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Tile Buying Guide Floor Types

There are a number of different types of tile for you to choose from. Tile can be manufactured with a variety of materials, making it a versatile flooring option. The types of tile materials you will come across in your flooring search are listed below.

Tile Materials

  • Brick: Brick is commonly made from clay, although shale is another popular mineral used. Whether brick is a deep red or dusty rose is determined by the types of minerals in the brick, such as iron and lime. The coloring comes from the mineral content's reaction to the firing process. Brick tiles are commonly used for walkways, patios, and rustic interiors. Shale–based brick paver tiles (pavers) have a similar appearance to brick and are most often used for patios, sidewalks, driveways and garden paths.
  • Cement/ Encaustic: Cement floor tiles are created from molds. Color can be added while in the mold, and the tiles are dried naturally or fired in a kiln. Encaustic cement tiles are specially inlaid with patterns or designs and can be finished glazed or unglazed; they are highly popular for both their durability and colorfulness, and can be seen in homes all over the world.
  • Ceramic: Ceramic is one of the most common floor tile types, and is made from clay and shale then fired (baked) in a kiln. Ceramic tile is very dense and can be used in most rooms in your home.
  • Porcelain: Porcelain is one of the hardest and strongest types of tile, known for its superior stain resistance and durability. It's created by firing special clay at an extremely high temperature. There are two types of porcelain floor tile; through–bodied and glazed. Dense, moisture–resistant porcelain tile flooring is highly recommended in bathrooms and outdoor spaces
  • Saltillo: Saltillo tile is also known as Spanish or Mexican tile and originated in the city of Saltillo, Coahuila in Mexico. Made from molded clay, Saltillo is a highly porous tile and must be sealed to prevent stains from liquids and moisture. This tile is recommended for warmer climates and should be avoided in climates susceptible to frost.
  • Terracotta: Meaning "baked earth", terracotta comes from natural clay which produces the natural orange–brown color. Tiles made from Terra Cotta are molded, fired in a kiln, and then cooled with a coating of sand. These tiles are normally finished unglazed. Terracotta is extremely absorbent and fragile. Sealing is strongly recommended upon installation for flooring use.
  • Terrazzo: The process of making terrazzo involves embedding granite and marble chips of granite and marble into the surface of concrete or epoxy–resin tiles. Terrazzo flooring is considered environmentally friendly as the majority of it is made with recycled materials.
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Tile Size and Shape

Whether you're looking for 3"x3" or 20"x20" tile squares, the options you have in choosing tile sizes are virtually endless. Mosaic tile, generally found in sizes of two square inches or smaller, can be purchased as individual tiles for creative installation or mounted in pre–planned patterns on mesh or paper sheets. Recommendation: Don't assume tiling a small room needs small tiles and a big room need big tiles. A unique tile floor design, such as using larger tiles in a small room or vice versa, can make an impact.

The shapes of floor tiles can also add to the overall design of your room. Square tiles are obviously the most common tile shape, but tiles also come in geometric shapes. Hexagonal or octagonal in shape, geometric floor tiles can be suitable for many spaces from small tiles for kitchens and bathrooms to larger, more decorative tiling in entryways.

Firing Choices

We defined firing in the beginning of this Buying Guide as the process of heating the tile material in a kiln, but there are two methods by which manufacturers can create the final product:

  • Single–fired: Glazed: These tiles are fired once in a kiln.
  • Double–fired: Glazed: These types of floor tiles are fired, then colored or decorated and fired again. They are harder and denser than single–fired tiles.

It can be beneficial to remember the difference between these terms when selecting your tile as double–fired tile is stronger and denser than single–fired.

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