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Choose the perfect tiles for your house

With many varieties flooding the market, choosing the right kind of tile for your house is tough. Here’s a complete guide.

india Updated: Aug 28, 2010 17:46 IST
Parul Khanna Tewari
Parul Khanna Tewari
Hindustan Times

There was a time when you could walk into any home and figure out how old the building was from the tiles used in it. These days, a homeowner can give every room of the house a luxurious, rustic or elegant impression, just by using any of the staggering variety of tiles on offer in the market. But with the endless choices, also come the endless questions – what size of tile to use, which kind in which room and which tiles to use on the floor and walls? Here’s our extensive guide:

All about tiles

Tiles are obtained by mixing raw materials widely available in nature (clay, sand, etc.), and working this mixture in its unfired state into the desired shape. The product is then fired at high temperatures, depending on its composition and type - glazed or unglazed, matte or glossy. Broadly, there are three kinds of tiles available in the market – ceramic, porcelain and vitrified.

Ceramic tiles are available in many designs and in matte, glazed and glossy finishes. They are cheaper than vitrified tiles, and generally used in areas that see less traffic. All ceramic tiles are vitrified to a certain extent.

Porcelain tiles are a variety of ceramic tiles. They are also vitrified and stronger than ceramic tiles. Vitrified tiles are ceramic and porcelain tiles that have been subjected to a different burning process. They have a glass protective layer and are stronger and more durable than any other variety. These are the tiles generally used in public spaces.

TilesThe number of times the tile is fired determines its strength. However, they do not come in many designs. Tiles can be used on walls and floors. The basic difference between the two is that wall tiles are more porous. According to Sanjeev Ranjan, deputy general manager, marketing, Somany Ceramic Tiles, "Wall tiles have higher water absorption because they are used on walls where the possibility of moisture is higher. But due to the high porosity, wall tiles have less strength compared to floor tiles. Floor tiles have less water absorption and hence have more strength and durability."

Tiles these days are available in a plethora of sizes. Some popular sizes for floors include 300x600 mm, 600x600 mm, 610x610 mm and 800x800 mm, while wall tiles generally come in sizes of 250x350mm, 300x450mm and 300x600mm.

According to experts, bigger tiles do give an illusion of a space, but for the best results, one has to match tiles to room size. If the room is small, and you use large size tiles on the floor, then the room will look even smaller. For such a room, go for medium format size tiles like 250x350 mm, explains Sanjeev Ranjan.

Poonam Gupta, director, FCML Surfaces, gives another tip, “Pick a tile size that will entail the least amount of cutting, unless you are using mosaics,” she says, adding, “So, if you have a 6x6 feet room, then pick a tile size that is a multiple of the size of the room.”

The natural finish
A popular interior design trend for homes is to use tiles that emulate different aspects of nature such as wood and stone. According to experts, there is a very good reason why people prefer imitation tiles instead of the original material.

“That’s because tiles are easy to maintain and wood and stone are not,” says Poonam Gupta. She explains, “Firstly, there are not too many varieties of natural stone available in the market, whereas there are at least 50 natural stone finish tiles to choose from.

Also, if a stone breaks, it is not easy to replace it, while a stone finish tile can be easily replaced. Finally, you cannot eliminate stains from natural stone easily, but with tiles stains are not even an issue.” Wood finish tiles also score over natural woods for other reasons – a wood floor does not tolerate heat, gets scratched easily and also fades when exposed to UV rays. Also, both natural stone and wood finish tiles are less expensive than using the actual materials.

If you are looking for something different, experts advise checking out the newer varieties of tiles that imitate the look of animal horn and fish scales, Swarovski-encrusted tiles and 3D tiles. The current interiors trend is to have wood flooring in bedrooms and stone finishes in drawing rooms. However, experts caution that before selecting tiles for your home, keep certain aspects in mind. Analyse the functionality of each room, then pick up tiles based on their characteristics.

Porch, lobby, balcony, swimming pool and patio or such areas, experts recommend tiles that have natural stone finishes. These are available in multiple shapes, sizes and colours. Also, make sure that the tiles are anti-skid, since these are generally wet areas, suggests Poonam Gupta of FCML Surfaces. She adds, “Check to see that anti-skid tiles are tested in the laboratory and justify the high price.”

For the kitchen
More than aesthetics, it is important that tiles stay clean and dry in the kitchen. Go for a clean look and do not opt for glazed tiles in this area. “For the walls, you can choose either ceramic or porcelain tiles as they are non-porous and do not absorb stains. This will keep your kitchen odour and stain free,” explains Sanjeev Ranjan. To keep the floor dry, choose anti-skid tiles.

For the drawing room
Drawing and dining rooms are areas that usually see a lot of heavy use. “Choose abrasion-resistant tiles, whose colour, design and surface will not fade even after
increased footfalls,” says Sanjeev Ranjan. He adds, “You can experiment with wall tiles, either by using highlighters like stone finish tiles or choosing tiles with gold and leather finish or 3D ones. What tile you finally use depends on the design and colour scheme of your living room and the look you want.”

For the bedroom
Bedrooms are areas where you want to relax, and they don’t typically see the heavy traffic that the public areas of the house do. Experts advise that you should use colours and tiles that are not too bright but make your bedroom look warm and inviting. Wooden finish and natural stone tiles are a good option.

What makes a tile
Here are the broad characteristics of tiles as accepted in Europe, America and India

Abrasive strength: When you insert a sharp object with force, it shouldn’t scratch the surface.

Tensile strength: This is defined as the strength at which a tile will break when a heavy object is placed on it.

Ability to withstand UV rays: This characteristic should be checked if you are laying tiles outside the house.

Alkaline test: This is to establish what chemicals and alkalis the tile is resistant to.

Frost test: Used in cold areas, this test ascertains at what temperature tiles freeze.

Under fire test: This tests at what temperature the tiles catch fire, what chemicals are released in such a situation, and whether they will fan the flames further.

Water absorption: This tests how much water a tile absorbs. The less water a tile absorbs, the higher its strength.

Without a care
You don’t need to work hard to maintain tiles, unlike marble, which has to be polished at regular intervals to retain its finish. The only point to consider when using tiles is the grouting (material that connects the tiles) though often grouting is considered as a frame for the tiles.

Cement grout is the most popular option as it is reasonable and matches well with tile colours, but remember that it absorbs water. More expensive varieties like epoxy, in contrast, do not absorb water. Also, while laying tiles, put grout 2 mm lower than the tile.

Tiles have a self-cleaning mechanism; therefore, it is best to clean them only with soap water for them to have a long life. Using acid and other harsh products is not recommended. You can also clean tiles and grout simply with water or a soft cloth and brush.

First Published: Aug 28, 2010 13:55 IST