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3 Essential Things To Know Before You Lay Tile

Glass tile

Remodeling a room or two in your home doesn’t have to be a major production. Minor remodeling projects include upgrading hardware, replacing your front door or garage door, and refreshing the tile on your floors, backsplashes, and showers.

Not only will a minor remodel improve and personalize your space, but it could also increase the value of your home. Bathroom updates can earn you an average return on investment (ROI) of 86.4%, and simple kitchen renovations offer an average ROI of 82.7%.

One of the most popular minor remodeling projects involves replacing or installing tile. You can put tile almost anywhere: there’s kitchen backsplash tile, kitchen countertop tile, kitchen floor tile, bathroom floor tile, bathroom countertop tile, shower floor tile, shower wall tile . . . you get the idea.

Once you decide where you want your tile to go, you might start thinking design — maybe you check out some mosaic tile patterns, or dream up an ornate backsplash. But before you get too invested in a design, it’s important to understand the materials and strengths of different tiles, as well as some of the tricky points in modern tile lingo.

Here are three major things you need to know before you dive too deep into this DIY project:

  1. Tiles can be made out of a bunch of different things. If you automatically think of ceramic when you start brainstorming tile ideas, do some tile exploring. Other popular tile materials include glass, marble, stone, and porcelain. They each have their pros and cons:

    • Ceramic: Ceramic tile is available glazed or unglazed, depending on the look you’re after. It’s simple to maintain, and resists stains, smells, and water.
    • Glass: Glass tile is dazzling, but installation is tricky. However, glass tile is easy to clean, totally waterproof, and stain resistant. Unfortunately, it’s also liable to scratch easily.
    • Marble: The veining patterns in marble tiles are classic and elegant, but upkeep can be significant. Marble is fairly susceptible to scratching, and it will need to be sealed regularly.
    • Stone: Stone includes popular options like granite and slate. It’s durable and upscale in appearance, but does require extra care to prevent stains.
    • Porcelain: Porcelain is a great choice for kitchen backsplash tiles and shower wall tiles, because it has a very low absorption rate. It’s also dense and highly scratch-resistant, making it a good option for areas that get heavy traffic.

  2. Glazed ceramic tiles should tell you how strong they are. All glazed ceramic tiles have something called a PEI rating. The scale ranges from one to five, and indicates how much wear they can handle. A PEI rating of 1 means the tile should only be used for walls, and can’t stand up to any foot traffic. On the other hand, a PEI rating of 5 means no amount of foot traffic is too much for the tile.

    PEI class 2 tiles are ideal for shower wall tiles and bathroom floor tiles, while PEI class 3 tiles are best for countertops and areas with light foot traffic. Heavy traffic areas like the kitchen floor should use PEI class 4 tiles.
  3. Subway tiles aren’t always subway tiles. As their name suggests, subway tiles were originally used in New York City’s subway system in the early twentieth century. They were 3″ by 6″, and made of a simple white glazed ceramic. A quick internet search for “subway tiles” would tell you that the definition isn’t so narrow today.

    Generally, a subway tile now refers to any rectangular tile whose length is double its width. But be careful — sometimes even contemporary 2-by-8 strips are referred to as subway tiles, even though the don’t share the original’s proportions. If you’re looking for classic subway tiles to use as your shower wall tiles, for example, look carefully before you buy.

Armed with this important tile information, you’re now ready to really dive in to your project and start putting together the home of your dreams!

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