Ceramic is a very popular choice for tile. Made from clay fired in a kiln, ceramic tiles can be unglazed or glazed. Unglazed ceramic tiles are very porous, making glazed tiles the popular choice. The process involves applying a colored glaze and firing the tile again, essentially baking the color onto the tile. Because of this, when ceramic tile is chipped it is noticeable, as the material underneath will be a different color.
Porcelain tile is actually a type of ceramic tile that is fired at a very high temperature. This process creates a tile that is moisture resistant, dense, hard, and strong. One of the misperceptions about porcelain tiles today is that the color runs throughout the tile, making chips less noticeable than ceramic tiles, in which the color is applied as a glaze and baked on top. Called through-bodied porcelain, it makes up less than 5% of porcelain tile on the market today. The other 95% of porcelain tile is glazed, and is prepared in much the same way as traditional ceramic tiles in that it is covered by a glaze. Glazed porcelain will reveal another color when chipped.
Mosaic refers to small tiles, usually made of porcelain, ceramic, or glass. Each individual tile is typically less than 2 inches square and can be arranged in a pattern or to form a picture. While years ago, each tile had to be applied individually, mosaic tile can now be purchased in sheets attached to a backing, making installation much easier.
The most common types of stone used for tile are limestone, marble, granite, slate, and flagstone. Each type of stone has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of these materials are hard and durable, while others are soft. Depending on the type of tile and where it will be used, it may need to be sealed.
Traditionally used in commercial settings, quarry tiles are growing in popularity among homeowners. A relatively inexpensive tile choice, these earth toned tiles are very durable.
When most people think of wood floors, they envision the wood planks of traditional hardwood flooring. Another option is wood tile. Gluing together wood pieces in various shapes, sizes, and colors creates parquet floor tile. There are also a variety of wood wall tiles available, which create a warm, rich look.
Most people don't think of metal when considering their tile options, but metal tiles can be used to create a unique look on both floors and walls. Metal tiles are available in copper, stainless steel, bronze, pewter, and nickel.
Improvements in manufacturing processes have improved the appearance of vinyl tile, no doubt spurring its growth in popularity. Today's vinyl tiles mimic the look of many other flooring materials, from hardwood to porcelain. Another selling point of tiles is their relatively low cost and ease of installation.
Fans of linoleum tile cite its ecologically-friendly nature. Made of natural materials, it contains no toxins and is biodegradable. Extremely durable and water resistant, it's a good choice for kitchens. On the downside, it's highly flammable.
As you can see, there are many choices of tile to suit a variety of tastes. Your local flooring company or tile store will be able to guide your decision based on your individual needs. And you can find great tile contractors and shops in your area on Kudzu.com.