Ceramic:Very common and the most affordable.The body of the tile is made from natural materials and consists mostly of clay and quartz sand. These tiles are available glazed or unglazed, the glaze consist mostly of sand, clay, glasses and oxide-based pigments to provide the colour. The key to the durability of this tile is the high firing temperature of around 900 to 1200 degrees Celsius.
- Porcelain: Porcelain and Ceramic is a very similar product, the difference lying in the types of clay and minerals used. The clay used in porcelain tiles is purer and more refined which makes porcelain tiles denser and more impervious to water or stains and in turn gives a harder surface. Porcelain is also available in a Full-bodied or Trough-bodied, usually with a polished finish which has no glaze. Which means there is no glaze that can wear off and if it chips the colour beneath is the same which makes for a superior tile, specially for high traffic areas but also at a higher price. Like ceramic tiles porcelain is also available in a decorative glazed or unglazed surface.
- Terracotta: Terracotta tiles are mostly made from clay and sand and are available in natural colours in the orange and red spectrum of colour. There are 2 main types, factory made terracotta which is dense and uniform in size and then Handmade terracotta which is much more porous and uneven with colour variation, this makes for a beautiful rustic look and feel. Though it needs to be treated after installation and periodically. Terracotta is a Full-bodied tile meaning it is the same colour and material beneath the surface.
- Cement: Cement tiles are hand made usually from a mixture of white cement, hardening agents and colour dyes. This is a thick and heavy full-bodied tile and available in many different textures and colours mostly giving a rustic look and feel. Most cement tiles need to be treated before or after installation and periodically as well. Although very durable it is more susceptible to damage by acid type liquids than the ceramic or porcelain tiles.
- Stones/Pebbles: Natural or synthetic stones or pebbles are adhered to a backing creating a tile size square made up of many smaller stones or pebbles. This creates a unique look and some of these need to be treated when used as a floor cover. Many colours and sizes are available and are ideal for patios or other outside areas to create a natural look and feel.
- Glass: Glass tiles are mostly used against walls but can also be used on the floor, for the floor a textured glass tile is recommended as a smooth finish can be very slippery. Glass tiles can be frosted or iridescent and are available in many different sizes and colours.
- Marble: Marble is in a class of its own and usually has price tag reflecting that, available in a variation of colours/ This product is mined and extracted as a huge block which is then cut into the size required, after this marble is checked for tiny cracks which is usually filled up with resin and then polished. Your tile is a solid piece of marble and although not as hard as granite will last a lifetime and more. When polished marble can become very slippery so take care not to install in areas prone to wetness.
- Granite: Granite is one of the toughest materials ensuring durability. Like other natural stone tiles it is mined and then cut into pieces, the granite tile is then polished to bring out its natural beauty. Available in many colours and patterns granite is resistant to heat and acid stains. This solid and dense floor tile will probably outlast the rest of your house.
- Slate: Slate is mined and then cut or split into smaller pieces and is the least expensive of the natural stones. Slate has natural colour variations in the tile, creating a rustic look. It is very versatile and durable with a natural slip-resistant surface, making it ideal for any area may it be inside, outside or around the pool. The most common tile surface is the natural surface which can vary in unevenness and although slate has a medium to high density it is recommended to treat and seal your slate floor to avoid stains, this should be done after installation and periodically.
- Limestone: Limed stone is hard and compact rock with very low water absorption, due to this lime stone can be used in nearly any application and has a very fine grained texture. Limestone is available polished or natural and in colour variations of blue, brown, green, yellow and black. It is recommended to seal limestone after installation to bring out and keep its natural beauty.
- Sandstone: Sandstone is available in earthy colours and various patterns depending on its origins, this is a versatile stone and due to its naturally slip resistant service can be used in most areas. Sandstone has good durability but are porous and care must be taken to treat and seal after installation and periodically.
- Travertine: Travertine can be placed between marble and limestone and is cut into tile sizes. Like all natural stones Travertine has a beauty of its own and make for a versatile and durable tile that can be used inside and outside. Travertine has many finishing options from Cross-Cut or Vein-Cut to different surface finishes such as sanded, tumbled, brushed, polished or filled – the porous holes are filled with coloured resin. Like the other natural stones travertine should be treated and sealed to keep its natural beauty.
- Quartzite: Mined like the other natural stones quartzite forms when sandstone is subjected to heat and pressure which forms an incredibly hard and dense material. Being harder, more dense than sandstone, fireproof and also naturally non-slippery makes this a very versatile and durable product for use both inside and outside. Quartzite is available in a fair amount of colours and in a smooth or textured finish. Like with all other natural stone products it is adviceable to treat and seal this floor after installation and periodically.
- Glazed or Unglazed
- Glazed Tiles:This option is available in Ceramic and Porcelain tiles, these tiles undergo an additional phase in the firing process with a layer of liquid glass added by means of very high temperatures. Glazed tiles are available in many different colours and has much better resistance to stains as they have a non porous surface. These tiles are best used indoors as they will be slippery when wet and are available in different glazed finishes like gloss, matt and satin. Keep in mind that a gloss finish is more prone to show scratches. Generally a lighter glaze has a harder surface, there is a hardness rating for glazes from 1 to 5 which will be discussed on the next page.
- Unglazed Tiles: These tiles are usually a full-bodied tile which means if they chip the body of the tile is the same colour as the surface and also tend to be thicker and denser than glazed tiles. Unglazed tiles usually makes a good choice if your are looking for a slip resistant surface which do not scratch easily, this makes them ideal for outside use. These tiles are coloured by the natural mineral deposits from the area the clay was taken and is usually available in terracotta/factory manufactured ceramics and polished porcelain. Unglazed ceramics are vulnerable to staining and should usually be treated or sealed after installation and periodically.
Tile Sizes and Shapes
Tiles come in various sizes and shapes and anything is possible, below is some of the more common shapes.
- Square: This is the most common form in tiles and come in many sizes from about 8 X 8cm up to 100 X 100cm, be careful not to choose a big tile for a smaller area as this can make the room look smaller.
- Mosaic: These tiles are generally available in 5 X 5cm and smaller and can be bought individually but are mostly adhered to a mesh backing. Mosaics are mostly used against walls and on shower floors but can also be used on the floor and work well for borders or inlays on a floor, if used on a floor make sure the quality of the surface is sufficient for the traffic in that floor area.