Mined from the earth and then mixed with other minerals and water, tile is made from clay. It is fired in a kiln at very high temperatures so that it becomes hard. Porcelain tiles differ slightly from ceramic tiles because they're made from 50 percent feldspar. They're also fired at higher temperatures than ceramic tiles.
Clay or porcelain tile are sold in either glazed or unglazed versions.
- Glazed - Appear to have two layers when held from the side. Feature a hard, strong coating that is fired onto the top of the tile. Glazing prevents the tiles from absorbing water. Glazed tiles are more stain-resistant than unglazed tiles. They are great for kitchens, bathrooms, and other wet areas.
- Unglazed - Feature solid color throughout and are referred to as through-body tiles. They're thicker and more durable than porcelain tiles. They allow little water penetration but some is possible over time. They can be used in both interior and exterior spaces while glazed tiles are generally recommended for interiors. Durability makes unglazed tiles a great choice for homes with active kids.
Understanding tile class while shopping is important. While all tiles are made using the same process, different classes of tile are suitable to different applications.
- Class one tiles are great for areas with no foot traffic such as bathroom countertops.
- Class two tiles are for areas with light foot traffic like bathrooms.
- Class three tiles are for areas with light-to-moderate use, such as dining rooms, kitchens and residential living rooms.
- Class four tiles are great for moderate-to-heavy traffic areas like home entryways and hotel lobbies.
- Class five tiles are designed for very heavy foot traffic in large public spaces.
Before browsing tile styles, decide if you would prefer to use ceramic or porcelain tiles. For long-term satisfaction, choose the option that best fits your needs and your lifestyle. Don't make a last-minute switch because you find a tile design in another style that you love.
If you want tiles for a low-traffic area and want to use a stunning design that you would see at a spa bathroom, go with porcelain tile. Glazed porcelain tiles offer the best in design options. They are not durable for moderate or heavy traffic but are a great choice if you want to add a wow factor to your master bath.
If you want tiles for a moderate- or heavy-traffic area, you'll want ceramic tile. Ceramic tile offers the durability to withstand foot traffic without sacrificing style. They come in a wide variety of styles. A professional tile layer can work with you to create a gorgeous tile pattern for your floors that incorporates ceramic tiles in different sizes, shapes, and colors.