How to choose tiles: advice for getting it right
While trends come and go, the enduring appeal of tiles remains a permanent fixture of kitchen and bathrooms. We’ve got your need-to-know details so you can make a more informed choice.
These tiles have a base – sometimes called a ‘biscuit’ – with a glazed surface. Generally cheaper than porcelain, ceramic tiles are often used for larger surface areas, such as bathroom walls. As they’re glazed, colours can be more diverse and vibrant, allowing you to create striking feature walls or richly coloured trims. Ceramic tiles are not as hardwearing as porcelain, making them less common for use on floors, but can be suitable for low-impact floors, such as in an ensuite used by one or two people. White gloss ceramic wall tiles are still the most common choice in bathroom renovations, due to their easy elegance and practical qualities. They’re also a safe choice, particularly for property investors, advises Academy Tiles’ commercial sales manager Ben Saliba,
Pressed cement or concrete tiles are handmade, often employing similar techniques that have been used over the past hundred years. They have a slightly chalky and soft appearance when new, which wears beautifully over time to develop a smooth and silky patina. Suitable for both indoor floors and walls, concrete tiles have been making a comeback in bathroom designs in particular, reflecting the material’s move as an on-trend surface of choice. Concrete tiles are available as both single colour tiles or in a range of patterns. If you come across a tile described as ‘encaustic’, this refers to the pattern produced by coloured clay or natural pigments, which is inlaid into the body of the tile, with the concrete acting as a backing. As the tile is worn down, this design remains while also having a patina of its own.
Porcelain tiles, also known as vitrified tiles, are durable and slightly more textured in their finish, making them ideal to be used on floors. The colour is consistent all the way through the substrate, meaning they can even be ground down if the surface is chipped. Porcelain tiles are often polished for a high-shine and water-resistant surface, achieved without glaze. Many imitate the look of natural materials, such as timber and stone, and are increasingly being chosen as a more affordable alternative to the genuine thing.
Stone – which includes marble, granite and limestone – can be used on both walls and floors. While natural stone can be expensive, it is exceptionally hardy and long-lasting. Neutral, earthy tones are increasing in popularity, but black and white marbles continue to have classic appeal. There are lots of finishes available with stone tiles, including polished, honed (a non-reflective finish), brushed (a textured finish) and antique flamed, a roughly textured effect resembling flames.
Glass tiles are becoming more popular in the kitchen, especially for splashbacks. Some glass has pigment going all the way through the product, providing a deeper colour. It’s particularly popular in mosaic form, which makes the product more stable. While glass tiles tend to be slippery, the additional grout used in mosaics adds slip resistance, so they can feature in shower recesses.
Alloy tiles offer a sleek and modern look to bathrooms and kitchen splashbacks, building on the trend for metallics that has emerged over the last couple of years. They come in sheets of mosaic tiles and can be used on floors and walls. Maintenance is relatively easy – you can use soap-based cleaning products on copper and brass, which allows a soft patina to develop, or use liquid polish regularly to keep their original lustre and sheen.
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