Choosing your tiles

There aren't many products on the market that offer as many benefits with so few disadvantages as tiles. They're practical, durable and extremely versatile.

One of the most important decisions that you have to make when building or renovating is which tiles to use because not only will they set the whole look, they'll also dictate how hardwearing your space will be and how easy to maintain. 

Here are just a few tips:

  • Floor tiles can also be used on walls but wall tiles are only strong enough for walls.
  • If you are considering a brick bond pattern, make sure the tiles you choose are not bowed and twisted.
  • Tiles above 400mm on a shower floor will have to be laid on the diagonal unless a channel drain is fitted.
  • If you want floor and wall joints to match, be sure you choose the right size tile - allowing for joints.  1mm difference becomes 2mm on the next tile, then 3mm and so on.
  • We install 80% of rectangular tiles horizontally and 20% is laid on the traditional vertical.
  • The colour schemes very much in vogue are dark floors including grey, brown and charcoal with white walls.
  • If you are intending to sell, then stick with a neutral colour scheme.

Have fun choosing your tiles and just remember there are no rules, just pick something that matches your personality and that you'll be happy to live with. 

Search the web to get an idea of what look you want to achieve or get some inspiration from homes show and magazines.

The majority of tiles can be placed into two general groups: pressed or extruded ceramics, and natural stone.

Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic tiles have been produced for thousands of years and for good reason — they are extremely durable and have an amazing ability to resist decay. This fact is borne out by archaeologists whose most frequently found artefacts are ceramic products.

Ceramic is a generic term that refers to any fired clay product. Ceramic tiles are manufactured from a blend of clays and feldspars that are turned into a clay dust, pressed into tiles and then popped into the oven to be fired at temperatures of up to 1200°c.

Ceramic tiles are extremely versatile and they're available in a multitude of sizes, shapes, designs and colours.

  • Durability and cost effectiveness
  • Unaffected by water
  • Chemically resistant
  • Stain resistant
  • Suitable for walls and floors
  • Ceramics are by far the cheapest type of tile

Porcelain Tiles

Porcelain or vitrified tiles are the hardest of all ceramic tile products. In fact, there are few man-made or natural materials that are harder wearing.

Porcelain is made from China clay with very few impurities, enabling it to be pressed at higher pressures and fired at 1250 – 1300°c, making it more impact and stain resistant.

While porcelain tiles are typically more expensive than ceramic, you really do get what you pay for. Porcelain delivers the best of both worlds; a beautiful natural stone finish that is extremely hard wearing.  

Porcelain tiles are around 30% stronger than natural stone tiles, and are virtually maintenance free when compared with natural stone which needs sealing and waxing.

Porcelain tiles are a fantastic product for high traffic areas because of their high resistance to scratches. For this reason alone they are very often found in commercial applications such as shopping centres and supermarkets.  And, more recently, porcelain tiles are being used in residential spaces thanks to their stylish look.

These tiles are available in a range of sizes, glazed or un-glazed, with a matte or glossy finish, and come in a variety of colours and textures. Porcelain tiles take on a look of their own, often emulating many natural stone tiles. They can be used on walls and floors and are especially durable — perfect for external use (although unglazed porcelain is more suited for outside applications).

  • Hardest of all ceramic tile products
  • Hugely impact resistant, stain resistant and frost resistant
  • Extremely durable and virtually non-absorbent
  • Easily maintained
  • Available in larger sizes up to 1 metre

Back to Top

Extruded Tiles

Extruded tiles are often called quarry tiles which nowadays are mainly found outdoors.  These tiles are produced in such a way that there can be some dimensional differences between tiles. 

  • Very dense tile.
  • Minimal absorbency.
  • Resilient and hard wearing.

Terracotta Tiles

Terracotta tiles come in beautiful warm, earthy tones, and range from shades of cream to honey, through to pinks, reds and browns. While Terracotta tiles are aesthetically impressive, they are the blotting paper of the tile world and require careful sealing and maintenance to reduce the chance of staining.

  • Available as dense and hard wearing tiles.
  • Also available as softer and more porous tiles -- porous teracotta tiles need to be sealed.
  • Fixing costs generally higher than other types of ceramic tile.

Natural Stone Tiles

Natural stone tiles, which include slate, sandstone, marble, and granite, are actual pieces of stone and are widely known for their beautiful appearance, durability and practicality. Natural stone is cut from the earth's rock, and variations in the stone's colour and texture will depend on which part of the quarry the manufacturer is cutting from.

Although there are several types of stone that can be used in bathrooms, when choosing stone you need to be fully aware of the extra maintenance involved, especially with the softer and more absorbent stones such as slate or limestone. Generally speaking, the softer the stone, the more maintenance required.

Stones usually differ in colour and shading between tiles and batches, so make sure you ask to see the current stock when purchasing your tiles.

  • Can be sealed (though the end result will not be as effective as a glaze on a ceramic tile)  
  • Available in many types, sizes and surface finishes.
  • Fixing costs are generally higher than ceramic tiles.

Slate tiles

Slate tiles are fine-grained metamorphic stones formed from clay, sedimentary rock shale, and sometimes quartz. This stone can be very thin and therefore break / flake more easily than other stones.

Slate is usually black, grey, or green and can be found with reflective colours of silver or copper and ranges of red tones throughout.

Slate, like all other natural stones, requires sealing when installed. Using a colour enhancer will bring out all the brilliant red tones in many of the slates and give a crisper look to the stone. Sealer finishes can be selected in matte or gloss. The size and cost of these tiles will vary depending on they type and where they were made.

  • Available in various colours, including blacks, browns and multi-colours.
  • Extremely hard wearing.
  • Available in riven (uneven) or honed (smooth) finishes.
  • Usually vary in size, thickness and colour

Sandstone tiles

  • Sandstone usually has an uneven, rough or riven surface appearance.
  • But certain types such as Indian sandstone can also be sawn and honed to give it a smooth appearance.
  • Sizes and thicknesses vary greatly.
  • Sandstone tiles come in a multitude of colours from grey, beige, green, brown and grey. Blond fossil sandstone has visible fossilized plants visible on the surface.
  • Sandstone tiles need to be sealed to protect their appearance.
  • Porosity can vary between types.

Back to Top

Travertine tiles

Travertine is a beautiful natural stone belonging to the Limestone family, though it is harder than limestone or sandstone.  Travertine is formed when calcite-rich water seeps down through rocks to fill cavities with stalactites and stalagmites near hot springs or cascades.  From here tiny particles are carried up through watery sprays and travertine is then formed by the deposits that are left behind.  Due to this natural formation, travertine comes with pits and holes through the stone. These can either be left un-filled (known as the tumbled version of the stone), or they can be filled with a colour matched resin and honed to a smooth but low sheen finish.

Travertine is quickly becoming one of the most popular natural stone choices. Its soft, subtle beauty adds depth and character to any application. However, it is generally not recommended to lay the cheaper grades of this tile on floors as the resin filler is very soft and can be easily damaged by ladies' heeled shoes.

We overcome this problem by using the tumbled form of the stone on the floor, then finishing it off with some epoxy added to the grout mix, followed with a fine buffing. It brings it up beautifully.

  • Travertine tiles are usually a brown or beige colour.
  • Prices vary greatly with the cheaper grades having more holes and filling to the more expensive grade one travertine with very minimal filling.
  • Travertine is available in many different sizes and finishes.

Limestone tiles

Limestone tiles are naturally versatile with a range of colours, sizes, finishes and porosity levels available. The amount of sealer needed will vary depending on the porosity of the tile you've chosen. The cost of limestone tiles ranges depending on tile type, finish and where it's from.

  • Colours range from beige, white, brown, black and grey.
  • Sizes and thicknesses vary: from limestone flags (irregular in both size and thickness), to the more polished and rectified limestone tiles (which have a more uniform appearance).

Marble tiles

Marble is notoriously expensive. Essentially it is recrystallised limestone: when limestone softens from heat and pressure, mineral changes occur and the material recrystallises to form marble. Marble ranges in many colours and is usually heavily veined and shows lots of grains. Marble is one of the softer natural stones available and is quite fragile while loose in tile form, though it provides a sturdy floor once installed.
Marble will require sealing and continued maintenance. Although available in many finishes, the two most common are tumbled and polished. Marble provides a beautiful warm look to any setting be it casual or elegant.

  • Colours vary from green, brown, black, grey, yellow and white.
  • Sizes of tile vary from mosaic to larger sizes.
  • Harder than sandstone or limestone.

Granite tiles

Granite is primarily made of Quartz, Feldspar and Potassium. Usually granites are dark in colour, contain very little if any calcite, and provide a heavy crystalline and granular appearance with mineral grains. Granite is a very hard material and easier to maintain than marble, travertine or limestone, but is still porous and susceptible to staining, and requires sealing on occasion. There are several different types of granite available, depending on the percentage mix of feldspar, quartz and mica.

Granites can be quite a light colour if they contain mostly quartz, or they can be extremely dark if they contain very little quartz or feldspar. Although granite is available in a few different finishes the polished version still seems to hold the most appeal.

Mosaic tiles

Mosaic tiles are usually made from porcelain, glass and marble tiles that are attached to a backing sheet ready to be fixed to your surface. They can be created by hand or machine, though such an involved process means that they can be quite expensive.

  • Excellent for adding design features to a small or large area.
  • Can be used internally or externally and even around a swimming pool.

Glass Tiles

Glass tiles are fantastic for adding an accent or feature to your room. However, if these tiles are chipped they leave a very sharp edge, and so should only be used on walls.

Back to Top