It’s a great time to be buying porcelain tiles. Thanks to the advent of ‘digital printing’ technology, designs are incredibly realistic and if you choose your retailer carefully – we’re looking at ourselves here – then you’re guaranteed to get greater value and better service than ever before.
But with so many different options out there, it can be a little stressful to find your perfect tile. We want you to be delighted with your choice, so we’ve put together this handy guide. It’ll tell you everything you need to know to make sure you get it right first time. After all, porcelain tiles aren’t something you can easily change!
What’s a porcelain tile?
Explaining what a porcelain tile is can sometimes get a little tricky. It’s best to think of porcelain and ceramic tiles as close cousins – part of the same family, but a little different.
When we talk about ceramic tiles, we’re referring to traditional clay tiles with a glazed surface – you may have some of these at home already. They’re pretty durable compared to, say, natural stone, but really, they’re quite soft and only suitable for bathroom and kitchen areas.
Porcelain tiles are a different beast altogether. They’re baked at a far higher temperature than ceramic tiles, which gives them a whole host of desirable properties; they’re incredibly hard-wearing, and resistant to water, scratches and stains.
The positives of porcelain
You may have heard people talk about how easy porcelain tiles are to live with, and they’re right. Other materials need a lot of TLC – marble needs sealing, timber floors are easily dented and laminates can warp if they get wet.
On the other hand, porcelain tiles are a dream. Because they’re so difficult to scratch and stain, you don’t have to worry about a spilt glass of wine here or a mucky dog there; most of the time a quick brush or light mop will do the trick. Think of porcelain tiles as having…
- …the natural beauty of marble and wood
- …the practicality of ceramic
- …the hardness of granite
- …better value for money than anything else
Where can I use porcelain tiles?
Almost anywhere! One of the really great things about porcelain tiles is how versatile they are. As the image above shows, you can use the same tile throughout your home; from bathroom walls to busy floors. Of course, the obvious places are kitchens, ensuites and living spaces, but they also make a great choice for hallways, bedrooms, utility rooms and outside patios. In short, anywhere you want a great looking and functional floor.
Naturally, you’ll need to make sure the finish is right for your room. For example, polished tiles might look great on your kitchen floor, but a matt bathroom floor will be better if you have young children.
- Matt porcelain tiles are the most common and can be used almost everywhere for a natural finish
- Polished porcelain tiles have a very sleek finish. They are used mainly for luxurious floors
- Textured porcelain tiles offer extra slip protection, so they’re great for wetrooms and outside pations
Different designs of porcelain tile
Floors and walls form the backdrop to any room, so it’s crucial to get them right. Fortunately, porcelain tiles are available in a whole host of styles to suit the look you’re after. From natural-looking stones to contemporary cement tiles and authentic wood effect planks, we’re sure we’ll have the perfect tile for you.
Have a think about your room and the look you’re aiming for, for example:
- patterned tiles will make an eye-catching feature in you hallway
- wood effect planks have a calm, natural feel and combine well with neutrals
- carrara marble-inspired tiles will give your kitchen floor a timeless quality
- large format cement tiles offer a contemporary style for living spaces
It’s always a good idea to test a sample at home. You can try the tile out in your current space or use a moodboard to match it with your new materials and finishes.
Other things to consider
It goes without saying that what you see is pretty important. However, there’s a few other things you’ll need to know to help you make the right choice:
Rectified tiles are machined after they’ve been baked to give a sharp, precise edge. This means you can use a small grout joint, for a more contemporary look.
Digitally Printed Tiles
In the past, it was common for a tile to only have a few different design variations, so you’d soon notice the same pattern repeating over your bathroom floor.
However these days, tiles are ‘digitally printed’ using industrial ink-jet printers – the end result is more natural looking floors with more variation and few fewer repeats. The majority of our natural looking porcelain tiles are printed using high-definition machines which give an incredibly lifelike surface.
Glazed Porcelain Tiles
Not all porcelain tiles are the same. With glazed porcelain tiles, the design is baked onto the body of the surface of the tile. This allows for more natural looking tiles, especially if they’re digitally printed.
On the other hand, unglazed tiles have a solid body and the design runs all the way through. This makes them far more minimal – perfect if you love contemporary style – but also extremely hardwearing. Our Polished Porcelain range is a great example and it’s used in both designer homes and trendy restaurants.
Anti Slip Rating
There’s a number of different test methods to test how much grip a tile offers. If you are concerned about how slippy a tile might be, it’s best to check these with your retailer.
To paraphrase, all porcelain tiles are hard, but some are harder than others. All glazed porcelain tiles are classified on the PEI scale for how suitable they are in a particular location:
- PEI I tiles are for wall use only
- PEI II tiles are for wall use and residential bathroom floors
- PEI III tiles are for residential floors with light to moderate traffic
- PEI IV tiles are suitable for all residential and light commercial floors, such as restaurants
- PEI V tiles are suitable for heavy duty commercial use, such as shopping centres
Please note that unglazed floor tiles such as our Polished Porcelain collection are not rated as they’re so hard-wearing!
Porcelain tiles are perfect to use with both ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ underfloor heating systems. It’s important to make sure your subfloor is properly prepared, to make sure your system is as efficient as possible:
- Thermal insulation boards under the tiles will improve heat-up times and decrease running costs
- Movement mats are great for larger floor spaces and will reduce the risk of hairline cracks over time
Last but not least is grout. Pick the right colour and it’ll give your new floor the finishing touch.
- Choose a matching colour for a seamless look, especially when floors flow from room to room
- Contrasting colours will turn the joints into a feature and highlight the laying pattern
- Grey grouts are a popular choice for busy floors as they’re less prone to stains over time
If you’re unsure, ask your tiler to mix a few sample colours together and test them against your tiles.
On A Final Note
Not so long ago, porcelain tiles were reserved for those with deep pockets, but due to new production techniques they’re now completely affordable.
So what are you waiting for! Take a look at some of our amazing ranges and feel free to get in touch if you have any queries.