make a great choice for pets and cleaning up pet hair will be a breeze. As with any spill, clean up accidents quickly, paying close attention to the grout as well as the tile.

Recommendation: Keeping your pet's nails trimmed will reduce the noise of claws on the hard material.


While tile floors can stand up the active and curious nature of children, take caution when installing tile in areas where small children play. Tile's hard surface may not be ideal for tumble prone kids.

Recommendation: Area rugs will provide added protection for tumbles and falls. Sealing tile and grout will provide added protection from spills and staining.

Noise Insulation

Just like any hard surface, tile can amplify household noise. Area rugs will generally help reduce noise. For those concerned about noise, especially on secondary levels, a sound barrier or underlayment can be used.

Recommendation: Refer to the manufacturer's recommendations and suggestions for your tile floors.

Basic Tile Care

Since every flooring type requires some sort of cleaning and maintenance, it's important to know how you will need to care for your floors before you make the investment. Here are just a few quick care tips to consider when planning new tile flooring.

Tile floor cleaner: There are several cleaning products made specifically for tile. Certain types of tiles, such as glazed or unglazed, might require special cleaning agents. Always refer to the manufacturer's guidelines for cleaning instructions.

  • Floor mats: Keep mats at entrances to prevent dirt and debris from being tracked into your home. Sand and grit may linger in the soles of shoes and scratch tile floors that are glazed, sealed or polished.
  • Protective furniture feet: Iron and metal furniture should have protective feet, such as rubber or felt, to prevent rust stains and scratches, especially for outdoor furniture on tile.
  • Sealing: To keep your tile floors looking beautiful, sealing can be done on the tile and grout. It is recommended you follow recommendations from the manufacturer or your tile flooring professional because sealing some tile and grout can also cause yellowing or staining.


  • DO vacuum or sweep your tile regularly for light cleaning.
  • DO clean any spills immediately to prevent staining.
  • DO wash your tile regularly to remove built up dirt and grime.
  • DO clean grout, even sealed grout, to remove surface build–up that could lead to discoloration.
  • DO use cleaning products specific to your tile.


  • DON'T use ammonia–based cleaners which may discolor or damage certain types of tile grout.
  • DON'T use soap for cleaning as it may leave a dulling film on the tile surface.
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