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Tile Flooring Buying Guide

Tile Flooring Buying Guide

Tile is available in different flooring types and endless combinations of size, texture and color, offering something for everyone and every style. Plus tile is durable and easy to care for, so it's ideal for high-traffic areas. Our Tile Flooring Buying Guide helps you explore the options.

Tile Flooring

You’re finally ready to replace or add tile in your home, but which tile do you choose? There are many types of tile to choose from, but you need to find the right one for your space. This guide will talk about various aspects of tile flooring, from types and application to rating and porosity to help you make the right choice. And the right tile choice could enhance your home value, too.

Types of Tile

Learn more about the different flooring types of tile and recommended applications for each type to help you decide on the flooring which is best for you.


Manufacturers fire porcelain tile at a high temperature, making a dense, durable tile that resists moisture.

Applications: wall, floor, shower floor


Tilemakers use clay and other minerals to make ceramic tile. Then, they fire it in a kiln and treat it with a glazed color. Glazing allows for brighter color and a glasslike surface.

Applications: wall, shower, shower floor

Natural Stone

Tile made of natural stone offers durability and the beauty of color variation. For stain and water resistance, seal this tile before use. Seal the tile if you plan to use it for shower floors. Out of all of the different flooring types, natural stone is one of the most durable.

Applications: wall, floor, shower floor


Manufacturers pour cement-bodied tile into molds and then fire it or let it dry naturally. For a custom look add color to the mortar. This tile requires sealing after installation for moisture and stain resistance.

Applications: wall, floor

Quarry Tile

Quarry tile is an unglazed ceramic tile. Its color comes from pigments present in the clay. Seal quarry tile for stain resistance.

Applications: wall, floor


Satillo, or Mexican tile, dries in the sun rather than in a kiln, which gives the tile a unique look and finish. This process makes the tile a little softer and less durable than other tile choices, so be sure to use a sealer when using it indoors.

Applications: wall, floor

Terra Cotta

Terra cotta tile contains the same material as clay garden pots. This tile is very absorbent, and you should seal it for indoor use.

Applications: wall, floor


Terrazzo is a composite tile made of stone or marble chips molded in cement for a textured surface.

Applications: wall, floor


Glass tile consists of pieces of glass in various colors formed into uniform shapes. It’s available as both mosaic collections with a mesh backing and as individual tile. Glass tile doesn’t work well for shower floors.

Applications: wall


Ledgestone tile is a type of natural stone tile used for walls, fireplaces or borders. It is made of all kinds of rectangular stripes of natural stone arranged uniformly on a mesh to form a veneer.

Applications: wall

Brick Veneer

Thinner than brick, veneer is a good choice for walls and accent areas. Patterns are available in several earth tones.

Applications: wall


Typically used in outdoor areas, brick is a sturdy solution that comes in several earth tones that complement rustic décor. Brick is versatile in terms of pattern and placement. Treat brick floors with a stain-resistant sealer.

Applications: wall, shower

Floor Tile Pros and Cons

When you want sleek, stylish floors in your kitchen, bathroom, or any other room in the house, tile flooring is the perfect choice. Floor tile comes with its benefits as well as some drawbacks. It’s important to be aware of the pros and cons in order to select the tile that’s right for your home.




When looking at porcelain or ceramic tiles, like most other tile flooring, both materials are durable and stand up to heavy foot traffic. They both rarely chip or crack, however, because of its density and hardness, porcelain is more durable than ceramic. Porcelain is waterproof while ceramic is porous.

Easy to Maintain

As with other smooth floor finishes, tile is easy to clean. Regular sweeping helps keep the dirt and grime in check. When spills occur, wipe them up immediately with a soft, damp cloth. Once every couple of weeks, mop the floor. Avoid using abrasive cleaners and sponges which can damage tile and grout.


When choosing affordable flooring, look for tile that has longevity, such as porcelain, which could last for decades when well maintained. Average tile cost range from $2 to $30 per square foot. Keep in mind, costs for tiles and installation vary depending on your region, tile shape and amount, the complexity of the installation, labor costs and the size of the project.Good to Know

Floor tile and installation costs may vary depending on factors like your location, tile size, amount of tile and labor costs.


Difficult to Install

Installing tile can be a difficult and time-consuming task for someone who isn’t experienced. You need the right tools for the job, the underlying surface needs to be properly prepared, the tiles need to be precision cut and laid properly. And then there’s the grouting, which can be a messy and difficult task.

Issues with Grout

Grout is a porous material. If it isn’t applied and sealed correctly, it can lead to crumbling and staining. Mold can also be an issue with grout if not maintained properly.

Tile Temperatures as it Adapts to Weather

Tile flooring feels great underfoot when the weather is warm. However, as temperatures cool, tile flooring cools down as well, making it uncomfortable to walk barefoot. Some people chose to install radiant heating (also known as underfloor heating) which is a welcome relief.

Choosing the Right Tile for You

There are several things to consider when choosing the right tile for you and your home. Think about the space and how the area is used. Do you know which tile is best for the space? Does the space typically get a lot of foot traffic? Is there a high moisture content in the space? Answering these questions can lead you to selecting the type of tile that works best — porcelain or ceramic. Strength and durability are high on the list of things to consider. You want a tile that can stand up to what everyday life throws at it. The shape and size of the tile matters, also. Large tiles work well in areas like the kitchen or living room, whereas the bathroom could use a smaller tile.

Another factor to consider is the tile material. Having even rudimentary knowledge of which tiles work best for which space is helpful. Flooring maintenance and design go hand-in-hand. Do you want a tile that’s easy to clean? A tile with an intricate raised design will collect dirt and debris more than a flat tile. Choose a tile color and design that complement the surroundings.

Tile Sizes

Floor tile is usually 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick, manufactured in squares measuring 4 inches by 4 inches up to 24 inches by 24 inches. Other shapes are available, such as rectangular or subway tile, octagonal and hexagonal shapes.

Wall tile is thinner and comes in squares from 3 inches by 3 inches up to 6 inches by 6 inches.

Mosaic tile is 2 inches or smaller and can be installed individually. However, mosaic tile that's premounted on mesh sheets is easier to install for the DIYer.

Tile Ratings

Wood-look tile on a living room floor.

Tile hardness ratings determine if the tile is suitable for the area where you plan to install it. Entryways need a hard, abrasion-resistant, moisture-proof tile. Baths require a moisture-proof, nonslip material (slip-resistant tile is treated with an abrasive material for safety). Some tile is rated for indoor or outdoor use only; others can be used in either application. If your home includes ramps for universal design and you plan on tiling a ramp to keep the flooring consistent with the rest of your home, explore slip-resistant tile.

Some tile is harder than others, and it's rated by a series of standardized tests. These tests evaluate a tile's relative hardness (the Mohs scale), its ability to stand up to wear and the percentage of water absorbed.

The Porcelain Enamel Institute hardness ratings are:

Class I: No foot traffic. This tile is for wall-only applications.

Class II: Light traffic. Interior residential and commercial wall applications. This is for areas where little abrasion occurs such as bathrooms.

Class III: Light to moderate traffic. Use this in residential settings with normal foot traffic. They're also ideal for countertops and walls.

Class IV: Moderate to heavy traffic. This tile is acceptable for all home use in addition to medium commercial or light institutional use.

Class V: Heavy to extra-heavy traffic. Approved tile for all residential applications, heavy commercial work and institutional foot traffic.


Tile on a shower wall and shower floor.

Porosity ratings are important. Porosity is the ratio of voids — or air holes — to solids in a tile. This affects the percentage of water a tile absorbs. The denser the tile, the less water it absorbs because it has fewer air holes to fill with water.

A tile’s porosity is critical — especially when choosing tile for kitchens and baths, since these areas need moisture-proof tile. For example, travertine and slate are both porous surfaces, so you should think carefully about using them in a kitchen or bathroom because they could stain. If you do use them, you’ll need to ensure there’s a seal on the tile.

You shouldn’t use porous tile outdoors, where cold weather produces freeze/thaw cycles. The classifications for the porosity of tile are impervious (least absorbent), vitreous, semivitreous and nonvitreous (most absorbent).


Wood-look tile on a kitchen floor.

The firing process affects the hardness of tile. Usually, the longer and hotter the firing, the harder the tile will be. The raw tile material, called bisque, is either single fired or double fired.

For single-fired tile, the glaze is applied to the raw material and baked once in a kiln.

Double-fired tile is thicker. The tile is baked a second time after additional color or decoration are added.

Tile Installation and Costs

A man installing white floor tile.

Here are some factors to consider when it comes to tile installation and how much it can cost.


Tile Type
Some tile types can be more expensive to install than others. For example, marble usually costs more to install than ceramic.

Size of the Project
Contractors usually quote based on square footage. For example, a 10-foot-by-10-foot bathroom floor is 100 square feet. If a contractor charges $15 per square foot, a 100-square-foot room would cost $1,500 in installation costs.


Installation Time
The size of the tile can also affect the installation costs. Installing smaller tile, like subway tile, requires more time than larger 12-inch-by-12-inch or 16-inch-by-24-inch pieces.

Custom Considerations
If you’re mixing tile types or require special cuts, that can also affect time and overall cost. For example, if a contractor is cutting large pieces into a herringbone pattern, those special cuts would be custom and can affect pricing.

Other Factors 

  • Always purchase an additional 10% of your tile to account for breakage.
  • Get multiple quotes from contractors when searching for an installer.
  • Recognize that labor costs can vary depending on geographic location.

 Good to Know


Get inspiration with these 6 Tile Design Ideas.

Do It Yourself
If you’d like to learn more about how to tile your space, check out How to Install Floor Tile or How to Install a Tile Backsplash.

Let Us Install It
If you’d prefer to leave tile installation to the pros, reach out to us. We’re happy to help.


Frequently Asked Questions About Tile Flooring

Customers have questions about tile flooring that they frequently ask. Their answers may help you as well.

What is the Best Type of Tile for Flooring?

There is no one best type of tile flooring. While each type of flooring has its benefits, pros and cons, in the end you’ll want a tile that is durable, long lasting and will look great in the space you’re planning to install it. The tile you select has to work for you and your home. Assess what qualities are important for you. Do you need a tile that's waterproof? Does the color or design matter to you? What kind of design are you looking for? These questions and more can help guide you in your search for the perfect tile.

What Should I Look for in a Floor Tile?

When buying floor tile, look for durability and strength. Picture the tile in your home. Will it clash with the surroundings? The size and shape of the tile is also important. Large tiles work best in larger rooms while small tiles work well in bathrooms. Also take into consideration where the tile will be installed.

How Do I Choose Good Quality Tiles?

Look for tiles that are symmetrical wth a surface free from irregularities, bubbles, bumps or any other sign of visible defects. Thicker tiles are more durable, but make sure the thickness of the tile fits well within your home. If the tile will be used in a space where a door needs to close over it, if the tile is too thick, it makes opening and closing the door difficult.

What Thickness of Tile is Best?

Generally speaking, standard porcelain floor tiles are 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick, while ceramic tiles are 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch thick. If you’ll be installing floor tile in a high traffic area, a thicker tile is better. Thinner tiles aren’t suitable for high traffic areas. The thicker the tile, the less likely it is to break.

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